From The Pros: The Five Tools You Need To Make It To The League

From The Pros: The Five Tools You Need To Make It To The League

Do you have big dreams of making it to the league one day? To some, that might sound like a longshot, but every pro football player started out right where you are now – playing the game they love and dreaming of turning it into something more. So we asked some of the game’s best what it takes to turn those dreams into reality. From the pros themselves, here are the five tools you need to make it to the league.

1. Accountability

If you’re going to set big goals for yourself, you have to be ready to make sacrifices and put in the work. Coaches, trainers, teammates, and parents can give you the tools and support to play your best, but the fire you need to overcome obstacles and make it to the top can only come from within.

“My biggest goal for this season is to push myself against competition and get better every day,” said 2021 Minnesota draft pick Kellen Mond. “I will always have a super high standard for myself and I want to be able to set the bar high in everything that I do. The best advice that I would give to another kid with dreams of making it to the league would be to be your biggest self-critic. Do not allow others to have a higher standard for you than yourself.”
“Coaches, people who are working with me and helping me succeed and accomplish my goals, they matter,” said Philly QB Jalen Hurts. “Their voices matter. But as a leader, I try to be a man who’s going to do my job. I hold myself to the highest standard possible. So anything anyone else says, it doesn’t mean much to me.”

2. Work Ethic

Being accountable to yourself first means that every new workout, practice, and scrimmage is a chance to run tighter routes, make cleaner catches, or hold coverage better than the athlete you were yesterday. In a game of inches, most of the important growth happens when no one’s watching. It’s incremental improvement over time that’s going to make all the difference on game day, whether you’re lining up at a JV scrimmage or a Division I State Championship.


“Don’t let anyone outwork you,” said Los Angeles safety Derwin James. “You can’t control how much natural talent you were born with, but you can control how hard you work. Be early to practice. Stay late. Make sure you’re getting extra work in in the weight room or watching film. That’s the only way to make it.”
“You see my success on Sunday,” said Green Bay lineman David Bakhtiari, “but the work that goes in is Monday through Saturday. It’s in the offseason where I really sharpen my iron, put myself in the best situation so when I do come back and play, I can ask my body to do what’s necessary, to go through all the obstacles of a long, rigorous season.”
“You get out what you put in,” said Jalen. “I pride myself on putting something in every day – mentally, emotionally, physically – whatever it is, it all matters. You have to compete at everything you do.”
“It really comes down to just working hard, being a good teammate, and focusing on improving every day,” said Tampa Bay wide receiver Chris Godwin. “If you’re able to focus on that, then I think you’ll continue to improve and you’ll see your game take new strides and you’ll be a better player overall.”

3. Teamwork

It takes more than just a roster of talented players to build a championship team. You need chemistry, and that means building trust with your teammates and making sure you’re in sync on game day.


“You’re only as strong as your weakest link,” said David. “The offensive line is one of the few positions where all five of us need to be working together to have success. You can’t have individual success. I would say offensive line is the team position within the ‘ultimate team sport.’”
“The biggest lesson I learned from Tom Brady was just how simple you have to make the game,” explained Chris. “So many coaches are used to sticking to their formulas and philosophies, but really it just comes down to percentages. You’re trying to put yourself in the best position to be successful by adjusting plays at the line, being on the same page as your quarterback, and just making sure you’re putting your team in the best position to be successful.”


4. Resilience

In such a physical sport, setbacks are bound to happen. Suffering an injury can feel devastating, but the key to getting back in the game is to focus on healing and rebuilding your physical strength. After a season-ending meniscus tear in 2020, Derwin James had to face watching his team from the sidelines, but he refused to let adversity ger the best of him.

“It’s been tough for sure,” said Derwin. “Every time you watch a game and you’re not on the field, you keep thinking about all the plays you could make to help your team out. You have to be mentally tough to keep doing the rehab day in and day out, because it can get grueling for sure. Thankfully my teammates are always there supporting me, because a lot of them know what it’s like. I also lean on my family pretty heavily – they’ve always got my back encouraging me, telling me that I’ll come back stronger.”


