Culver City Observer -

By Fred Altieri
Sports Reporter 

LA Rams / 24 Hour Fitness Drill Challenge

 

Fred Altieri

Sideline Challenge team builders - Rams long snapper Jake McQuaide (44), Rams mascot Rampage, Rams Cheerleaders and local 24 Hour Fitness managers

Training and drilling like a pro became a reality for a number of lucky Los Angeles Rams fans. The Rams teamed up with 24 Hour Fitness to host the 'Sideline Challenge' on Saturday morning, June 9, at the NFC West Division defending Champions' practice facility in Thousand Oaks.

Ram personnel, players, members of the team's training staff, and 24 Hour Fitness personal trainers tested the fans' athletic skills and agility with fitness stations including a few NFL Combine drills.

Rams team reporter Sarina Morales introduced the proceedings with 24 Hour Fitness Northridge SuperSport general manager Carlos Gavin and Ted Rath, Rams Director of Strength Training and Performance, before the challenges began.

"What you guys see on Sunday is a product of 300-plus days of hard, hard work and grinding it out here on a daily basis with players like Jake McQuaide (long snapper) and Micheal Stewart (former safety, Rams in attendance)," said Rath pumping up the eager challengers.

"They pour their sweat and every bit of energy they have to make it a good product on Sunday because the ultimate goal is to win a world championship. We're committed to building and laying that foundation to continue to grow and bring you guys a great product on the field."

Rath next led the entire group in NFL-style warmup drills. He spared no mercy and encouragement, much to the delight of the willing participants. They were then grouped-off and rotated through cone drills, 40-yard dashes, speed ladder drills, passing accuracy tests, sprint drills, core fitness, vertical leap and agility tests at eight different stations for the next two hours.

Phil McDaniels, Santa Clarita 24 Hour Fitness manager, who coordinated the 40-yard dash spelled it out: "The event is about connecting with the community, connecting with the youth, parents and showing team-building skills and activities throughout this process."

"The fans see the players on TV and they see all of the drills and conditioning that the players do. So it's their moment to come out here and showcase their skills and talent doing pretty much the same exercises and drills the Rams are doing."

Rams Pro Bowl long snapper Jake McQuaide enjoyed the camaraderie with the fans while assisting with the various drill stations: "It was fun. Coach Ted Rath and the trainers from 24-Hour Fitness ran the fans through a couple of drills and I was just here to take it all in and help out a little."

"We (Rams players) work out on all the agility ladders, anything with the shuffling, a lot of the side-to-side stuff, the 40-yard sprint and things we do every day. We don't run the 40 everyday but the receivers run 40 yards straight many times a day. Any of these agility drills work for any football player regardless of the position they play. We do them on a regular basis."

"OTA's and minicamps are basically our spring practice. Anytime we get a chance to get out there and actually do the sport is fun and a way to get better. Overall the guys like the practices because we get a chance to get better in our actual sport instead of just getting stronger and faster. That helps but we also want to play the game."

"Our strength and conditioning and training staff have a lot of different tools they use such as speed tracking and hamstring strength. Basically if we trained hard a couple days in a row and we don't perform well in particular tests, okay, maybe we back off a little in practice today because we're more predisposed to an injury.

"The staff has done a really good job of stopping a lot of those soft injuries like pulled hamstrings and calves. They've been working very hard on finding good ways to gauge when guys can push harder and know when to pull back a little bit. Our training staff and strength and conditioning staff do an incredible job with sports technology."

McQuaide also gave a quick insight into his duties as a long snapper, a relatively unfamiliar position to most football fans: "My job is to make Johnny Hekker's and Greg Zuerlein's job very easy... to deliver them the ball the exact same way every single time so that they can punt and kick it to the best of their ability. Then I have to block, try to run down and make a tackle.

He spoke of the differences between field goal and punting snaps, each with their separate challenges. Field goals are easier because it's a shorter snap but the margin for error is much smaller. The margin for error on a field goal snap is maybe six inches. On a punt it may be a foot or so.

"You could have a punt snap that is two feet offline and no one would notice it except me and Johnny and Fass. I would be very disappointed in myself... that can't happen again. The normal fan would never notice it," said McQuaide.

"But if someone snapped a field goal two feet offline the field goal would never be attempted... it would be a mess. The margin of error is a little different in that on punts where there is a lot more to do. You have to snap it, you have to block and try to make tackles."

"It's similar to pitching a baseball except instead of going inside corner, outside corner, up, down, it's always the same spot. I'm always trying to hit Johnny (Hekker, holder on field goals) on his right hip right into his hands straight down on the spot with the laces out. It's like a golf swing or pitcher, any of those repetitive motions."

"We have a very good special teams coach in John Fassell. He's the best in the business and is a joy to work for every day. Johnny and Greg are both great players, professionals and great friends. I'm very fortunate to be in the position I'm in. I'm just trying to work hard and make sure I'm still there. I take it very seriously. It's kind of a weird quirky thing but I love it."

Coach Rath spoke about the Rams current off-season training: The relationship we have between the players and the staff is truly something special... We have guys competing in the weight room and on the practice field trying to push each other to get better."

Ted Rath, Rams Director of Strength Training and Performance, addresses Sideline Challengers at Rams practice facility in Thousand Oaks

"So the amount of talent that we've brought in is only up to here compared to the amount of character that we've brought in. Our off-season has flown just like we would have expected. We've had a better off-season this year than last year I would venture to say."

Each of the Sideline Challenge participants also received a commemorative event t-shirt, a Gatorade sports bottle as well as lasting memories of training and drilling like a pro. McDaniels wrapped up the the successfully coordinated event between the Rams and 24 Hour Fitness:

"I didn't know what to expect. I knew we were going to have kids and a mixture of adults. But we had all shapes, sizes and ages out here. It was good how everyone embraced the Sideline Challenge. Everyone had great energy and was trying to reach their personal best in each of the stations."

"Many would get a certain time at a station and say: "I want to do it again. I want to beat my time. I like this drill and I want to do this. And I liked that enthusiasm."

 

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