How Giants’ WR Darius Slayton battled adversity and discovered his potential: ‘Hall of Fame Standard’

nfl: new york giants training camp, darius slayton
Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Giants WR Darius Slayton has worked hard this offseason to prepare for the fifth season of his career, training closely with Drew Lieberman, an NFL WR Coach and the Founder/CEO of Sideline Hustle.

Lieberman recently sat down with Alex Wilson and Anthony Rivardo, the hosts of Fireside Giants, to share some insight with Giants fans on his career history and the coaching strategies he’s utilized to help New York Giants WR Darius Slayton battle through adversity and discover his potential.

Exclusive Interview with Drew Lieberman, Founder/CEO of Sideline Hustle, diving into New York Giants WR Darius Slayton and former Giants TE Evan Engram:

Drew: Appreciate you guys having me on. It’s a pleasure to talk to you guys. It’s a little-known fact, I actually grew up a Giants fan. So it’s cool. Little bit different perspective now with my place in the NFL, but it’s definitely cool being on the hometown podcast and talking about the Giants.

Alex: Absolutely. So, tell me about your start in football, how you got into the game, and how you started to get into training these professional athletes. And I imagine it takes a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication. So how did you get to this point?

Drew: Yeah. So, I played quarterback in college at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, D3 school, same school that Bill Belichick went to. I blew out my shoulder in college, started kind of being a student assistant coach, saw Bill Belichick all over the walls, and was like, ‘if he went here and went to the same place I went to, like, and he’s the best, whoever did this, like, I might as well go for it.’ Like, same background. Here’s the image of it. Like, let me go, let me go attack this.

So right out of college, I coached at University at Albany, then coached at Rutgers for three years. And that’s kind of how I got my Jersey ties and my Jersey start from New York City originally. But that was the first time really diving into Jersey football. Was there for three years, was the youngest coach in the Big 10, I think my last year after I got promoted. But just like hated the lifestyle, didn’t sleep, worked 20 hours a day, sleeping under my desk. As much as I loved football, I needed some sort of freedom and autonomy over my life.

So I just kind of quit in the middle of it was like, at the end of my third season at Rutgers, I was just like, had enough, wasn’t really like the lifestyle I wanted to go down, left to go back to my alma mater, Wesleyan, got my masters in writing, thinking I was gonna like, write a book about coaching. That kind of turned into a podcast. The podcast got kind of big for a while. Then we started breaking down film on Instagram and over like a two year period of just kind of like creating content on Instagram, similar to the video I made about Slayton recently.

Pro guys started finding me. They started reaching out in the DMs like, who are you? Like, how are you coaching this way? Where’d you learn all this? Like, I haven’t really heard anyone talk about receiver play this way. And then Mohammed Sanu was kind of the first big client. Jawan Winfrey was my first NFL client, helped him get drafted a Jersey kid. And then, and then most Sanu found me through some Rutgers ties. And we just, we started working together one summer.

He asked me to start living with him down in Atlanta while he was still with the Falcons. I’ve basically lived in house with him for like a year and a half, two years, like helped him through that transition to the Patriots. He got hurt in New England. So like we dealt with all that. There were just a whole bunch of ups and downs, but he was really like the gateway. Like it really all started with Mo. Mo gave me kind of access to his life, gave me full access to just his routine. I mean, that’s kind of where like my product as like an independent receiver coach differs.

Most guys do the drills and like help with the skills. Like I was living with Mo 24/7, 365, trying to figure out every day, like what we need to be doing to be getting better. So I’ve kind of developed this awesome perspective of like, you know, the players first, like really understanding their reality and what it takes and what they go through and what the factors are that actually like contribute or take away from success. So like it really all started with that experience with Mo. Then I moved down to Atlanta myself full-time, like Slayton, Evan Ingram, Jacobi Myers, three of my top clients, they’re all Georgia guys.

