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He lines up in a crouched position, waiting to unleash. He has his eyes set on one thing, and one thing only – the quarterback. As the ball is hiked, he rushes. He throws the blocker to the ground and lunges at the quarterback like a lion attacking his pray. He brings the opposing man down and immediately jumps back to his feet, throwing his hands in the air for a quick celebration before returning to the huddle for the next play.
Standing at 6’2” and 255 pounds, Max Nacewicz is a machine, a well-oiled machine that is calibrated and fine-tuned to a ‘T’.
He is the starting defensive end and two-time captain of the Springfield College football team, and a driving force behind their success with a respectable 118 career tackles and 27 sacks.
Coming to Springfield in 2011-2012, Head Coach Mike Delong, saw great things in Nacewicz.
“We had recruited Max, and we had seen him on film,” Delong said. “We felt he had outstanding talent at the time we recruited him, but also outstanding potential to continue to grow as a football player.”
For Nacewicz, football has been his life. Like any young boy he had always dreamed of making it to the pros to play with the best… to be the best
“Football has been a part of my life ever since I can remember;” said Nacewicz. “I’ve been playing since second grade. It’s all I’ve ever thought about, and all I’ve ever cared about.”
Yet, like any young man realizes – it’s no easy feat. According to Business Insider only 1.7 % of college football players from the NCAA make it to the pros, and the vast majority comes from division one schools. In short, the odds are nowhere near Nacewicz’s favor. In the last six years only three players made it to the NFL from a division three school, according to get2theleauge.com.
“Coming from a small school it’s hard to get noticed by scouts and to get opportunities to play at the next level. You don’t get a lot of attention, but Springfield has done a great job trying to get me recognized and noticed,” continued Nacewicz.
“A lot of that is going to come from myself. I’m lucky enough to have another year to play football, and hopefully after that I can get a couple invitations to all-star games, and combines.”
While many players from division one schools get drafted, other players like Max can choose to participate in a combine. The combine tests the player on skills related to football, and each player is broken up into categories based on their positions.
The players participate in tests like max repetitions on the bench with 225 pounds, a timed 40-yard dash, and a vertical jump. Since not all players have the opportunity to go to great football schools, they have to work extra hard to perform at the same, if not better, level then those who come from a division one school.
“The CFL (Canadian Football League) has tons of open tryouts, and at that point they don’t care where you came from, they just care about what you can do, and I know I have the work ethic to carry that over,” said Nacewicz.
“He would be competitive there,” added Delong. “He’s big, he moves well, he’s got great instincts and great strength, and so I think Max would be competitive in a combine situation.”
No one can doubt that Nacewicz has reasonable hope for making a great debut at the combine, but he still has a final year to help Springfield, and make it his best year yet. While what happens on the field is what leaves an impression, it’s the work off the field that allows it to happen.
“Training in the offseason is huge. Everyone thinks the game is won within those 60 minutes, but it’s won in the offseason. It’s staying in when everyone’s going out so you can go to the gym the next morning; it’s making the right food choices. It’s every little detail that’s going to help me perform.”
A purple mixture of branch chain amino acids (BCAA’s) and EmergenC sit next to an array of various powders. Max Nacewicz takes a heaping scoop of 1MR, a pre-workout to keep his energy high, and follows that up with a serving of Cellmass, a post-workout powder for muscle recovery. For anyone else this regimen may seem odd, or extreme; for Nacewicz it is one of many steps in a ritualistic routine to be the best.
His callused hands lift the 45 pound plate up, and he slides it onto the bar that is now loaded with 315 pounds. Nacewicz walks over to put chalk onto his hands, to help his grip, and then lowers his massive frame on the bench. He has a slight arch in his lower back and grips the bar until the complexion in his hand turns white.
“I don’t know how many I’ll be able to do, I just hit 365 for a double yesterday,” he says with a grin and a laugh.
Once the bar is over his chest Nacewicz makes it look like his warm-up, moving the loaded barbell for 5 easy reps before racking it, and moving into weighted dips.
Once he drapes two 25 pound chains over his neck, now making his bodyweight 300 plus pounds, he slowly descends below parallel before exploding back up for a set of 8 perfect dips.
For the next hour Nacewicz moves from exercise to exercise, each one chosen with purpose, and each one done with such laser focus and intensity, doubting any facet of his routine would be foolish. And while gym sessions like this may seem excruciating for anyone else, this is just another day at the office for Nacewicz.
“Going into my final year of football I want to be the best player I can be, and the best teammate I can be. I’m going to put the time into the offseason to make sure that happens.”
Andrew Gutman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org