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Cleveland: NFL Scouts Training for Combine in Madison

The NFL Scouting Combine takes place next week. Indianapolis is where young men will go to be weighed, measured, timed, tested, interviewed and much more.

Millions of dollars can be made — or lost — depending on how the athletes perform. That has led to a cottage industry of destination training facilities where agents send athletes to prepare. In the past, most of those facilities have been in south Florida, California and Arizona.

The city of Madison — the Madison Performance Center to be more specific — has joined the arms (and legs) race. A dozen draft hopefuls, including Ole Miss All Americans Senquez Golson and Cody Prewitt, have spent the last few weeks huffing and puffing and eating healthfully in Madison.

Super agent Bus Cook of Hattiesburg of the Madison Performance Center said, “This place puts some of those places in south Florida and California to shame. It’s got everything you need and more. Plus, it’s a lot closer to home for so many of the athletes we represent.”

Cook, founder of BC Sports, has represented scores of NFL players including Brett Favre, Steve McNair, Cam Newton, Calvin Johnson, Mike Wallace, Gabe Jackson and Jamie Collins.

Cook landed NFL record contracts for Favre and McNair, but, if you ask me, his most impressive contract was this one: Jay Cutler’s $127 million, seven-year contract with $53 million guaranteed. In Illinois, some Bears fans would love to see Cook arrested for grand theft.

But back to the subject at hand: Cook received a call from friend Pat Speer telling him he needed to come look at the 100,000-square foot Madison Healthplex & Performance Center, a joint venture between Baptist Health Systems and Mississippi Sports Medicine. Cook did, compared it to other venues around the country and decided to begin sending many of his players there.

Currently, Golson and Prewitt are joined by players from Mississippi State, North Carolina, Auburn and several others.

R.J. Barrett, a 12-year fitness coach veteran, puts them through two workouts daily Monday through Thursday and once on Fridays. They do position-specific workouts and eat position-specific diets. The workouts include yoga, speed work, weightlifting, agility drills, swimming, water workouts and more.

Golson, the Ole Miss cornerback, looks to have put on a good 10 pounds of muscle in his upper body.

“I have added muscle, but I still weigh right at 180,” Golson said. “I’m just as fast if not faster. This place is legit.”

Both Golson and Prewitt praise Barrett, the taskmaster, whose specific goal is to have each athlete in peak form next week.

“They are under a lot of pressure to run well,” Barrett says. “Well, I am under a lot of pressure to make them run faster. My job is to find their weaknesses and make them strengths.”

At Madison Performance Center, the athletes can work outdoors on turf or natural grass or indoors on turf. They can swim in an Olympic pool and workout in an aquatic training pool. They have a film study room to review workouts. They have access to a 5,000-square foot rehab center and have an on site orthopedic center. There are massage rooms, sauna, steam and practically every training device that has ever graced a gym.

Barrett also spends hours a week working with several professional baseball players, including Seth Smith, as they prepare for spring training.

Peter King of “Sports Illustrated” has reported industry sources as saying that agents such as Cook spend $20,000 per player preparing their clients for the combine. That includes training, housing, food and travel. Cook’s clients eat their meals in Madison and stay in a Madison motel, a new part of what Gov. Bryant would surely call Mississippi’s Creative Economy.

Rick Cleveland rcleveland@msfame.com is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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