They’re all from Georgia. So like that’s where they spend their off season. So I mean, I came in touch with, with those guys just through, you know, word of mouth or whatever, however it happens, we kind of just came across each other on different fields. Um, a lot of days of Kias of, of now on the Eagles, um, he was down there. He’s been one of my first clients, uh, Alan Robinson. Those are kind of all the guys at top, like five or six guys I’ve been working with the last few years, um, consistently. Um, and it just kind of blew up from there.

I think I have a really unique like perspective on the game, just just with the experiences I’ve had coaching at the highest level, kind of pursuing it, thinking I’m going to be the, you know, I’m pursuing to be the best coach ever at that level. And then kind of like transitioning to an independent route, but having this sort of players first mentality and just realizing the white, I never thought I’d be coaching NFL guys. Like I truly started when I left Rutgers, I truly started the, I was like, I’m going to be the guy who can make content in this unique way where like I’ve actually been there so I can offer perspective to the content world.

Never thought it was going to lead to guys actually reaching out, wanting me to coach them. Uh, and it, but it was like, once I was in it, it just, you realize how much white space there is and how much like they, they get coached to be obedient and be part of the team. And like there’s some talent that’s developed, but like their individual skill sets and, and, and getting the most out of them as individuals, uh, and tailoring the coaching to what they’re great at. They don’t like the, a lot of the coaches in the league don’t necessarily offer. It’s more so like the broader picture stuff and then they’re, they’re left as like professionals to do that on their own.

So just realizing how much detailed coaching was needed and just kinda been coaching my butt off for the last three, four years with a lot of the same guys and just trying to build. And we’ve had some success recently, obviously Evans playing great, Jacoby Meyer just got paid, Slayton’s just got a nice contract and playing well. So like we started to see some great results just trying to continue pushing these guys forward.

Anthony: You mentioned the Darius Slayton video that you posted on social media. I want to ask you about that because Slayton has been with the Giants for the last several years, had a down year in 2021, and bounced back in a major way in 2022. He earned that two-year contract that you just alluded to, and right now at training camp, he looks stellar. His hands look better, and that’s really what you were posting about in that video, how you worked on his hands this off-season to help him become a more natural pass catcher. What more insight can you share about that process, diving into his hands this off-season, really helping him improve that aspect of his game?

Drew: Yeah, so this is year three with Slay, and I think with all these guys, for the most part, it’s been like a three-year process. Like the first year is kind of just like adjusting their lifestyle to like what I just call it the ‘Hall of Fame Standard.’ Like a lot of the guys I really got deep with these guys who we’re kind of like not not everyone in the NFL wants to be a Hall of Fame. Like not all these guys actually want to put that much time and dedication and a lot of guys just want to get paid really well and make plays, which and there’s nothing wrong with that. The guys who want to do above and beyond and do the Hall of Fame type stuff. Those are the guys I really vibe with and like once Slayton kind of made that commitment, it’s like, all right, we’re going to build this from the ground up then.

We can’t just kind of band-aid and patch it. Like we’re going to rebuild this whole shit. So that was what, that was where you saw like the, the down year in 2021 was that was like our, that was right. That was our first off season working together. And there were just a lot, he was playing off the strength. He was playing off instinct. He was playing off speed, but a lot of his game was inconsistent. It was probably going to come crashing down for lack of a better term, whether it was with, you know, because of some of the Joe judge woes or like what the status of the team then, like either way, Slay was doing like a lot of things that were going to catch up to him, like bad habits and little things that like just he needed to shore up to be that hall of fame level player. Otherwise, he was just like another fast guy. So then I come in, you know, and I’m a young coach then too. Like I’ve gotten better at the way I start this transition but I come in and basically I’m just like, here are all the things that are gonna catch up to you. We gotta fix all these things. And it’s just like a lot to fix for a guy. So it was like a year of adjustment. It was a year of just like committing to his craft, committing to his game, committing to his routine at a different level.

It was a tough thing that first year. There was just a lot of ups and downs and like nobody had statistics. Nobody played well in the whole team. I think Gallaudet was a leading receiver with like 490 yards or something. So like everything was down, but it just like on his end, like all the drops on not a lot of targets, like it was just, it was not great. So in that second year, we really, we, but we had to rebuild like his whole game. We, I really wanted to build around his strengths, his speed, give him tools to work around his speed, how to run and stop better, how to just play the game with more confidence.

