NFL Countdown #21: Alvin Kamara led the NFL in 2020 with 21 touchdowns. In the 15
games he played, he scored in all but four and finished with multiple TDs in five games.
Is there a cooler man in the NFL than Alvin Kamara right now? I mean, look at the guy. With his black visor and diamond grills, the gold chains popping out of his white & gold jersey, and his incredible athleticism, I can’t even hold the name “Alvin” against him. He’s got the look of a man who just woke up better than everyone, but the work ethic that got him here cannot be understated.
In my mediocre Division-III baseball career, I was a meathead lefty pitcher always trying to increase the speed of my fastball in the weight room. I was never a dominant pitcher, but I thought I could eventually get some innings if I just worked harder than everyone around me. I lifted weights no fewer than six days a week through my first two years of college, and my naïve “no days off” mentality coupled with a refusal to do anything to increase my flexibility eventually led to a herniated L4-L5 disc in my back. To make matters worse, I hid this injury from my team and had no explanation when my coaches asked why I wasn’t following through on my pitches.
I had what’s called a “microdiscectomy” surgery after my sophomore year, and fought an uphill battle my final two years of college to get back into pitching shape. I finished my college career with 0 innings pitched in a real game, but I think I learned a really good lesson on the reality of hard work paying off. I worked my ass off to try and be a good pitcher, but I was severely off-base on how I should have been trying to improve. Pitching is all about flexibility and technique, where even scrawny players can huck a baseball 90+ mph if they’re using all of their muscles correctly. I probably could have gotten good enough to crack the roster if I had just taken a moment to think about what I was doing, but I just pushed on and tried to get stronger while neglecting the things that would have actually made me a better baseball player.
You might ask, what does any of this have to do with Alvin Kamara? Well, the Saints superstar runningback is a perfect example of how working smarter -- not just harder -- can make a 5’10” third-round draft pick one of the best players in the NFL. Just like the hilarious Jameis Winston workout videos that make their rounds on social media, Alvin Kamara’s workouts are similarly mesmerizing. It seems that Kamara is always in the gym doing something we’ve never seen before to try and increase his flexibility and balance. The man knows exactly what he needs to do to keep him up near the top of the league in runningback production, and dedicates a ton of his training to exercises that will make him tougher to bring down.
His efforts have been extremely effective, as Kamara has consistently been one of the more slippery runners in the NFL. What he lacks in size is more than made up for with his incredible athleticism and refusal to fall down before making a couple defenders look silly. He was a third-round draft pick in 2017, selected by the Saints after the likes of Leonard Fournette, Tanoh Kpassagnon, and Adam Shaheen were taken off the board. Kamara more than delivered on his draft capital, making the pro bowl and putting up 1,300+ all-purpose yards in all of his four years in the league. Despite never cracking 63% of offensive snaps, Kamara has been up near the top of the NFL in yards from scrimmage every year.
Alvin Kamara went bananas in 2020, turning just 12.5 rush attempts per game (20th among RBs) into 16 rushing touchdowns (tied for 2nd among RBs). His insane efficiency on the ground and through the air is highlighted by his average of 6.3 yards per touch (1st among RBs, 12th overall), despite having an average depth of target of 0.6 yards. He converted these passes at the line of scrimmage into 50.4 receiving yards per game (1st among RBs). Finishing at the top of the league in 2020 with a ridiculous 21 TDs, Alvin Kamara’s balance and agility kept defenses on their toes and broke quite a few ankles. Sitting out in Week 17 due to COVID-19 protocols, Kamara capped off his season with an absurd 6-touchdown game against the Vikings on Christmas.
If you can’t afford the grills and your job doesn’t let you wear a blacked-out visor, you can at least try to emulate Alvin Kamara by figuring out exactly what strengths you need to excel in what you’re doing. Take a minute, really think about where you should be focusing your energy. It might not pay off to the tune of 21 touchdowns and a 5-year/$75,000,000 contract, but at the very least you might be able to avoid a broken back and four years of wasted efforts.