PARKER, Colo. — During his European family vacation that was still ongoing as of the weekend, new Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson worked out with his personal quarterback coach Jake Heaps on football fields in Monaco and London.
Other Team Wilson coaches are along on the trip. You know, Russell’s personal trainers, physical therapist, stretch master, massage therapist, chef.
Tom Brady broke the mold by hiring his own physical trainer, Alex Guerrero, years ago. Guerrero to great controversy had access inside the New England Patriots’ facility for a time before coach Bill Belichick took the privilege away. Guerrero has regained team access through office space and sideline presence during practice and games, since Brady signed two years ago with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
And Brady is about to turn 45 and start his 23rd NFL season. With seven Super Bowl championships, 10 Super Bowl appearances and all the significant career passing records, Brady is the unquestioned best QB of all-time. So, Guerrero's impact probably shouldn't be questioned.
In Wilson’s quest to be great, he has taken the extra-credit work up a level and put an entire team on his personal payroll. Wilson and Broncos general manager George Paton did discuss his personal team of coaches prior to the trade becoming official. Wilson made no demands but he did explain why he believed in round-the-clock help.
The Broncos with eyes wide open are all in on making Wilson happy. No one from Wilson's personal team of coaches has an office inside team headquarters, although a trainer is allowed in to give his body some treatment and attend practice.
By the way, did you know Drew Lock had a personal coach that lived him with last year? Anymore, most NFL quarterbacks have "their guy."
Wilson is 33, going into his 11th NFL season. This season will be the first of what Wilson hopes will be “10 to 12 more years” as the Broncos’ quarterback.
"I think Russell has got – he’s just getting started in terms of what he can do with his career,'' Heaps said in an interview with 9NEWS near the end of Wilson’s Passing Academy session last month at Chaparral High School. "And I’m really excited for him to get this opportunity with coach Hackett and the rest of his staff and I truly believe the best is yet to come.”
Wilson's dedication is so over the top, he is counting on his personal coaches to help get him over the top. He’s a 9-time pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion now. Over the top is Brady territory. By personal coaches, we’re not talking about Nathaniel Hackett, Justin Outten or Klint Kubiak. The Broncos coaches. They are Wilson’s coaches No. 1, 2 and 3.
This is about before and after practice. During the offseason.
“My job isn’t to be part of the coaching staff and teach Russell the reads and things like that,'' Heaps said. “That’s coach Hackett. That’s Justin (Outten). That’s coach Kubiak. They are the best at what they do. My job is to take some of the time they don’t have and work on some of fundamental aspects that Russell wants to work on with his time away from the team.''
Heaps was once a pretty good quarterback himself. In 2009-10, he was the nation’s top high school QB recruit out of the Seattle area. He then became a true freshman starter at BYU. Enormous expectations made it difficult from there but he did spend parts of two years in Wilson’s quarterbacks’ room in Seattle, including a stint on the Seahawks’ practice squad.
They hit it off enough for Wilson to trust Heaps’ guidance.
“It’s really a 365 (day) deal,’’ Heaps said. “But it’s really being smart about trying to help him in ways where I can help him on the field in the offseason. Mechanics, making sure everything is right. Making sure we’re working on game scenarios that he might need to work on and fix in his game. And then also making sure we’re mentally sharp on the playbook and we’re on top of all the new trends that are going on in the NFL. It encompasses a lot. It’s really fun. It’s great for me to be able to stay close to the game that I love and be able stay close to it at the highest level.”
By all accounts, the Team Wilson group is very respectful of the Broncos’ current coaching staff. No one acts like their way is better for Wilson than the Broncos way.
“It is cohesive. It has to be,’’ Heaps said. “They’ve been amazing about it and it’s been really fun to work with him and for Russell to get this opportunity in Denver. My job is not to step on the staff’s toes."
While Heaps will attend and observe training camp practice, he won’t be in team meetings. That’s not his place. His work with Wilson will be during the quarterback’s downtime. Which apparently is never. Still, it only makes sense for Heaps and Hackett, Outten and Kubiak to be on the same page.
“Having great communication is really important,’’ Heaps said. “Obviously you don’t work on things that aren’t in sync with what they teach and what they want. Russell has a way of doing things and this coaching staff has been awesome in terms of meshing and integrating all that together. My job on the outside when they can’t work with him is to make sure he doesn’t miss a beat on and off the field. That he stays sharp and that he is in midseason form when we get to week 1. That’s my job.’’
Week 1? Wilson’s Broncos against Wilson’s former Seahawks in Seattle. For his return, Wilson will be coached up like no one else.
"My job is not to step on the staff’s toes,'' Heaps said. "My job is to be an asset. Another tool that can be utilized to help him be great.”
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