And I think we built him more as a complete player. We got him back to where like, you know, he average, he was at an 1100 yard pace last year. He had the average like 67, 68 yards a game where if he paid 16, 17 games, he’s going to have over a thousand with just the way he was playing last year. So like we really got him running complete routes, releasing really well, like stopping really well, not really recognizing. I, and I kind of thought with that confidence, the catching problems would just kind of fix themselves. And we worked a lot on catching, but probably didn’t like just hone down and shut down everything else and just catch the damn football.

We worked on everything. He got better at everything. But then we come in, he has a great year. He’s creating all kinds of separation, but we’re still not catching the ball great. Had, you know, a 700 yard year. Like I said, a level hundred yard pace, like still a good season, very good season, but not the best version of himself, not the best he could be. And then he had, I think he tweaked his knee in one of the Minnesota games, had a little, a minor surgery in the off season to start the off season. And that ended up being a blessing because it kind of slowed us down that first month and a half. And that first month and a half, we kind of came up with a term like, we want to be a ball stopper.

He kind of came to me with this. He’s like, you know, I’ve been watching film and like the best pass catchers I see, like the ball stops when they touch their hand, like, you know, Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, like Mohammed Sanu, Julio Jones, like some of the best ball catchers you can think of, like the ball just stops like it does now in this slating video and like that, that is absolutely not who he was. Like I, and that was one of the biggest things that I didn’t like about his game, but I would kind of try and fix it just by poking and prodding at him, by showing it to him. We didn’t really overly drill it. I just kind of thought that.

By getting after him mentally and getting him going and making him more aggressive, it would just kind of fix itself. Didn’t really translate that way. There were just still a lot of mechanical issues. Like his hand track was often too wide or he just like wasn’t confident. That we kind of got to the bottom of it through conversations and drills, just certain angles, certain passes. He just wasn’t confident. So now that creates this sort of tentative reactant. When we’re coming out of our break, it just becomes this tentative, hesitant thing rather than like a confident attack mentality.

So that knee injury that kind of left us without a, you know, really being able to do a lot of running the first half of the off season was, was a beautiful thing. Cause we just created so many catching scenarios, so many catching drills. We studied all the best pass catchers. We looked at the mechanics. We broke it down every way we could. We came up with a million different drills to, to, to drill it. I think he talked about in the, in one of the papers, he was talking about tennis balls was a tool we use, like catching one tennis ball with two hands forces you to have a tight hand track, right?

Like most guys catch tennis balls with one hand each, but that’s promoting like wide hands. It’s one tennis ball, two hands, and you have to shoot that tight. So like that was one little tool. Um, there’s, there’s a bunch of stuff we did that I could probably get into at a, at a later time as far as the specific drills, but there were a lot of things we really broke down a lot of things we really, uh, just dove into mechanically. And then it was the mindset of just like, Oh, you got to choose to like think about this one way. This is going to be something where you have to have confidence in your catching before you catch the first pass in a game. Like we have to switch the way you’re thinking about this.

We have to change the way you’re kind of approaching this, you know, why are you hesitant? Why does this, why don’t you look confident here? Like, what is it? Oh, okay, well, actually with my left hand on top, I feel like this. Well, actually this line of vision, so that you just kind of get to the bottom of some of these insecurities that guys are running around with, you don’t even realize. And he says, you know, in college, we did whatever it was and I would get yelled at. So it created this insecurity that was just never fixed. And she’s just out there balling and just trying to fucking be great.

Like, there’s just not a lot of time to fix all this and there’s no one really telling you like what to do. You’re just like, he’s a young kid. He comes into New York city. He’s balling his first two years. Then the world comes crashing down and it’s like, there’s no real blueprint for how to like work your way out of that. And, you know, luckily we kind of found each other at the perfect time and we, we set this up like kudos to him. I mean, you know, I had a full training schedule in Atlanta with all the other guys down here and while he was hurt, he would show up in my house. He would show up between sessions. He would be waiting for me anywhere. Like, yo, let’s get some catches. I need 300 right now.

