DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – The NFL lockout has left players working out on their own this offseason without the guidance of coaches. Most teams have organized player-only minicamps, but that's not enough to be ready once training camp starts.
That's where Tony Villani comes in. He has his NFL guys ready to go.
You might not know who Villani is unless you're a regular reader of this blog. We first introduced you to Villani last year around this time.
Villani is the founder of XPE Sports, which stands for Xtreme Performance Enhancement. It is a training program designed for NFL players, and it's based in South Florida.
Villani works with rookies entering the NFL Draft to help them prepare for the combine. He also trains current players in the offseason to prepare them for the rigors of a 16-game season, and he has a proven track record.
Fantasy owners are definitely aware of Villani's work since in the past he has trained Hines Ward, Jamal Lewis, Takeo Spikes and Osi Umenyiora. More recently, Villani has worked with Anquan Boldin, Pierre Garcon, Jacoby Ford, Eric Berry, Kareem Jackson and Major Wright. He also has trained rookie running backs Daniel Thomas and Ryan Williams and rookie tight end Rob Housler.
"It's very important because I know Tony is going to have me ready for the season," Berry said. "I worked out with him last year before I went to OTAs and camp. I came in feeling good. I was in shape, running around all day and I didn't have any injuries. I felt like he had me very well prepared for the season."
Villani's goal is to help players improve, and it's personal trainers like him who help NFL stars succeed. We're all aware the NFL has become a year-round profession, and players now want an edge along with OTA workouts, minicamps and training camp. That's where Villani comes in.
He works on fitness level, explosion workouts and speed drills -- any kind of training to help players gain an extra step. He's not afraid to go off the field and out of the weight room, and his players respect that.
When I watched him train players this year, he had former NFL standout wide receiver and current ESPN analyst Cris Carter working with him. Carter was instructing the receivers on different moves, and he wasn't afraid to challenge players like Ford to work harder.
"You can't ask for anyone better than that," Ford said of working with Carter. "He's a legend. He's helping me out as much as possible. … I like when he gets on me. It shows he cares."
Carter said working with Villani will help players not just this season, but also in the future.
"Getting guys ready for the season for what they're going to endure, a lot of these guys don't understand the type of conditioning it's going to take," Carter said. "It's not just speed work, it's strength work. He knows what type of shape you have to be in going into camp. I believe his business is more valuable now because you don't have access to the facilities with the strength coaches. This is the way that you're not going to lose your skill."
For Villani, working out with players is his passion. He talks openly about wanting players to have a career year and earn a bigger paycheck.
And when the lockout ends, he wants his players to be ready for a big year in 2011.
"A lot of agents and athletes think they shouldn't be working hard because they'll be hurt," Villani said. "Then you got the other group of athletes that are going to use this time to get better. Of course I'm in the business of trying to get people better so I like the guys on my side that are out here working hard. I want them to go into camp and be better than all their teammates. It's non-guaranteed money in the NFL so it's always a contract year. The guys that are laying off and not trying to get hurt are going to get hurt in training camp."
Villani's players don't get hurt often. That's because they are usually in the best shape of their life thanks to working out with a standout trainer.
For more information on Villani and his training program visit www.xpesports.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @TonyVillani.