By Jack Lido
When Jared Thomas walked off Wilson Field on March 10th, he didn’t know how quickly the world was about to change. The novel coronavirus was not top of mind as he ran, leaped and lifted in front of at least 32 pairs of watchful eyes at his pro day.
“Literally the next day is when I was told scouts were being removed from the road,” Thomas said. “I was blessed.”
The Northwestern center started every game of the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Once scouts were no longer scouting, Thomas knew his road to an NFL roster was only going to get bumpier. Thomas had been training for the NFL draft since the Northwestern football season ended in November. With his pro day in the rear-view mirror, and a stay-at-home order mandated in Illinois, Thomas began working out at home, but he needed some help.
Enter Tommy Christian, a personal trainer who has been working with college athletes for nearly two decades, but never like this. Christian played linebacker at Northwestern, and five years after graduating, he quit a job in engineering for an unpaid internship in the strength department on the Northwestern football team. In 2006, he opened up his own sport performance company, TCBoost, in Northbrook, where he has trained hundreds of high school, college and professional athletes, including several Northwestern players currently on NFL rosters.
This NFL draft season was different for Christian. He lent some equipment to his clients, including Thomas, and developed workouts to do at home, which he puts on an app. Christian and his clients send videos back and forth, with Christian demonstrating and the athletes showing what they’ve done, looking for feedback. He demonstrated on a Zoom call.
“I’m gonna have them take 100 pound dumbbells, and put a foot up here,” Christian said as he stepped back from his computer, bending his knee and putting the top of his foot on an armchair. “Well that’s kinda like squatting 400 pounds.”
According to Christian, Thomas has three different weights at his apartment in Evanston, “a heavy, a medium, and a light.” He also has access to an empty field in Winnetka, perfect for practicing sprints.
The draft ended last week, and Thomas is not on an NFL roster. But he’s determined to follow in the footsteps of former teammates, including Tyler Lancaster, Joe Jones and Montre Hartage, who were passed over in the draft, and still found their way onto NFL active rosters. Those three didn’t face quite the same challenge that Thomas and his classmates have.
“It forces you to get creative and it truly shows if you really love what you do,” Thomas said. “To truly push yourself and find ways to still get good work is the true testament.”