Fishing skills

Gainwell has exceptional receiving and blocking skills as well as running


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Kenny Gainwell is beaten.

It’s a Thursday night in early April in Orlando, Fla., And the former Memphis running back is in the home stretch of an eight-hour practice before the draft. Gainwell’s long day consisted of lifting, Pilates, and fieldwork. The last task on her to-do list: catch 300 soccer balls in the JUGS machine.

After a quick sip from his water bottle, Gainwell is ready to attack the JUGS.

With his personal trainer Bert Whigham powering the machine, he catches the first 200 balls with ease. Not a single observer is on hand to witness his masterful catch-and-tuck form, which helped Gainwell total 610 receiving yards in his one full season in 2019 at Memphis.

After catch # 200, Whigham pauses for a second and catches a nearby BOSU ball and places it in front of the JUGS machine. Gainwell already knows the drill. He carefully climbs onto the BOSU ball and grabs 50 more soccer balls… while balancing on one leg. He changes legs for the last 50 reps.

It’s like a clock for the player the Eagles would draft in the fifth round.

“He trained roughly in himselfWhigham said of Gainwell. “He didn’t join any of the other bulls. He’s all about football. He really is. The fact that Kenny can sit down and lead a slow life. and focus on himself month after month.

“He has an adult approach to the sport. His willingness to do two a day. Challenging sessions, then go out and catch 300 balls on the JUGS. It was by himself. “

In a phone interview with The Inquirer earlier this week, Whigham’s tone changes noticeably when he mentions that Gainwell trained on his own. He insists on this point. Even repeats it.

It took a long time for Gainwell to leave it all behind in his hometown of Yazoo City, Mississippi. His family represents the world to him. He finds endless inspiration in his older brother, Curtis, who overcame a life-changing stroke when Kenny was 13. At the time, Curtis needed three life-saving surgeries in one day to stop a brain hemorrhage.

“What he went through, what he had to face, only made me work harder,” said Gainwell. “I play for both of us.”

After losing four family members to COVID-19, Gainwell retired from the Memphis season last year and set his sights on the NFL draft. He was convinced that if he worked hard enough he would be able to take care of Curtis and the rest of his family. And if he needed any more conviction, all Gainwell had to do was stare at his cousin… Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox.

“I’m extremely happy he’s here,” Cox said earlier this week. “He’s a hard worker and he’s incredibly hard to contain. It’s family there.

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Gainwell, 5-foot-9, 200 pounds, plays bigger than his frame, and it shows on tape.

Whigham, who counts Miles Sanders, Saquon Barkley, Dak Prescott and Khalil Mack among his clients, noticed this about Gainwell when he was first introduced to him in early 2020. Whigham had previously trained the Cowboys on running back Tony Pollard, former Gainwell College. teammate.

“By the time we met I already knew he was talented,” said Whigham. “You could tell how explosive he was. The way he ran the roads is something I have rarely seen in a running back. The way he was fluid and could cut in and out breaks he is a receiver but has the build of a running back.

“I was dazzled.”

When the pandemic hit, Memphis did not allow any athlete to stay on campus. So Gainwell fled to Orlando and settled down with Whigham.

Of all the places to train … Orlando?

“If they can stand still, that means most athletes want to train in Los Angeles, Arizona or Miami because they want to train but they also want to live fast,” said Whigham. “You can’t really do that in Orlando, not like in these other cities. “

While Gainwell was training in Florida, his only hobby was fishing. He says he enjoys the tranquility of being on the water and the adrenaline rush he feels every time his line is bitten. When Gainwell wasn’t on the football field, in the gym, or studying tapes, he was probably fishing with former Central Florida wide receiver Gabriel Davis, another Whigham client now with the Buffalo Bills. .

“They became good friends,” Whigham said. “It was all about work, none of the distractions off the pitch.”

Last weekend, Whigham watched Gainwell make his NFL debut from his home in Sanford, Florida. Gainwell finished with nine carries for 37 yards and a touchdown. He also caught two passes for 6 yards while separating the reps in the backfield with Sanders. Most notably, Gainwell was on the pitch during the two-minute drill at the end of the first half against the Falcons.

“He has the best hands in our running hall,” said Sanders. “That’s his thing – the two-minute exercise. That’s it.”

Whigham said, “We knew the best way to get him on the pitch was for him to be a receiver. Kenny is on a different level from most running backs. It can of course perform whip or jerky routes, where you do multiple routes, setting up defenders to go one way and you go the other. He’s so sweet with that kind of stuff. We knew that was the differentiator.

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His abilities as a receiver may have been what drew the Eagles to Gainwell. But his willingness to block might be what earns him constant reps. On several occasions in Week 1, Gainwell stepped up, flashed power, and executed precise blocks with proper form. At one point, Gainwell crushed Falcons defensive end Dante Fowler, who won by 60 pounds.

“We had to show he could protect,” said Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. “Because we know his abilities as a wide receiver. … We had to feel comfortable that he was a complete player there before we put him there. “

No longer training alone, Gainwell fully arrived in the NFL. Sirianni has shown his confidence using Gainwell in different packages and his use could increase as the season develops and the first year coach reveals more wrinkles in the offense.

“It was different because I’m in the big leagues now,” Gainwell said. “I have to make sure I have to listen to calls from the center and the quarterback. I have to understand everything and be attentive.

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  • At the end of the week, every player on the roster has trained to a certain ability. Only goaltender Rodney McLeod (knee) was ruled out of Sunday’s home opener against the San Francisco 49ers. Running back Miles Sanders (ankle), wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside (ankle), tight end Zach Ertz (hamstrings), offensive lineman Brandon Brooks (knee) and cornerback Avonte Maddox (groin) were all listed as limited participants earlier in the week. “I feel good with our high school,” Sirianni said. “We have some really good playmakers there. “

  • Ahead of Sunday’s home opener, the Eagles trained at Lincoln Financial Field on Friday. Sirianni plans to make it a regular event throughout the season, weather permitting. He spoke about wanting players to adapt properly to their environment. “Our main reason is that we are playing there on Sunday,” Sirianni said. “We have an easy trip to get there. Not all stadiums are next to their facilities. If it matters that much, it’s worth it. The receivers see the ball in a certain way in this stadium. Just the environment of being there and playing games in the stadium. i really believe [there’s] a difference.”

  • On Friday, Sirianni wore a T-shirt with Jalen Hurts’ face planted in the front and center. Sirianni said, “I’m just supporting Jalen. … let him know that I believe in him.

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