Jason Verrett is not your typical NFL cornerback.
At 5'10" and 188 pounds, the San Diego Chargers superstar isn't quite as big as today’s elite defensive backs like Richard Sherman, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Aqib Talib, who are all over six feet tall.
But what Verrett lacks in size he makes up for with raw athletic ability and toughness, which is why he's about to become one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.
Coming into the 2014 NFL Draft, Verrett’s height was a concern for some scouts. But after two strong years in the NFL, the former college All-American has shown that size doesn’t always matter. The Texas Christian University product displayed just how high his ceiling could be with a game-clinching play against the Oakland Raiders during his rookie season in 2014.
Up 31-28 with just over a minute left to play and their fifth consecutive win on the line, the Chargers were trying to keep hard-throwing quarterback Derek Carr and the Raiders offense out of range for a game-tying field goal. Carr threw a deep pass down the left sideline just a few yards from the end zone towards receiver Brice Butler—who has about five inches and 30 pounds on Verrett—but Verrett outmuscled his opponent and came away with a game-sealing interception.
That incredible grab encapsulated why the Chargers made him a first-round draft pick: The cornerback has the ability to match up physically with bigger players and the leg strength to outjump taller receivers for the ball. As a rookie, Verrett was limited to just six games due to a shoulder injury, but he returned in 2015 with a laser-like focus and made the Pro Bowl after starting all 14 of the games he played for San Diego.
That's when Verrett proved his emergence as one of the top defensive backs in the league. He shut down high-profile wide receivers like Antonio Brown and Demaryius Thomas last season, and now 2016 offers the cornerback a chance to take another step forward.
“It starts with myself—my preparation, my training, the way that I perform, and the way that I come to practice,” Verrett says. “I definitely feel like a lot of the players feed off of my energy. It all starts with me being as consistent as possible.”
Part of Verrett’s rise to the top crop of his position in the NFL is the work he does in the offseason with the football equipment company SKLZ and the performance training pros at EXOS. The 25-year-old serves as a team captain for SKLZ—he helps the equipment company with development and gives feedback on how the equipment works in his training—and he trains in the offseason at the EXOS facility located at SKLZ HQ in San Diego.
EXOS Performance Specialist Roy Holmes has helped Verrett develop a workout that fits his exact skill set. Using equipment like the SKLZ 6 X Hurdles and SKLZ Recoil 360, Verrett gets an all-around workout as he trains for the season. The workout hits his legs, shoulders, hips, and hamstrings with hurdle drills, single leg hops, lunges, flexor stretching, and wall acceleration drills that help keep Verrett in top shape.
Verrett spoke with Men’s Fitness about his intense offseason training, which drills help him the most on the field, his nutritional routine, and how the food is much better in the NFL than in college.
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