And for me, luckily, I played quarterback in college. Like I have a really good arm and I can put the ball where I need it with like, so we do a lot of work we’re catching, but like he would be in my garage waiting for me when I got home, he would be outside the next session waiting to get ball drills in like his, his dedicate. Once we kind of unlock the tools and figured out like, wow, I can feel this getting better, I recognize what are some of the things we can do to become a true ball stopper. He became addicted and he, like, I couldn’t, you know, he couldn’t get enough.

Anthony: Yeah, and listen, from seeing the videos from training camp, we can see a massive difference in terms of the way that the ball is stopping in his hand… So you kind of just broke down some of the hands drills that you did. But how about his route running? What kind of work have you done with him there, just trying to help him improve and be more of a three-level player and receiver from every angle of the field?

Drew: Yeah, the biggest thing for him is just like playing with full stride. Like he’s like a four-three speed guy, but he’s not always like, you know, when he’s running four-three, his stride length, his sprint cycle is…consistent, it’s long, it’s full. Like he doesn’t always run every route. He actually, we talked about this maybe three days. If you were to watch his film, I think from like day four of training camp to day five, or recently, he’s just made a big improvement. Where like he, like he, we talked about it and he’s opening that stride up more, he’s attacking more. And it’s just like, you just gotta be fearless about it. Like it’s uncomfortable because he’s fast enough where he can play at 85% stride and still be faster than most guys.

But now like, all right, you’re creating enough separation to get open, but you’re not creating like, we call them solo shots where when the ball is caught, there’s no one else in the frame. That’s the standard for separation. That when you catch the ball, if I were to take a picture of you on the field, there’s not a DB in the frame because there’s so much separation. Like that’s the level we’re trying to get to. That’s how you create yards after catch. That’s how you do, like he’s getting open. He’s getting open enough for 750 yards a year, whatever it is, but like that 1200, 1300, 1400 yard season that I think he has inside him at his best, that’s gonna come from like creating so much separation that I’ve got 10, 15.

you know, 100 yards after every catch. Like that one play versus Houston last year that he took to the crib was like starting to see that ability, we have to now run routes in a way where we can catch the ball with that much space more often. And then he, I think he was like six in the league in yards per catch last year. And we didn’t even catch the ball great. Like we weren’t even stopping the balls. So I think like there’s so much he can do. But the biggest thing is just getting him to play fast, trust his ability to play fast. Now to do that, we have to work on his ability to stop at full speed.

And I think that’s been one of the biggest improvements to slay is like he competes with himself now. He doesn’t need, there was, there was a time last year when he was buried on the depth chart and he was going against the twos and threes when, you know, he’s coming off being a two year starter, three year starters going into twos and threes. And he’s calling me, he just like, yo, like I’m just, you know, I’m having trouble finding that spark kind of like a closer in baseball coming in in, in like, you know, a seven run game. Like I just don’t have, I don’t have that spark going against twos and threes. Like I’m a starter on this team. Like, and I’m just like, well, listen, like, you know, we had a conversation, we got it out of them and it was just like, you gotta, you gotta.

Like that’s the difference in your career now. Like when you find that spark where you don’t need the best corner in football in front of you or whatever it is, and you can just get that out of yourself. Like that’s when the sky’s the limit. And that was really like a trying time for him. And it was like last year in camp, he started killing the twos, killing the threes. Then they started moving with the ones and like DJ’s guy and he’s a great player. So he just kept making plays. But it was like that moment of, okay, like I really got to find this myself. Like they’re not giving me anything. They’re not giving me any opportunities. Like I gotta dig deep mentally and get this out of myself.

