NFL draft hopefuls are flocking to training programs that help them land on a team

Key Points
  • Professional training programs designed to maximize athlete potential are emerging as a new business model.
  • These programs help prepare players for a possible career in the NFL.
  • The wallet-busting price tag is often paid by sports agents, who consider it an investment in a promising player.
NFL hopefuls train for bigger payouts
NFL hopefuls train for bigger payouts

Saturday is the third and final day of the NFL Draft, where teams pick not only the brightest and most promising college stars, but also choose from the hundreds of relatively unknown players that compete with blood and sweat to get signed to NFL rosters.

In the lower draft rounds, players are fighting to make a team, typically without the fame and fortune that go to the first-round superstars.

One of the big factors in drafting players is how they fared at the NFL Combine, or their school's Pro Day. How they do could mean the difference between a career in the NFL, or looking for a desk job. It's here where tenths of a second, or mere inches, can determine careers — and where players get drafted.

So much comes down to a track meet that involves lot of running and jumping. But it's an important track meet, and training for that day is serious business. Scouts and coaches use what they see to measure the speed, strength, and agility of the NFL hopefuls.

That's why a new business has emerged: Professional training programs designed to maximize athlete potential on that day. Recently, CNBC decided to get a first hand look at one training program, and in the process worked out with an athlete from one of the nation's top-ranked college football teams. The vigorous workout included some agility drills, short sprints, jumps, and hit some bench press.

Eric Chemi trains with the Parabolic Performance team.

"I think I took 3 tenths off my 40-yard dash," said Boston College Wide Receiver Charlie Callinan, who went through a three-month training program at New Jersey-based Parabolic Fitness. The company has trained many draft picks like Mike Burton and Trevor Siemian.

"In 2018, if you're not preparing for your Pro Day or Combine, you are doing yourself a disservice," said Parabolic founder Steve Frohlich. His data showed that participants improved their 40-yard dash on average by 0.2-0.3 seconds, and doubled the number of reps in the 225-pound bench press. Similar improvements occurred in the other drills, Frohlich added.

That sort of training doesn't come cheap. A professional program like Parabolic can cost up to $10,000 for specialized private training. The program is just one of many companies providing customized training to athletes hoping to go pro.

That said, ten grand is typically too much money for a college student to afford — so many sports agents are stepping up to foot the bill.

"You are pretty much an investment," Callinan told CNBC. "For them to send you to a place to train is an investment."

And it's all about a return on that investment. Agents fund these training programs, hoping players do well enough to get drafted, sign a pro contract, and pay the agent back through commissions.

"The pre-draft training process is no longer an option. It's a mandatory part of the process," said sports agent Pat Capra. "It's your investment in the player…If I'm going to work with a guy, I'm going to pay for their training…it's a business decision."

Capra also made the point that playing football and prepping for the Combine are different beasts. "These players are doing things that are very unique to what they are doing day to day," he said. "It's important to get them in the hands of people who know what they are doing and can showcase themselves at their brightest."