These days, Akeem Ayers takes offseason training very seriously. (Doug Farrar)
When we recently caught up with NFL trainer Travelle Gaines at Performance Gaines, his new facility in West Hollywood, Calif., we found about 30 current NFL players training like crazy under Gaines' supervision for the upcoming season. One of them was Tennessee Titans linebacker Akeem Ayers, selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft. The 6-foot-3, 254-pound Ayers was a stud at UCLA, but as Gaines told me, there was work to do if Ayers was to meet his potential at the next level.
"The funny part about Akeem, and I'll be brutally honest as I was with him ... when I first met him, I was a little disappointed," Gaines said. "Akeem is unbelievably talented, but I don't think he totally got the concept of how hard he had to work to make it to where he wanted to be in the NFL."
"I agree with that 100 percent," Ayers said. "Especially coming off a lockout, and there's no offseason for teams, you didn't really know what to expect or what to do. That's why I wanted to get with [Gaines], and I got with him later, toward the end of the lockout. You don't really get the heads-up of what the NFL is until you get there."
Now, Gaines says, things are different. "He's the most consistent, hard-working guy I know," Gaines said of Ayers. "Akeem is so determined ... a lot of people talk about things they want to do, and then there are people who actually do the things they want to do. He puts in the work, and it's impressive to watch him mature. That's been the greatest thing for me -- he's matured so much over one year as a player and as a person, and he's the kind of guy that is going to be here every single day, putting in the work."
The work paid off in 2011, as Ayers posted 76 tackles, two quarterback sacks and a forced fumble in his rookie campaign. This offseason, he's back in the gym, hoping to do even more.
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