And it was really like, once he’s made those agreements with himself, it’s still what I’m talking to myself about. Like now it’s not just convincing yourself you’re a good player. Now it’s holding yourself to that 14 honey yard standard. Cause like it’s right here in front of you. There’s no reason why if you’re playing the best football, there’s no reason why I don’t have 140, 150 targets and you’re going for plus yards. If you’re, if you’re playing your absolute best from snap one, like that’s how good I think this kid is. Um, but it’s mostly been mental and it’s mostly been getting him to play everything at full stride.

And then from there, working on his mechanics at that speed, like we have to train there first, we have to get there first. Then once you feel comfortable with it, you can get it out of yourself and practice it in games. And then, you know, once we’re playing at that speed, things are gonna be a little sloppy, which is fine. That’s a good problem to have. We gotta tighten things up at that point. And then everything will be clicking by the time it’s time to win football games. Yeah, man. I mean, look, going back all the way to the beginning of the episode when you said you left the coaching kind of route to become your own guy.

Alex: That’s that’s badass. I think that’s awesome thing to do. You know what I mean? Like going on on your own, and trying to create something that’s of what you did is not easy. And it seems like you’re doing a damn good job of it because you’re seeing the results on the football field, you’re seeing the results of the details. And one of the things the things that I think you said that was absolutely excellent was the mentality of you got to change your habits, you got to practice like a superstar. I mean, you kind of said before having that Hall of Fame style. You think Michael Jordan wasn’t destroying people in practice?

The best of the best, they destroy everybody in practice, they make everyone look silly. That’s what makes them great, though, you know, that respect that they earn off the off the field, or on the practice field is what transitions to actual games that respect that they earn in that and that internal kind of desire that internal want is a variable that not many people have, it takes a special person to have that. And it takes a special person to instill that it seems like you’re one of those guys is able to give that to other people. That’s a skill.

Drew: It’s something that needs to, I give it to people who want, who want to have it. Like they have, they have to want those goals and they have to set that vision first. And then I think I can be the, the jet fuel for that. I think early in my career, I used to try to instill it on guys who didn’t even necessarily want that level of accountability or that level of commitment. And you can’t force dudes at this level to be great. They have to really want it. And that’s the thing with Slay. That’s where I knew he would be great. Cause like, he really wants to be like, he really cares. Like he really cares and he lives a lifestyle that shows he cares.

He lives in a way where he has no distractions. Everything’s pouring into making himself a better player. And you know, and like, this is what I told him last year after the Packers game. I think that was the first game he blew up. I was like, hey bro, they can’t kill a man who’s already dead. Like you’re already dead. They’ve already killed you. They’ve already written you off. They’ve already told you that you suck, that you’re a bust, that you can’t catch. Like you, like in everyone else’s eyes, like you’re dead. So now you’re playing with house money. Like there’s no pressure. There’s nothing to lose.

 I think that sort of mentality is what like he was just like, I’m just gonna go out there and, and give it all my all because like, I was I had to take a pay cut just to be here. And yeah, really, you know, that rock bottom, as you want to call it, really set him up for what’s going to be successful the rest of his career. Yeah, you want to know that pay cut that he took was the best decision he ever made. You know what I mean? Putting himself in a spot where he had to fight and find those qualities that you were able to, you know, help him gain.

is what turns him into a player that is now practicing at a high level, playing at a high level, the fundamentals, the rare he’s, he’s actively adding elements to his game. I am so hyped to see him this year because ultimately, you know what, he has been through the gauntlet along with some of these guys in the Giants team where the coaching staff has been overturned, the offense is being changed. They don’t know what the role is. They’re going into a season when the new system, a new scheme. Now you’ve got all these weapons and the coolest part about Darius Slayton story.

Is that now he’s an established starter, the Giants added Waller, they added Paris camel that had Jalen Hyatt, they added all these names. Yet he’s one of the guys that we know for a fact is situated, right? He is a starter on this team, he is not going to be supplemented because he continues to make plays in practice, continues to showcase that worth and, you know, for a coach like Brian Dayball, you see what he prefers. And he prefers those types of players that are able to step up and showcase their value and not back away from a challenge prove that they belong there.

