As the most vital weekend throughout the pre-draft process approaches, over three-hundred NFL hopefuls will enter the confines of Lucas Oil Stadium and display their athletic ability and come face to face with NFL coaches, scouts, and general managers in an effort to increase their draft grade. Most, if not all, of these players have been training for the combine in various locations across the country. Just one tenth of a second shaven off a forty time could be the road block that stands between a player and millions of dollars. These future NFL stars look to the best and brightest when it comes to the combine training, and a name that has been rising up the boards when it comes to credibility and results is Travelle Gaines, founder and director of Performance Gaines based out of Los Angeles. He has been working with some of the best prospects in the 2010 NFL Draft class to aid their quest to climb up to the top of draft boards across the league. Names like defensive tackle Brian Price (UCLA) , safety Reshad Jones (Georgia), defensive tackle Lamarr Houston (Texas), running back Ryan Mathews (Fresno State), cornerback Donovan Warren (Michigan), cornerback Perrish Cox (Oklahoma State), cornerback Domonique Franks (Oklahoma) are some of Gaines’ twenty-four clients from the 2010 class. Gaines has been on the fast track to the top of the training sector, as he is under 30 years old and has a client list that includes some of the most explosive athletes in the league.

Gaines played his college football at San Jose State University, earning three degrees during his tenure there.

“My first real job was with the LSU Tigers” Gaines said, “…I was there when guys like Joseph Addai, Laron Landry, Tyson Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis, Glenn Dorsey were playing. It was just athlete after athlete.”

All of those names listed above were first round picks in their respective draft years, three of which in the top ten. His tenure at LSU was short-lived, but it is obvious his impact in the process of making a good athlete great, and a great athlete special, was felt at LSU. He went in to private practice following the departure from LSU, and it ended up being perfect timing for one of the top cornerbacks in the game, Marcus Trufant of the Seattle Seahawks.

“He had a poor year in 2006, but after training with us he had something like 95 tackles, 7 interceptions, 1 returned for a touchdown. He was a first team all-pro and earned himself a big contract” Gaines proudly explained.

Following that success of Trufant, names like Reggie Bush of the New Orleans Saints and Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans have used Gaines as an offseason workout asset. While those two players were already well known for their top tier athletic ability, it really says something that they would seek Gaines to maintain and improve their ability to shine on the football field.

What makes Gaines and his staff so special? I asked if he used any unique or special tactics in his training process.

“I can give someone the training program to take home, but what people need to understand is you have to have the staff in place” he answered. “You have to have the ‘it’ factor when watching a guy run. I can look at a guy and know right away what I can help him with. It’s the little things”.

Gaines provides an outstanding support staff for the players, as they are working on much more than just their speed and agility. Position coaches are provided across the board, most notably Joe Montana working with the quarterbacks and Marvel Smith working with the offensive linemen. The players also meet with a nutritionist once a week and they are provided with all their meals that are created by a professional culinary staff using organic food and supplements that throw more fuel in to the fire.

“We use all electronic timing systems and we provide performance coaches. We keep the guys in small groups, eight to ten per group, so there is a lot of personal attention. We film everything we do, just providing everything for the players” Gaines explained.

This is an entirely new approach to the daily life for these players. No more classes, no more practices. They are free from the NCAA rules, but the responsibility and importance of making the right decisions to better their futures has become even more vital. Gaines is often contacted by coaches, general managers, and area scouts in their effort to get a greater feel for the players off the field habits.

“I do get calls, asking me questions like ‘how does this kid work, what’s he like in the locker room, how does he adapt’. They were all stars at their schools, now they’re just another guy. They want to know how they react to the competition and the different environment.”

As you can see, Gaines is very much a part of the draft process as he trains the future of the NFL and has a voice within the war rooms across the league. His success rate speaks for itself, as 25% of his clients start in their rookie year. To put that in perspective, less than 10% of rookies start for their respective team in year one. He creates a specific program for each player, rather than having them workout under a template set for everyone.

“Every morning, our staff sits down and talks about every guy. We go over their different wants and needs, we go over their physical evaluations and past injuries. Everyone has their own goals and we set their training program around those”.

As the conversation with Travelle wrapped up, I had to ask him whom he thought was going to really put on a show at the combine. He listed:

“Ryan Mathews (Fresno State), Brian Price (UCLA), Lamarr Houston (Texas), and Reshad Jones (Georgia) are all going to put on a show at the combine” he answered. “Oh and one more guy, Emmanuel Sanders (SMU) is going to tear it up at the combine” he added.

Gaines is on the fast track to becoming one of the top trainers for professional athletes in the country, if he is not already there. The results speak for themselves and this year will prove to be no different. While the combine will not make or break a player’s final grade, it does make a significant difference in the athletic evaluation. Trainers like Travelle Gaines have proven to be the ladder that players use to bring their games to the next level.

A big Thank You to Travelle for taking to the time from his busy schedule to provide some inside information on the prospects we have been scouting for the past six months.