You want great athleticism in your Purple-clad players?
Take Mike Boone.
The 5-10, 206-pound running back jumped so well in Cincinnati in March that he landed in Eagan a month later.
With modest college stats and no NFL scouting combine invite, Boone needed a head-turning performance during his March pro day at the University of Cincinnati. A poor outing and, well, his chances of at an NFL career could have ended before they began.
“And Mike owned it that day,” said Auggie Agyei, who trained Boone six days a week for three months at Landow Performance in Centennial, Colo. “We had a feeling he had some juice in the tank.”
How much juice? Well, if you remember the 2014 scouting combine, you remember Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman raving about Jerick McKinnon’s famous workout. The 5-9, 205-pound McKinnon wowed the NFL that week with unusual feats of strength, speed and agility. His vertical jump was 40 ½ inches, his broad jump 11 feet.
Well, in March, Boone’s vertical was 42 inches. His broad jump was 11-7. Both jumps would have led all running backs at this year’s combine, while his 40 time (4.45 seconds) and bench press (25 reps) would have ranked third.
“Not to be cocky,” said Boone, “but I feel I’m a little talented.”
Signed by Spielman as an undrafted free agent, Boone will compete for the No. 3 running back job that opened when McKinnon joined the 49ers via free agency. The other competitors are fellow undrafted rookie Roc Thomas and Mack Brown, a third-year pro with 16 NFL carries.
Boone’s best college season was 2015, when he rushed for 717 yards and a 7.5-yard average. Those numbers dipped to 388 and 3.7 in 2016, and rose slightly to 463 and 4.2 last year.
But Spielman trusts this coaching staff to make better football players out of great athletes willing to work.
No one is saying Boone is a better running back than Dalvin Cook. But Boone’s vertical jump was 11 ½ inches better than Cook’s was at last year’s combine.
No one is saying Boone is as strong as Taven Bryan, the 6-5, 291-pound defensive tackle picked 29th overall by the Jaguars. But guess who Bryan’s lifting partner was at Landow Performance?
“We divide our groups into guys of like strength,” Agyei said. “And Mike wasn’t far behind Taven. Pound for pound, Mike is one of the strongest guys we’ve had.”
Boone shrugs: “I got a little muscle to me. My high school had a great weight lifting program. We won state in weight lifting all four years I was there.”
Landow Performance has gained quite the reputation when it comes to biomechanics, nutrition and bringing out the best in elite athletes. It’s where Peyton Manning rehabbed his neck before signing with the Broncos. It’s where Christian McCaffrey went to train for the combine performance that solidified him as a top-10 draft pick last year. It’s where founder Loren Landow worked until the Broncos hired him as their strength and conditioning coach in March.
“Auggie got the most out of me,” Boone said. “And, again, not to be cocky, it showed in my pro day.”
When Boone first arrived at Landow Performance, his broad jump was 10-7, a full foot shorter. His vertical: 37 inches.
“But Mike was one of those kids that was all-in from the get-go,” Agyei said. “He was similar to Austin Ekeler, who we had in here last year.”
Ekeler went to Western State (Colo.). He wasn’t invited to the combine, had a great pro day and was signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent. As a rookie, the 5-9, 200-pounder had 539 yards and five touchdowns from scrimmage as a third-down back.
Boone, a former high school receiver who still has smooth pass-catching skills, also worked out with Daurice Fountain, a receiver from Northern Iowa. He, too, wasn’t invited to the combine. He, too, would have topped his position group at the combine with a vertical jump of 42 ½ and a broad jump of 11-2. The Colts drafted Fountain in the fifth round.
“There’s no smoke and mirrors to all this,” Agyei said. “Not only do we teach these kids how to do well on ‘Big-Kid Field Day,’ as Loren calls it, but we teach them about movement and skills that transfer to the field, that take them longer into the league and help them stay healthy. You can’t fake this kind of athleticism.”
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. • Twitter: @MarkCraigNFL • E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org