You see the way he acts towards him now you see the way he’s hit him on the head you see the way he’s giving him that positive reinforcement that comes from all the hard work that you guys did together so I did I think that you may have actually ended up helping save his career along with him buying into the process and and putting in that work and time especially when he was injured it was a mutual benefit here which is a beautiful thing to see it’s a really beautiful thing to kind of 100% it’s it’s a it with a lot of my guys it feels it just feels like it’s a higher power feels like it’s God or whatever you believe in…

When I meet these guys, the times in my career, the times in their career, like it just, a lot of us experienced adversity to get there and we’re able to use that as a, as kind of jet fuel to build something greater. But, you know, it was really like, shout out to Slay. Like he had to really commit to it. He had to face the fire in New York, probably the toughest place to face the fire. Yeah. The media shit that third year like was hard on him. Like there was a lot, like he had to really face himself and look himself in the mirror and just decide like who we wanted to be.

I give him credit for trusting me. You know what I’m saying? Like I was a young kid who was kind of starting out and like he told me the other day, he was like, I really trusted Mo. Like I really trusted Mo Sanu. I knew you were a Mo Sanu’s guy and I respected the way he worked. So I was like, if that’s his guy, I guess I’ll give it a shot. And obviously like it ended up, we ended up developing a great relationship, but it’s just one of those things like I was saying, like you can’t force a guy to want to be great. And it’s cool. It’s really rewarding and really cool to lay out a blueprint for someone, but it’s rare when someone like attacks it the way he did.

And eats it up the way he did and then is willing to just to make himself uncomfortable. Like he’s done so many things the way he’s dealt with coaches, the way he’s continued staying solid with DJ. Now he’s like the real leader in his room and one of the bets in the room. Like there’s so many things that he’s fought through and stayed being himself. It’s been really cool to see and it’s been really, really cool to be a part of.

Alex: So I’ll finish off with this because I am curious… How, what did you do with Evan Ingram to make him so good last year? What did you do to help him find his peak potential because he killed it and he got a big contract and I’m so happy for him, he’s a great dude. And it’s nice to see him finally finding that success in a prolonged home, you know what I mean?

Drew: Yeah, no, it was very similar as Slay. It was just kind of happened the year before. But just a kid who like when I met him, he didn’t necessarily see himself the right way. He wasn’t necessarily, he didn’t see himself for the talent and the potential and how good he could be.

Which I think is one of the best tight ends who ever played the game. Like just with how smart he is and who he is as a person, how skilled he is. Like there’s no reason why at the end of his career, he doesn’t put some things on film that no one’s ever done. Like, like whatever that entails as far as his legacy, we should just see some film that no one’s ever seen at the tight end position. By the time he retires, that’s kind of the way we talk about it. But you know, it was kind of the first just like raising his own standard for himself. Cleaning up his lifestyle a little bit, cleaning up his mentality.

He was the most affected by the outside noise, like those drops that Pro Bowl year he had, what was it, 2020? Those really affected it. Like when I met him, so we started working together the year after those drops and he was just in like a bad place. Like he had come off some injuries, so he’d never really had a full off season in the NFL where he really committed to his game, but he was just lost. Didn’t know where to take his game, where to take his training, where to take his mentality. And we just had a lot of really, just really dark.

You know, tough conversations about just the reality of the way this has affected him, the way his confidence had been shot a little bit, what his goals were for himself and some of the things we just were going to have to do to get him back to where he wanted to be. And like, just like Slayton, he just committed everything to it. Like Evan actually committed a year earlier than Slay. It took Slay like a little bit of a year to kind of see the results and get to know me a little more like…

Evan kind of bought in right away. And so that first year, his last year with the Giants, with judging them, that was my first year working with him. I was flying out to see him every other week and watching film with him and doing all, we just committed to the work. And like his numbers didn’t get better that year, but like the film got a lot better and numbers that we can control got better. His drop, he went from 12 drops, five drops, I think that year, his catch percentage went up, his separation went up, like things that we could control went up.

