NFL breakout star Ja'Marr Chase quit college football to train with a pro agency instead. Now he's fighting for the Super Bowl.
NFLrookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase has helped lead his team to the AFC Championship game.
- But Chase is coming off a one-year football break, as he spent the 2020 season doing workouts.
Ja'Marr Chase is considered the frontrunner to win the NFL's offensive rookie of the year award. Better yet, he has the chance to help his team, the
After a record-breaking rookie season, Chase has produced like a player with years of NFL experience, but he didn't even play football in 2020.
He, like many other high-profile college football players with NFL aspirations in 2020, opted out of his last college football season — his senior year at Louisiana State University — due to concerns over COVID-19.
Instead, Chase got a head start on his training for his program's pro day — where college football players perform athletic tests for NFL scouts to judge.
Chase did his training with the pro
"You saw his speed make dramatic jumps, and his strength make dramatic jumps," Callaway told Insider. "His teammates who are here now, they said 'when I saw him at pro day, that's a different level of Ja'Marr than I've seen before."
When the pandemic hit, Chase changed his approach to pro-day prep
Callaway typically starts working with NFL Draft prospects two months before pro days and the NFL Combine, which is the NFL-hosted athletic testing event for the nation's top college football players.
But Chase's training with Callaway started six months ahead of the wide receiver's pro-day. At that point, Chase was 19 years old and 10 months removed from his last football game in January 2020 — a win in the College Football National Championship.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything for college football. Hundreds of players across the country opted out of the 2020 season, especially those that had already been established as top NFL prospects like Chase, like Buffalo Bills rookie edge rusher Greg Rousseau.
Chase opted out of the 2020 season and got straight to work with Callaway, who was impressed by Chase from the outset.
"Nobody comes in healthy, they all come in a little banged up from bowl games and practice," Callaway said. "But he was healthy, and he had a big training base underneath him."
Chase trained 9 hours per day, 6 days per week to be in peak condition
Callaway said Chase was extremely dedicated to his training regimen, which involved full days — 8 AM to 5 PM — of work, six days per week. He ate healthy food, had focused workouts twice a day, and physical therapy, in between practicing with a ball.
Callaway's training focused on four key aspects of Chase's football identity: mobility, stability, strength, and mechanics. His sessions included:
- An early 70-minute speed and agility, consisting of sprints and change-of-direction drills to start off every day
- A daily physical therapy session that included massages, stretching, cupping, and dry needling
- Wide receiver drills in which Chase run in-game routes, practiced catching, and simulated footwork
- A strength training session that rotated daily with squats on Monday and Friday, bench press on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and bodyweight workouts on Wednesday
Callaway said he saw gradual athletic growth during Chase's training, and that the future NFL star continued using that routine after they were done working together in early 2021.
"He was just focused on himself and getting healthy," Callaway said.
Chase had one of the country's best pro day grades, went 5th in the NFL Draft, then broke a few rookie records
Despite going an entire year without playing football, Chase was a hot NFL Draft target. During his pro day, he ran a 40-yard dash in under 4.4 seconds, had an 11-inch broad jump, and a 41-inch vertical jump; all of which ranked near the top among the nation's wide receivers.
The Bengals drafted him fifth overall, and he went on to break the Bengals' single-season record for receiving yards in just his first year, and the most yards ever by a rookie in a single game. Now, he is just one game away from playing in the Super Bowl.
However, Callaway believes that Chase is a special case, and his example shouldn't be followed by the majority of aspiring NFL players who are still in college.
"I would tell you that an athlete sitting out for a college season is not a smart decision for a lot of athletes, because they need the time on the field," Callaway said. "But Ja'Marr was in a situation where, what else does he have to prove?"
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