Jonathan Taylor started his first season at Indianapolis last year and faced many unique challenges. Not only was he dealing with a new team, game, and environment – plus a dramatically reduced training camp – but his running colleague Marlon Mack was injured during their first game. This meant that most of the backfield responsibility lay on the rookie’s shoulders. He has risen to the occasion, reaching an impressive 1,169 yards with 12 touchdowns.
Despite having the third most frequent yards in the league, Taylor still saw room for improvement this season. “This is no longer a high school or college ball – you are now playing against the best in the world,” said Taylor, who was drafted 41st overall by the Colts. “Every little ledge you can find is important. Now that I’ve had a decent period of off-season training, I wanted to make sure I was ready from day one. “
To find that benefit, Taylor turned to his trainer Adam Boily at The System 8 and a one-of-a-kind cold experience with Under Armor performance expert Paul Winsper. Men’s Journal spoke to the 226-pound record-breaker about his level of competition, personal strategies, and the workouts that got him ready to play.
Men’s Journal: How would you sum up the physical toll of an NFL running back?
Jonathan Taylor: Every position in the sport has its challenges – physically and mentally – but as a running back you have no idea what you’re going to be running at on every move. Depending on the call, a £ 300 defensive lineman might fall on you or a £ 250 running start linebacker that you might have to block. Maybe you have your hands open to catch a flat route – and the same linebacker is walking towards you with your head turned the other way.
The kind of hits we take for the team are one of a kind. Coming from the backfield you have to run between the tackles and sometimes be able to break through them. That means strength, power and stamina. These 15-play drives take their toll when you don’t have them in your tank.
Did you seek advice from anyone after you were drafted?
To be in the league has always been my dream. Once I had that moment, the next goal was to live the dream for as long as possible. So how do i do this? That’s the first thing I asked the real veterans on the team. Guys like Xavier Rhodes, Justin Houston and another full-back Roxie Nix who recently retired. I asked a lot of questions, including with the players I share the running back room with – Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins. I listened to them, applied their advice to my routine, and kept what worked. Whether it’s a drink, a stretch, or a weekly exercise. Then it was time to find my own roadmap. There i am now.
There have been some great games from you last season. Is there anyone that you are particularly proud of?
It should be against the Packers in week 11. That really went down. There was one ride where we tried to put the game down and every game was a run. We got five or six meters per run but got penalties that brought it back. This can be daunting, but I remember telling myself to see it as an opportunity to do more meters. That drive could have broken us, but we could fight our way back mentally and physically to take this win.
What were your goals for this 2021 season?
I wanted to be able to play my fastest from the start. Last year was a weird timeline, and there were nuances you couldn’t learn until we threw real balls – so I couldn’t play at full speed right away. This time I wanted. From that point on, my goal is to come back bigger, faster, and stronger each season.
You trained in an extensive “cold weather camp” with Paul Winsper at Under Armor. Sounds cool. What were the advantages?
Since I grew up in New Jersey and play for Wisconsin, I’m not that sensitive to temperature. I actually enjoy winter. But this cold weather training was a very different experience. Being in the mountains with these Navy SEALs opened your eyes. The cold doesn’t really change, but your mindset can – so I used it as an opportunity to grow spiritually. Because when these double overtime games come, the team that does not break down mentally or fall victim to the constant pressure to perform wins. When those moments happen, some players stand on the sideline waiting for the game to be over and others don’t care if they have to do seven overtime. They just want to win. That’s the kind of player I want to be.
What led to your apprenticeship with Adam Boily at The System 8 – and what worked for you?
I met Adam in Fort Lauderdale during the spring college break. I was there with Melvin Gordon and Garrett Groshek, who I was with the Badgers. We only worked together for a week, but I remember thinking that if, under normal circumstances, I couldn’t get to the Colts facility, this was the man I had to return to.
Adam’s program is truly tailored to me and the needs of my position. Many coaches will try to throw you into the mix with other players in other positions. I know guys who like to focus on heavy weights, and that has its upsides. What I like about training with Adam is the inclusion of banded movements. It gives you that push-pull resistance with every move and that explosive power from all angles. This explosion is what many players lose over the course of a season.
Last season was a tough one. What do you do during and after recovery?
After a season like this, you have to spend a lot of time getting your body back into a state where you can actually train. Everything I do in the off-season is geared towards preparing myself mentally and physically for the challenges ahead. Additionally, the first thing I look for after a game is my recovery. I’m always one of the last to leave the locker room. Most players leave the field and go home. But I think after all this exposure, the most important time is to deal with the body’s response. That’s when I do my cold dives or stretches. The veterans told me that it’s important to really enjoy those days off, but I’m itching to race again so I’m glad the season is here.
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