He still had 400 or something yards, but again, the whole team was, was not producing. So like, it was hard to, we, we had to find the silver lining in that. And we had a cool moment where it was like, Hey, like I think he led the team and catches not receiving yards, led the team and catches that year. And it was a cool moment where it was like, Hey bro, you were the, the dude on the back page is getting made fun of. You were the scapegoat for New York city football, and then you just faced the music and led the team and catches. And that was like a really powerful moment where like, no one’s really going to give him those flowers. Cause no one’s really like, they’re just judging them on more superficial.

Sort of numbers and things, but it was like a really hard time to like believe what we call a believe in the invisible. Like the results aren’t necessarily coming, but we’re believing in a process and we’re believing in a lifestyle we’ve created. And even through the beginning of last year, like he didn’t really start going crazy until the second half. So like that beginning, like he was playing a lot better when he got opportunities, he took advantage of them. His film looked better, but like the numbers weren’t coming. The, the, the, the, the, you know, just the stats and the accumulation of stats wasn’t coming and he’s on a, you know, he took a one year, prove a deal.

A contract year, so he was really like starting to press it. Yo, I know I need to produce to get paid. So there was like a time last year where, you know, he never really did trust it, but there was a time where it was like, all right, it’s been a year and a half now and like we need to fucking break through like, and then that Tennessee game happened where he had 12 catches, 162 yards and two touchdowns. And that was kind of like for really him and all the guys, like all the guys I work with, cause all my guys are kind of in a similar place like that.

The cusp of being like a really great player and trying to push them over that hump, him, Jacobi Myers, Ozzie and Philly, like a lot of guys like that. So he was kind of the first guy to like really break through and put on that undeniable performance. He was the best player in the NFL for a few weeks in a row. Like he was going crazy. And, uh, that was that it was just a lot of it. Like, you know, the drills are great. Like all the work we do is really good. It’s really detailed. I study the game like crazy. I have a team of guys who helped me study the game. We, we, we watch film like no other. We watch all of our drill footage, all of our practice film. We watch over again together. Like it’s a practice all summer long.

Just the system we’ve created is incredible, but it’s more so like the lifestyle. It’s more so the mental conversations they have with themselves. It’s more so like changing the way they talk to themselves, changing the way they see themselves and just creating habits that like push them forward, like changing the way they wake up in the morning, changing the time they go to bed at night, making sure that they use their resources to hire a chef and just take care of things that are gonna like make them better. Like a lot of guys just don’t put that lifestyle together. They get paid and they take care of their family.

or they buy themselves clothes and jewelry or they do all these things that like seem cool. But at the end of the day, like if you don’t become a better football player, like all that shit goes away. So you have to take those resources and take whatever you have. Like Evan, one year, $9 million for the Jaguars. He took, we had an unlimited budget to spend on his game. There was no restrictions. There was no, hey, I gotta buy this house first. Hey, I gotta take care of this person first. It was, what do we need to be great? Let’s pour everything into it.

I can sit and talk about the drills or whatever aspects of his game we improve. It really wasn’t about that. It was about just him finding himself and understanding how great he could be, understanding the standard he had to hold himself to, to be that great every single day. I mean, you watch Evan now, it’s like legend in the Jaguars building of just his work ethic. First one in the building, last one out, he’s in a full sweat before every game because we just have this crazy weight. He’s just the type of dude who needs to be in it fully.

Like some guys- Slay, for example, needs to be a little calmer, like likes being a little calmer, likes being a little more at ease. And I actually do assign him more active work to try and rev that up, but his thing is calm. Like Evan needs to be in a super intense mode before games. Like we’ve created full-on workouts. Like just his, again, his commitment just to exhaust all options. Like that’s the way I could define both these guys. It’s like they’re just leaving no stone unturned. They’re willing to do, we kind of talk about it. We say, hey, look, this guy does it like that, or I think we should do it this way. We talk about…

The pros and cons, we talk about why or why not, and we make decisions and once we do that, we commit to it. And I think that’s been the biggest thing with both of those guys is like at a certain point, the progress was not visible. It was only visible by us. It didn’t show up in the stat sheets. It didn’t show up to the naked eye. Like the progress was invisible. And we had to believe in something that wasn’t tangible, that wasn’t there for a real period of unknown and uncertainty. And they both fought through that, a similar period, and got to the other side of it.

