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Tony Villani and XPE Sports: Behind the NFL Combine

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Part 2 of 2

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

You can find Part 1 of this conversation with NFL combine training expert (and year round training expert) Tony Villani here.

To recap, Mr. Villani is a Clemson grad with an MA in Exercise Physiology from George Washington University. He worked for various professional sports organizations like the Wizards and the Orlando Magic before creating XPE, Inc., which is now based in South Florida. He has a seriously impressive list of clients such as Jamal Lewis, Anquan Boldin, Usi Umenyoria, Hines Ward, Cris Carter, etc, etc.

We wanted to know more about other XPE Clients that weren't Clemson specific so I asked him about other successes from this year, specifically DBs/CBs Miami's Artie Burns and Houston's Will Jackson (one of the reasons I wanted to ask about them is because they are some of Mack Alexander's primary competition--their workouts have vaulted them into fringe 1st round contention because of their XPE training).

Our major successes this year for rising the draft boards besides Charone include another WR Keyarris Garret from Tulsa and DBs Will Jackson and Artie Burns. Keyarris is a name that has not been talked about too much but Sports Illustrated did a story on him for having the best WR Senior Season and NFL Combine no one is talking about. Now the workout of DB Will Jackson from University of Houston everyone is talking about. Everyone who worked out with us this year saw the improvements in his 40 yard dash times he was making so we knew he would run fast. He ran all times in the 4.3s and has shot up the draft boards. Artie has equally shot up the draft boards and now both DBs may go 1st Round after both were projected as 2nd-3rd round picks.

Then I had to ask about the hand massages. You remember that everyone had a story about the growing hands of QBs at the combine. Well ,that started with Brandon Allen who went from 8 1/2 inch hands at the Senior Bowl to 8 7/8 inch hands at the combine. Why does it matter? Well, the 9-inch mark is kind of the cutoff for NFL QBs so the closer Allen could get to 9 the better off he is going to be (you can forgive 8 7/8ths but 8 1/2 is kind of iffy). SI tells us generally about a massage therapist but fails to say anything about Tony and XPE.

The "hand massage?" Ha Ha. This is the first year I joined forces with George Kousaleos. He has directed the massage/ body work services for Olympic Athletes for the the U.S. so I figured he was good enough for us!!! He recruited and hand picked therapists from all over the country so our athletes had access to body work/ massage everyday if needed. When our QB Brandon Allen had 8.5 inch hands at the SR Bowl, and we wanted him to have 9 inch hands by Indy, George said he could do it with some of his techniques. And it worked!!! And was a big topic of discussion at the NFL Combine how Brandon got his hands to "grow" and I am sure a lot of people will try to replicate what we did. But I will leave that secret up to George and Brandon to discuss.

I love this because it shows how Tony and XPE are always innovating and trying to stay ahead of the curb. Tony was absolutely right that everyone is now trying to replicate this massage technique.

Next, I wanted Tony to help us understand what training at XPE means beyond the physical training and to give us insight into his holistic approach and why it is valuable. Tony is serious about trying to help athletes understand what life in the NFL will be like and also how to succeed beyond football.

I love my job. But I love helping people and I guess I have a knack for helping young athletes. But one thing we do different here is teach them about life in the NFL. Everyday (and I mean everyday), we talk for at least 30 minutes during lunch about a topic in the NFL these guys know nothing about. We have proven to have great 40 times and other results at Indy, but I want guys that understand life and the STRUGGLES in the NFL they will encounter, so they are prepared to handle them. Nothing is more frustrating to me when we help an athlete get great results at the NFL Combine, and it means nothing because the rest of their life is not in order.

Tony talked about his recent efforts to do just this with younger athletes that I thought was important to spotlight.

I am working on a new project down here with Grandview Prep School about how to develop the best SCHOLAR ATHLETES we can at a younger age. Sometimes when we get a young athlete for the NFL Combine, it is too late to change their thoughts.  Hopefully, if I can get to them younger, we can affect more young athletes.  I know it is cliche, but the NFL should NOT be the meaning of success for these young athletes, but instead it should be CHARACTER AND EDUCATION!!!!  These young athletes are about to encounter a world they know nothing about and they've been told once they make it all their problems go away (them and their families).  This IS NOT the case. This is a long topic so I will stop here, but it is why we talk about it EVERYDAY.  The ones that appreciate it are the ones that come back and dedicate their offseason to XPE.

Of course, I wanted to ask Tony about his thoughts on the current Clemson S&C program and about any change that has come in the past year. Tony responded in all caps!!

Like I said last year, I HIGHLY RESPECT COACH BATSON AND THE ENTIRE STAFF AT CLEMSON.  THEY RECENTLY USED A SHREDMILL (our patented and trademarked speed "treadmill) AND LIKED IT.  ONE NFL TEAM HAS ORDERED 4-6 AND I HOPE CLEMSON IS THE FIRST COLLEGE TO USE THEM YEAR ROUND.  I LOVE WHERE I LIVE, WHAT I DO, AND WHO I HELP, BUT CLEMSON WOULD BE THE ONLY SCHOOL I WOULD EVER CONSIDER WORKING FOR UNDER (and I emphasize under because what they are doing is working) THEIR CURRENT STAFF OF STRENGTH COACHES.  THIS IS BECAUSE I CAN TELL THEY CARE MORE ABOUT THE ATHLETE AND HIS LIFE OFF THE FIELD MORE THAN ON IT.

An NFL team now has 4-6 of them? Clemson could be the first team to use them year round? One SHREDmill and national championship run? Correlation or causation? What booster is going to step up and donate 5 more of these to the Clemson program? This needs to happen, as in tomorrow...

Tony Villani working under the current staff in some capacity?

Yes, please.

Thanks once again to Tony Villani and XPE Sports for taking the time. I encourage everyone to follow Tony Villani on Twitter and Instagram @TonyVillani_XPE or check out the website at www.xpesportsacademy.com.