If you make it to the top, it won’t just be physical injury that can derail you. The business of pro football can be overwhelming, and mistakes or losses on the national stage can be tough to recover from.


“As a team, you have to forget quickly in this business,” said David. “It can be very ‘what have you done for me lately,’ and that can leave a sour taste in your mouth. You should use it as motivation, but you shouldn’t dwell on it, because dwelling on something isn’t going to get the job done. Hard work, dedication, preparation, facing adversity, and making the necessary adjustments to get over that adversity is what you need to do in this league.”


5. Belief

Playing college ball or making it to the pros takes more than talent. It takes dedication, drive, and – maybe most importantly – belief.

“If you believe in yourself, anything is attainable,” said Jalen. “Put your mind to it, and you can go get it. That’s the message I send out to all kids, everywhere. Do what’s right because it’s right and go get it. You’ve gotta believe in yourself before you do anything.”


And when that belief pays off? Well, there’s nothing like it.


“Hearing my name called on draft night was an unbelievable feeling,” said Kellen. “One of the best feelings ever. You only have one opportunity to get your name called and it was something that I have worked for my entire life. Knowing all the work that it took to get to that point makes that moment extremely special.”
“Playing for my hometown team has been awesome,” said Chicago tight end Cole Kmet. “Growing up I loved watching some of those guys – Brian Urlacher and Charles Timmons – how they played, how they went about their business, it’s something I try to emulate. So, my advice to anyone trying to make it to this level is continue to work hard and enjoy playing the game you love.”



Now that you’ve got the tools, it’s time to stock up on the gear you need to make it to the top. Kick off your season with the best football apparel, cleats, accessories, and equipment – all in your team’s colors – when you shop Football By Color at

Stefon Diggs: Portrait of a Playmaker

Stefon Diggs: Portrait of a Playmaker

Stefon Diggs is the perfect portrait of a playmaker. He’s an artist on the football field, using his route running and circus catches as the brushstrokes that complete his aesthetically pleasing game. Diggs is master at creating separation against defensive backs, and in 2017 he became the fastest Minnesota wide receiver to 200 receptions, breaking the records set by Percy Harvin and Hall of Famer Randy Moss. We caught up with the talented 25 year old to see how he separates himself from the rest, on and off the field.

Q: Why did you choose to play college football at Maryland?

A: I chose to stay home and play at Maryland because I have brothers and a lot of family there. We lost our father when I was around 14, so I wanted to stay close to my little brothers to keep another male figure in their lives who could show them the way. Maryland wasn’t, and isn’t, the most glamorous for a lot of people, but I wanted to go somewhere where I knew it was going to work out like it was supposed to, and if you have the ability and work ethic, you can accomplish all your goals at any school you want.

Q: What advice do you have for high school athletes going through that same college recruiting process?

A: I would tell high school athletes to make the best decision for themselves. Do whatever you feel is going to make you happy in the long run because you have to live with that decision – not your mom, your uncle, or anybody else in your life. You can’t let them push you to go to a school that you don’t want to go to, because at the end of the day you have to make the best decision for you.

Q: As a fifth-round pick, did you have a chip on your shoulder coming into the league?

A: 100 percent. When I declared for the draft, I was projected to go in the third to fifth round range. But I didn’t think I was going to last all the way to the fifth round because I have a certain skill set and talent, and I was betting on somebody taking a chance on me. It definitely put a chip on my shoulder because I felt like I was better than that. I knew I was better than that. It’s funny because I had an interview at the combine and I said I’m one of the best receivers in this draft, and people kind of laughed at me — they looked at me like I was crazy. But I believed that and I knew it then — I’m not somebody who will back away or shy away from the things I say. I said it and I stood on it. Now that the smoked cleared, I’m one of the best receivers, if not the best receiver, who came out of that draft. I had one opportunity to make the most of myself and I took it seriously. I wanted to make the most out of my chance.

Q: What goes into the art of running a route?

