JR Redmond, a former NFL running back, rounds up his athletes for a post-workout pep talk at his Just Run Pro Training session Friday at Polson Park.

NFL champ motivates youngsters

Former NFL running back JR Redmond leads training camp at Vernon's Polson Park.

JR Redmond has thrived at every level of football he has played.

From earning first-team, all-state honours with his hometown Carson, Calif. high school Colts, to playing in a Rose Bowl and earning Heisman Trophy consideration as a tailback with the Arizona State Sun Devils, to catching three first-down passes on the final drive that won Tom Brady’s New England Patriots Super Bowl XXVI, he has done it all.

When his six-year NFL career ended in 2005, Redmond took everything that made him successful, namely his supreme athleticism, and translated it into Just Run Pro Training. The 34-year-old was in Vernon last weekend delivering the program, hosted by Vernon Minor Football.

The first thing the kids noticed was there wasn’t a single football to be found on the field at Polson Park. Instead, Redmond focussed specifically on teaching agility, power and speed, using a series of challenging drills that incorporate bungee cords, hurdles, ladders and cones.

Football is his passion, but Redmond says the fundamentals he offers are applicable to pretty much any sport that relies in athleticism.

“Sports in itself is played in 360 degrees,” said Redmond, who ranks fifth in yardage in Arizona State history. “If you can do it forward, you should be able to do it backwards. If you can go right, you should be able to go left.

“You have to prepare that way. You can’t have a dominant side. You become a better athlete, you become a better player, if you have the mental stability to retain the information.”

The other thing that quickly became apparent to the youngsters was Redmond wasn’t there to coddle them. He used a balance of tough love and motivation to encourage them through three full hours of intense morning workouts under a scorching Okanagan sun.

“They didn’t realize there was going to be a lot of hard work involved, so the first day kind of blew their minds,” smiled the charismatic Redmond, whose cousin, Derrick Ward, just retired after eight seasons as an NFL running back. “Today they came out here and were a lot better. They understood the volume of work they had to do.

“The thing they have to understand is your coach is not your parent; your coach is not your friend. But it’s somewhere in between a parent and a friend.

“When it calls for me to be that authority figure because we’ve gotten a little too friendly out here, then I have to bark at them a little bit.”

Tye Kitzman, who plays with the Vernon Bantam Wolverines, wasn’t sure what to expect. Yet despite all the hard work, he seemed to excel on Redmond’s program.

“It’s a lot of work,” said Kitzman, a Fulton student. “I’ve never done this – it’s just basic fundamentals on running and how to run faster.

“Bungee is fun, but really hard. The back pedalling – it’s hard on your legs.”

Added Matthew Reich, a Grade 5 Silver Star Elementary student who will play this season with the Vernon Pee Wee Yellow Jackets: “It’s a lot of fun. I like the bungee and being out with the professionals. It’s really cool.

“I don’t have very good footwork, and this is helping a lot.”

Greg Ficht, team trainer for the Vernon Midget Magnums and equipment manager for Vernon Minor Football, invited Redmond to town when he learned he was already doing programs in Kelowna and Salmon Arm.

“The kids absolutely seem to be enjoying this,” said Ficht. “He’s a football player, but these camps aren’t football specific; any athlete can come and gain something from this.

“We’re excited to be hosting this and hopefully we can build it over the next few years.”