Shawn Lauvao, Trent Williams, Alex Boone, Geoff Schwartz, Larry Warford -- these are just a handful of around 30 NFL offensive lineman working with LeCharles Bentley.
You may remember him as a former Pro-Bowl center whose playing days were cut short due to an injury and staph infection. Since retiring from the NFL, he's built a new career on training offensive linemen. Grantland profiled him and his unconventional techniques yesterday in a terrific feature story by Robert Mays.
These days Bentley hosts players at his O-Line Performance center in Scottsdale, but new Redskin Shawn Lauvao has been working with him since the early days when both were based in Cleveland.
Coach Jay Gruden called Lauvao the most improved player from OTAs to training camp and credited the team's offensive line coach Chris Foerster.
Also worth mentioning: Lauvao returned to train with O-Line Performance between OTAs and camp.
LeCharles Bentley requires pupils to forget everything they've been taught about playing on the offensive line. He believes established wisdom isn't always wise; often, it's not specific enough to the skills of the position, nor is it flexible enough to maximize the strengths of individual players.
"[NFL assistants are] dealing with the very macro world of the NFL, and offensive line is a very micro position," Bentley says. He focuses on technique and strength to supplement NFL coaching, which largely involves scheme and studying opponents.
“I can’t do what works for you, and you can’t do what works for me ... We have to be able to follow certain laws of performance, from a physics point of view. Let’s find those laws, but while we’re following those laws, let’s be creative. Let’s paint. Let’s make this as beautiful a canvas as it can be, and get away from, ‘That’s what I was told. This is the tradition. This is what we’re supposed to do.’”
Every exercise is designed to build the particular kind of strength and agility that linemen need.
It's not enough to bench press a stack of weights. Traditional lunges and squats are modified to mimic the angels, levels and directions linemen move on the field. You'll also notice a focus on balance, not to mention plenty of footwork and hands drills.
So what does "unconventional" training look like? Pushing a semi truck across a parking lot, for starters.
Alongside feats of strength, players work on body control and flexibility. Don't tell big guys they can't bend with the yogis.
Bentley is also a certified nutritionist, so it's no surprise that diet is just as important as exercise at O-Line Performance. A no sugar, no carbs rule eliminates empty calories. Replacing them are fatty meats and vegetables for protein and long-lasting energy.
If I were to die today, please inscribe on my headstone.. "This man baked no carb cinnamon rolls".. You're welcome pic.twitter.com/5sj7WqtjRB— LeCharles Bentley (@OLineWorld65) October 14, 2013
The regimen requires a big lifestyle adjustment and more than a little faith.
“This shit ain’t for everybody,” Bentley says. “This ain’t South Beach. There’s no sand here, no pretty girls.”
“In a weird way, bro, he’s like Yoda,” Shawn Lauvao says. “It’s anything he says. If he told me to run through a wall because it would make me a better player, I’d say, ‘OK, which wall?’”
So why do players line up like sheep at his door? Put simply, results.
LeCharles Bentley pointed out a problem with Lauvao's stance in their very first session.
Alex Boone came to Bentley as an undrafted free agent. He's one of the top guards in the NFL three years later.
After training at O-Line Performance, Kentucky's Larry Warford was drafted in the third round by the Lions and continued working with Bentley. He started in his rookie season, a campaign for which ProFootballFocus named him their 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
With this kind of success, what's next for LeCharles Bentley and O-Line Performance? Landing an elite talent.
Bentley will get that chance with Trent Williams, who just began training with O-Line Performance this offseason. Williams has embraced his role as a team leader and says he wants to take the next step to become consistently great.
If LeCharles Bentley can transform an unheralded player into one of the most dominant rookies in football, what can he do with a Pro-Bowl left tackle already considered a superior talent?
I can't wait to find out.