BRADENTON, Fla. -- They stretched a tape measure around his torso and waist. They strapped him into a leg-press machine, enclosed him in a body-composition pod, hooked him up to monitors and sensors. They recorded his height and weight, took his blood and urine, told him when to fire his muscles – “Now! Go!” -- and when to stop. They measured his sweat output, his metabolism rate, his heart rate.
And by the end of the nearly eight-hour evaluation of Robert Griffin III’s physiology Thursday at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, a team of scientists who administer the tests to elite athletes gave Griffin a detailed analysis of his body, with suggestions on what (and when) to eat and drink to maximize his production.
“I’m basically here to try to find that extra competitive edge that all athletes are seeking,” Griffin said Wednesday night, after beginning a 10-hour fast that preceded Thursday’s testing at the institute, which is tucked into a corner of the sprawling IMG Academies an hour south of Tampa. “… Not everyone thinks about nutrition, what you put into your body. That’s a big part of how you perform. If you fuel yourself the right way, you can perform at a high level.”
Griffin, the former Baylor quarterback who is widely expected to be selected by the Redskins with the No. 2 overall pick of next week’s NFL Draft, was one of five prospective draftees invited to the GSSI lab for Thursday’s testing.
At one point, after exchanging pleasantries with South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram, a projected top-15 pick, Griffin flashed his famously toothy smile and joked, “As long as you don’t try to tackle me, we’re cool.”
Griffin, 22, has always had an uncanny awareness of his body’s nutritional needs. But on Thursday he said he still has more to learn.
“Nutrition isn’t something I’ve struggled with, but it’s always good to hear from experts,” he said. “… Fans and coaches all want to know you’re putting the necessary work in to be successful, and I’m making sure I cover all the grounds.”
Privacy concerns prevented the Gatorade scientists from revealing any specifics of Griffin’s evaluation, but one of them, JohnEric Smith, said there were no great surprises.
“You’ve seen clips -- he’s an amazing athlete,” Smith said. “Testing him, he’s an amazing athlete. What we look for are what areas he can be better. Some athletes are amazing athletes but there’s always an area he can improve. You’re really good, but lets make you elite in as many areas as we can….
“You get somebody like Robert, he’s got great habits, great background, and he has the physiology to go with it…. His knowledge of how his body works is huge.”
When Griffin first stepped into the lab and saw the array of machines and computer read-outs, he quipped, “Oh, so this is the torture chamber.” And while what followed wasn’t exactly torture, he didn’t seem to enjoy the poking and prodding.
More to his liking was the afternoon activity – a full football-specific workout on a back field a five-minute golf-cart ride away, overseen by Chris Weinke, the director of the IMG Madden Football Academy and, like Griffin, a former Heisman Trophy winner (2000, Florida State).
There, Griffin – sporting gold shoes and gaudy teal, pink, white and black socks, and fitted with sensors on each forearm to measure his sweat -- navigated an obstacle course of cones and blocking dummies as he unleashed a torrent of screaming, tight spirals that had Weinke’s jaw dropping.
“Off the charts,” Weinke said. “You can just see the athleticism coming out. Now, he’s the first to admit he still has work to do. That’s good. He knows that…. But he’s as good as I’ve been around.”
An approaching lightning storm cut the proceedings short, but Griffin had to catch a flight home to Texas anyway. First, though, at Weinke’s request, Griffin stopped to shake hands and take photos with a half-dozen teenaged football students who had gathered on the sidelines to watch.
“Nice to meet you guys,” he said, before he was spirited away in a golf cart, headed towards the parking lot, towards the airport, towards the NFL.