A: I would say the art of route running is really about preparation. It’s about being where you need to be and setting up a timing with the quarterback. I take route running seriously because I love getting open and I love creating separation — that’s my game. So, the art of it is really just honing in on your craft and perfecting your timing, spacing, and catching abilities.

Q: Why do you wear the adiZero 8.0 cleat?

A: First off, it’s light. When you’re a wide receiver looking for a cleat, you want something that’s extremely light weight and flexible. The adiZero gives you some flexibility but also has material that fits snug — It’s built for comfort and speed.

Q: You’re famous for having creative pre-game cleat designs, do you have a favorite?

A: My Snoop Dogg ones were my favorite. It was my first time playing in L.A. at the Coliseum and I wore Snoop Dogg cleats. It really doesn’t get much better than that. Also, when I was younger, my mom called me Snoop, and my dad called me Dog, those were their nicknames for me.

Q: Which part of your game makes you stand out from the rest of the wide receivers in the league?

A: Personality. I play with a lot of passion, I play with a chip on my shoulder, and I’m charismatic. Out on the field I play free and with a whole lot of positive energy. I’ve got playmaking ability and a certain talent that God gave me where I can make a play at any given time, and players don’t always have that. I feel like I’m highly favored in a lot of situations.

Q: You were the hero of the Minneapolis Miracle, one of the craziest playoff plays in league history, what was going through your mind during that play?

A: I just got chills thinking about it. It was something that I’ll never forget, and I’ll never get tired talking about because it’s a feeling that very few people will experience. It was like hitting a buzzer beater in basketball, but in football, things like that don’t happen. I’ll never forget the feeling of running into the end zone because it was something that changed my outlook on things. People tell you anything can happen and that you should never give up, and those words are so small. But in the smallest situations on the biggest stage, those words were true. It’s true that you should never give up and give it everything you got until the whistle blows.

Q: What does it mean to you to be the next Eastbay cover athlete?

A: It means a lot because I remember when I was growing up, I used to grab like 20 Eastbay catalogs because I knew everything was in there. I actually used to circle the things I wanted in the catalog. If you’re an athlete, you know Eastbay has everything in one place. It means a lot and it’s an honor. I’m happy to be on the cover and hopefully we can do it again.

NFL: More Than a Season Opener

NFL: More Than a Season Opener

words_Nick Engvall

Tonight at 8:30 EST, the dog days of summer officially come to an end for NFL football fans as the Minnesota Vikings take on the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome in Louisiana. Tonight’s game between two of the top five teams in the NFL Power Rankings could be one of the best matchups ever for an opening game. Tonight’s rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game, which could arguably have been the best football game of the entire 2009 season, is a perfect way to open the 2010 season.

The stakes may not be as high as a trip to the Super Bowl, however both teams have a lot on the line when it comes to starting off the 2010-2011 season.

Saints and Vikings kickoff more than the NFL Football SeasonFor the Vikings, and more specifically Brett Favre (as it has been for the last five seasons), this could be it. Favre’s 2009 season was one of the best in his career. Even down to the NFC Championship loss against the Saints, where he threw for 310 yards. Like it has his entire career, though, it was interceptions that plagued Favre in that game and ultimately prevented him from a shot at finally getting his ring. This season could be the season for Favre, though. If you look at last season as a stepping stone to this one, then the next step is the big game. The first step is tonight, and it will be interesting to see if Favre and the Vikings can overcome the road blocks they seem to have encountered in the preseason.

Tonight they’ll have to go at the defending champion Saints without one of their top offensive options, Sidney Rice, who is on the injured list for the next six weeks or so. Another concern that has been a nagging issue during the preseason is Percy Harvin’s plaguing migraines. The Vikings offense will have to rely on Favre and Adrian Peterson not only to keep up with the Saints tonight, but to give them a shot at even getting to Super Bowl XLV in Dallas’ Cowboys Stadium.

