Former NFL pro helps launch academy
By Karen Billing
Local resident and former NFL pro Jeff Garcia is partnering with 4S Ranch’s Velocity Sports Performance to usher in a new brand of football training and launch the TEST West Football Academy.
Garcia is taking part in the rebirth of Velocity, a facility that concentrates on all levels of athletes from youth and high school players to collegiate level and adults. No matter what the sport, Garcia said Velocity brings the best training expertise.
Garcia, who has 18 years of professional football experience, including 12 seasons in the NFL, offers up his knowledge and passion to the football side of operations at Velocity. With TEST West, Garcia is helping prepare NFL prospects for the NFL Combine in February with an eight-week training program.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s what I know and what I’ve been doing all my life, I want to share the methods, the desire, the determination, work ethic, drive and commitment within yourself that you need to have,” Garcia said.
Ability will only take you so far, Garcia said, and he wants to ensure Velocity athletes have the right mindset and focus to conquer whatever dreams they might have.
Garcia is excited to partner with Velocity, which in the last year went from 9,000 square feet to 14,450 square feet, including 6,000 square feet of indoor turf, two batting cages and an expanded weight room. The space also houses complete medical and therapy facilities.
They are still putting final touches on the renovation with fresh coats of paint and creating an upstairs lounge area for athletes.
Garcia calls the huge space “an adult’s playground” and he loves getting to come there and having the room to do training activities, such as flipping tires.
TEST West is a new branch of the TEST Football Academy that has been training football players since 1992. TEST began with training facilities in New Jersey but has recently opened a training facility at Florida International University in Miami, as well as launching TEST West.
The Combine is where some 300 top prospects come together for what is essentially a huge tryout before NFL coaches, general managers and scouts, as well as before a national audience as portions of it are televised.
“It’s become a glamorized event,” Garcia said. “It’s really like a cattle call in a lot of ways.”
Athletes are run through a series of skill tests like the 40-yard dash, a 20-yard shuttle, three-cone drill, bench-pressing 225 pounds, vertical and broad jumps and position specific drills.
They have to go through the process of getting weighed and measured in front of a room of 100 people, go through interviews and take the intelligence test known as The Wonderlic.
“All eyes are focused on you and that’s uncomfortable but we’re preparing them for that opportunity, so they can be the best prepared psychologically and physically as they can be,” Garcia said.
The pre-combine training in San Diego kicked off this month and has players from college teams all over the country, including Michigan, Kansas, Nevada and Iowa.
Last week, Garcia was helping two quarterbacks: Ryan Katz from San Diego State and Alex Carder from Western Michigan.
“I will be coaching them on the field as well as being a mentor in a lot of ways, sharing my personal experience from the standpoint of having gone through it myself,” Garcia said. “I’ve lived that dream and I can share with them the intangibles, being mentally and physically strong when facing adversity.”
When Garcia was coming up in the sport, he wasn’t even on the NFL’s radar and he didn’t get an invite to the Combine.
“I had to fight my way in in another way,” Garcia said. “I took a different path to the NFL and it’s more rewarding to me in that way, I truly earned it.”
Back then, there really wasn’t the kind of specialized training that there is today. There wasn’t this kind of Combine program or position coaches who could prepare players for what they will encounter. He said that these players coming through TEST West are blessed to be in San Diego and have access to not only the Velocity facility, but also the quality trainers they are able to bring in.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk was able to come in and work with the running backs and 12-year NFL pro Quinn Early has shared his expertise with the wide receivers.
Former Charger Donnie Edwards gave players insight not only with his skills as a linebacker, but as a certified yoga instructor. Edwards led the guys through a yoga class to help improve their flexibility.
Another 12-year pro, San Diego-bred Robert Griffith worked with the defensive backs and Ato Boldin, the former Olympic sprinter whose voice can be heard as the Olympic track and field analyst for NBC and ESPN, was giving the athletes tips on how to better their sprint times.
“That’s irreplaceable training for these young men,” Garcia said.
During the program, the players stay on a schedule during the day doing agility training, lifting weights and working on position-specific skills. Out on the field, Garcia goes through all the drills alongside the young men; he’s still in terrific shape and moves quickly and sharply.
When the Combine training is over, Garcia plans to stick around and continue to grow Velocity and TEST West, helping players be the best prepared to meet and smash their goals.
Velocity Sports Performance is located at 10806 Willow Court. For more information, visit velocitysp.com/sandiego. The facility is also looking for sponsorships, if interested e-mail Nadia Abdala at firstname.lastname@example.org.