When the New York Giants began the 2020 season, their defense was supposed to be their weakest link. By season’s end, it was their strongest, thanks to fantastic play across the board and stellar coaching. Strong safety Jabrill Peppers is one player who saw his game take a jump to the next level, having his most productive season yet. He finished with a career-high 57 tackles and eight tackles for a loss. However, the catalyst behind Peppers’ fantastic year is his off-season work-ethic and his time spent with Brian Walker, the founder of DBacks Academy.
Walker also trains 4th round pick from 2020, Darnay Holmes, who saw incredible growth as the season progressed before suffering a knee injury. Earlier on in the season, Holmes faced off against first-round wide receiver Ceedee Lamb, holding him to just 43 yards. The mentality to succeed and work hard during your time off is what lead Holmes, as a fourth-rounder, to succeed. Walker played a key part in preparing the two young defensive backs for the Giants for the 2020 season, and it paid off in dividends.
Brian is leading the charge to a revolutionized way of training DBs and preparing them for the next level.
“Helping the next generation get to the goal as quickly as possible. Whether it’s safety to linebacker, or safety to linebacker, or hybrid.”
“Every DB is not the same height, every DB is not the same speed. Just like we have SAT tutors, quarterback coaches, this is something for me, during my playing days, I wish there was a coach who could break it down and see the game different. The game is getting faster and faster.”
Brian has trained with players from the East to the West Coast, understanding the different styles and athletic abilities. This has helped form a specific teaching style that adapts to his athletes, no matter the age or background. His experience playing against some notable names has also contributed to his vast knowledge of the game.
“As a DB, one thing about California, everyone is fast, and because I had a wide receiver foundation and I had the Don Brown tree, I ended up leaving JUCO and going to Washington State. I was able to go against Deshaun Jackson and Reggie Bush, and a lot of these guys are staples.”
Q: You have to be anticipating change and keeping up with the times, so how do you foresee things changing for kids looking to prepare for the NFL in 2-3 years?
“I was blessed to play at the higher levels for a few years, but I did play Arena Football, and because it’s so small, it’s so quick. Now that the game of NFL, the guys are bigger, stronger faster, the guys are getting to the QB so much quicker. What I’m telling guys now, is that the game is built like Arena Football. The corners are bigger and the safeties are smaller and can cover. The slots are a lot quicker, the tight ends are more receiver(ish).”
“The biggest thing, eliminating the extra steps, making sure you’re not too high. Football is a game of angles. The proper angles get you in the right situation. The game is about technique because everyone is bigger, stronger faster.”
Walker is a fundamentalist, refining his players’ techniques and noticing the details to improve their game. He understands one major accelerant in development — fixing the minor issues leads to ‘major’ growth.
Being an athlete is only one step of the process, being a stellar student is half the battle.
Q: How important is being a good student as part of your teachings?
“I have a track background, we filmed everything to make every step is correct. With DBs, sometimes we can give the verbiage, but it might not resonate the right way. Using film, we can slow it down and break it down the right way. It’s just repetition, like a golf swing, the more you swing, the better you get.”
With technology becoming such an influential part of the way athletes train and build out their style, Walker is always ahead of the curve, using advancements to help his students.
Q: How do you use technology to your advantage?
“I can actually teach more, I can pull up information in the blink of an eye. The little details, the micro and you can get it to the macro by using technology.”
Q: What Pro Athletes do you currently work with?
“Currently, we work with Darnay Holmes, Jabrill Peppers, Juwann Winfree, a handful of college guys, Jordan Fuller. Rashan Gary, some offensive linemen.”
“A lot of my guys are from the ground-up, 8th grade in the making. I’ve built relationships with these players, and I do tell people, I know the process of getting people from highschool to college, to pro. I know all three phases.”
What make the professionals different, what is their mentality?
“The mindset with all of them, they continue to want to learn. Growth mindset is really important for athletes.”
The purpose of DBs Academy isn’t to be a one-stop training session for professionals, it’s meant to develop relationships that grow over time, leading to exponential growth. Think of it as investing in the stock market — the longer you wait, the more money you will gain over time (given you’re invested in the right areas). With Brian, he views himself as the stock, and the more you trust and put effort back into him, the better you will be in the future.
Q: Defensive back-specific Combine:
“With the NFL Combine, there’s always a lot of DBs, and they get drafted, but unfortunately, they get drafted and then they’re out of camp within 2-3 months. That’s disheartening, because these are young men who spend most of their life trying to get drafted and they’re not there.”
“What’s the primary issue, what’s the root, the source?”
“I can be that eye, what makes the combine I do so special, never done before, extremely detailed on what we’re doing for the NFL, but also for a longer career. If I can make a free agent or 7th rounder first-day pick, that shows the development is there. How do you make them work as efficient and successful as they want to be? That’s what this Combine is meant to extract.”
The most innovative aspect of Walker’s system is the DB-specific Combine, giving young athletes a chance to showcase their abilities to scouts in a specific setting. The NFL Combine focuses so much on athleticism, it can often-time overlook the factor of potential. Brian respects and appreciates all of the hard work athletes put into their game, and with the high number of defensive backs trying to make it, any competitive advantage counts.
This DB Combine provides just that — a better way to get yourself in front of those that matter and refine your skills for what team-officials really need to see.
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