And once you get through that, you’ve been punched in the mouth and you’ve looked down the belly of the beast and you’ve kind of risen above it. Like what the hell’s gonna stop you now? Like some guy on Twitter fucking talking shit or someone, excuse my language, like someone, you know, like, like it’s just that at this point, like, no, there’s nothing like that. Again, you can’t kill someone who’s already been dead. So I think now they just have these awesome, like this, this awesome level of confidence and, and work ethic that we’ve built where they can hopefully keep building on that and keep, keep pushing the levels to as high as it can go.

Anthony: Man, even just listening to you dive into all that, sharing all that insight, that just motivated me. You’re getting me motivated hearing about the story of Evan Engram… But I loved all the insight that you provided on his personality versus Slayton’s personality, and how they might differ a little bit. And you’ve mentioned, talking shit on Twitter and that kind of stuff. One of the things that I love about Slayton with his personality… And so, just watching his personality, how enjoyable he is. Did you work with him so closely? Before we wrap up here, I was just wondering if you had like a really good Darius Slayton story, kind of like a funny moment, or anything cool to share with the fans before we wrap up.

Drew: Man, Slay, it took Slay a little bit to warm up to me. Like the first year, I think he just truly looked at me as like a coach. And so like, I like to be like a real controversial coach. Like I like to challenge them a lot. I like to poke and prod. I like to push their buttons. Like I like to talk crap, like as much as possible. But Slay didn’t really like open that door for me a ton. So like, you know, I’m trying to figure out like how to get under his skin, whatever. And at some point I’d mentioned like something about arm sleeves and fumbles. And I think he fumbled like one Washington game like two years ago, three years ago.

The game, terrible timing. He like cursed me out on on on via text or whatever. But it was like a big moment for us because it was it was like, all right, like I know that I can push you to a limit where I’m going to get the truth from you. Like it’s like it’s like it’s an interesting thing where like I’m not a coach of a team where like they have to come to practice every day and play in my receiver room. They hire me, they pay me directly. So like they get to choose to not pay me, they get to choose to so it’s like a fine line to walk of how to push those buttons.

It’s just a different dynamic. So like it took a little bit with Sleigh. It took a little while. And that was like a moment where, you know, probably poor timing on my part, poor choice of words, um, you know, kind of ragging on him about a fumble immediately after the game, but it was a big moment of like us kind of being able to talk about that and see the most honest version of himself. And I think like, that’s the best way I can define Sleigh is like, he’s just going to be quiet to a point until he gets comfortable and then he’s going to open up and I think it’s been cool to see him, uh, remain himself.

during his time with the Giants throughout the ups and downs. He’s kind of always been playful with the media. He’s always given really honest insight, but now he’s like, he’s comfortable. Like he’s not going in there fighting for a roster spot. He’s the veteran in the room. He’s the highest paid guy in the room. He’s established. He’s Daniel Jones guy over four years now. Like he can go in with a little, like you’re going to see more of him and more of his confidence because people around him have believed in him and have empowered him. And I think like that’s something that he thrives on is that empowerment, but it’s also been something we’ve had to work on is like, yo, you got to be able to perform without that. Like when no one is believing in you.

And no one thinks it’s gonna be you, you gotta come off the bench and make a play, which he did last year and kinda earned his spot back. But that’s, you know, Slay is one who, it takes him a little while to warm up to you. And then, like I said, then it gets to the point where now he’s just in my garage every day waiting to get extra catches in him. Like you just can’t get rid of him, which I love. But it’s been a great three, four year journey with him for sure.

Alex: That’s awesome, man. I appreciate all the insight. This was fantastic. We’re hoping to have you on in the future to tell us about.

Drew: No doubt. Appreciate you guys. That was great.

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