In New Orleans, the fans are still celebrating last season’s Super Bowl Championship. Rightfully so, as the city has dealt with so many disasters in recent years that the “Who Dat Nation” is looking for a reason to keep celebrating their team all the way to back-to-back Super Bowl victories.

Only seven teams have won back-to-back Super Bowl titles, most recently the Patriots in 2005. For the Saints, it is different, though. The fans outside of the city, outside of the state, and even outside of the country seem to have a soft spot for their success (even if it is a very minimal microscopic soft spot for fans of fellow NFC South teams, it is there). That soft spot has the potential to open up to one of the most powerful legacies that the sport has seen in a long time.

The Saints have no prominent weaknesses. There defense is not the greatest, but it only needs to be good enough to keep the offense on top, and their offensive attack behind Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees is relentless. With Pierre Thomas, Mike Bell and Reggie Bush as options coming out of the backfield, their offense is potent even without a mention of the wideouts. For the Saints it doesn’t stop in the back field; it continues on to one of the most diversely capable set of wide receivers in the league. Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem both put up career highs in yards received last season. In addition, they’ve brought back the teams top receiver Marques Colston and the energy of tight end Jeremy Shockey, which could very well mean last season was just a warm-up for them.

Tonight’s game is more than just a season kickoff. It could be the kickoff to the resolve of the Who Dat Nation legacy, or it could be the kickoff to placing the final touches on Brett Favre’s storied career.

Either way, it’s a kickoff we’ve all been waiting for.
NFL: More Than a Season Opener

NFL: Favre Returns to Lead Vikings to Super Bowl

words_Nick Engvall

As much as it may seem like the new standard operating procedure for Brett Favre to stroll into his team’s pre-season practice at his leisure, and as much as it may be the most over-talked-about gossip that the league has ever seen, it is still impossible to avoid talking about Brett Favre returning to the NFL for another season of football.

Brett Favre returns to the Minnesota Vikings for 2010 NFL Season.Even though most of us are exhausted from the annual “Favre Watch” that has become the beginning of the pre-season, as a football fan it’s hard to deny the passion and excitement for the game that Brett Favre will bring to the Minnesota Vikings for the 2010 NFL Season.

It’s hard to argue with last season’s statistics – a quarterback rating of 107.2, a completion percentage of 68.4 percent and an interception percentage of just 1.3 percent – which were all career bests for the 40-year-old. For someone that owns a handful of the NFL’s most sought-after passing records in the history books, it’s hard to argue that he is getting too old.

Aside from having more interceptions over his career than any other quarterback in history, Favre holds the highest career numbers in a number of impressive categories as well, including completions, attempts, passing yards and touchdowns thrown. Last year he was sacked 34 times, giving Favre 503 for his career and currently only John Elway has been sacked more times at 516. Favre will undoubtedly add that record to his name before the upcoming season ends.

Although he might not have the mobility he once had, he has become more precise with his passing, which has offset those slightly slower moving legs. Furthermore, Favre has never been afraid to take a hit – last season’s sack total proves that. What separates him from other QB’s is his love for the game; he has fun doing it, even getting sacked it seems. Most of us can recall at least one moment throughout his career where he was taken down only to hop up and give a congratulatory pat on the helmet to the defender that laid him out.

The man’s sportsmanship and desire to play the game has never been the question. Unfortunately for Favre and the previous 19 seasons in the league, the real question remains to be the same.

Does Brett Favre have what it takes to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory?

image via yahoo

NFL: More Than a Season Opener

Percy Harvin Eastbay Cover Shoot

words_Jordan Hagedorn

A few months back the crew from Eastbay traveled to Gainesville, FL for an exclusive photo shoot with 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin.

Take a look at some exclusive shots of Percy Harvin and the final version of the Eastbay Catalog cover.

In his 3 years at the University of Florida Percy grabbed 133 balls for 1,929 yards and 13 touchdowns. He won two National Titles with the Gators in 2006 and 2008. Last year for the Vikings he caught 60 balls for 790 yards and 6 scores helping the Vikings to a 12-4 regular season record.