How DeSean Jackson learned to take care of his body, harness his speed

How DeSean Jackson learned to take care of his body, harness his speed

Cheetahs don’t need to stretch. 

That was something DeSean Jackson used to say. When he remembered and delivered that line on Thursday morning at his introductory press conference, it received plenty of laughs. But that’s the way he used to look at it.

Key words: used to. 

“I could just wake up out my bed and go run,” Jackson said. 

Thursday was not the first time Jackson’s longtime trainer, Gary Cablayan, heard about cheetahs. 

“When you get older, I told him, you just have to be smarter with training,” Cablayan said to NBC Sports Philadelphia over the phone Thursday afternoon. “It’s just a balance of knowing his body and that’s why he’s been good for so long, because he stayed with the same group. We know his body inside and out. We know how much he can handle, how much he can’t.” 

But back when he was in his early 20s, Jackson considered himself a cheetah. He was a naturally-gifted, world-class athlete with world-class speed. He didn’t need to take care of his body. 

These days, he’s still lightning-fast, but Jackson is 32 as he enters his second stint with the Eagles. You gotta stretch to stretch the field. He’s learned that. Cablayan and others have helped. 

Cablayan, who has known Jackson from the age of 8 and has trained him for decades, has watched DeSean learn about how to take care of his body over the years. The track/speed coach based in California, who has trained Olympic athletes, is a part of a group of people that has been helping Jackson hone his craft and his speed since Pop Warner. On Thursday, Jackson credited that group, calling Cablayan one of the best track coaches in the world. 

The realization 

The moment that really led to Jackson’s newfound understanding of preserving his body, Cablayan thinks, was when Jackson strained his hamstring in the 2015 season opener as a member of the Redskins. Jackson missed the next six games, including a home game against the Eagles. 

Cablayan flew out to help work on his hamstring and get him back on the field, but Jackson didn’t play again until Nov. 8, after the Redskins’ bye week. 

“God has a way of slapping you back to reality,” Cablayan said. “He just realized, ‘Man, that could have been the end of my career.’”

Now, Jackson does the little things. If he needs some extra time in the hot tub, he stays in the hot tub a little longer. If he needs to get to work early one day, he gets to work early that day. If he needs to stretch, he stretches. He parties less. It’s all a part of his overall maturation process. Jackson isn’t coming back to Philadelphia as the same guy who left five years ago. 

What Jackson has been doing recently has been working. Even on the wrong side of 30, he still has his speed. He led the NFL in yards per catch (18.9) in 2018. It was the fourth time in his career he’s done it. And it happened eight years after his first. 

(Photo courtesy of Gary Cablayan)

The swagger

Jackson had to learn how to take care of his body. He didn’t have to learn how to be confident. The man who showed up to his press conference in shades and dripping in ice has always had that bravado. 

One story in particular stuck out to Cablayan. DeSean was about 15 or 16 when Cablayan’s father, Jerry Cablayan, was training a Puerto Rican sprinter named Jorge Richardson. Richardson actually competed in the 2000 Summer Olympics. Cablayan thinks Jackson had never really used starting blocks before, but that didn’t stop him from challenging a world-class sprinter. 

It was just a little 10-yard race to judge reaction time out of the blocks. 

“The funny thing was,” Cablayan said, “he actually did beat him.”

There’s no question that Jackson still has that same swagger — probably more — today. 

(Photo courtesy of Gary Cablayan)

Can he keep it up? 

This is the big question. Jackson is still fast, but how long will that speed last? 

And how long does he want to keep playing? 

“I don’t know, man,” Jackson said. “I wish I could tell you. Going on my 12th year and I’m 32, but I still feel like I’m running and playing like a 26-year-old. As long as I’m able to stay healthy, and not take any serious hits or serious injuries, I’m going to be here. I want to end my career here. I’m happy I was able to come back here and finish off where I started.”

The good news is that Jackson is still fast and he still works with the folks he’s worked with his whole life, including Cablayan, who is the CEO/director of performance at Evo Sports Training in Southern California. Guys like Cablayan and Darrick Davis have been around Jackson his entire life and have helped get the most out of him. Jackson heads back to California each offseason to train with them. 

This version of DeSean Jackson is committed to taking care of his body. He wants to extend his career. 

Even if that means making a cheetah stretch. 

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Eagle Eye podcast: A wild win in Washington

Eagle Eye podcast: A wild win in Washington

On the latest Eagle Eye podcast presented by Nissan, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro break down the Eagles’ wild win over the Redskins. 

Looking at the playoff picture. Carson Wentz’s good and bad plays. Miles Sanders is a stud. All the young guys are balling. 

• Big picture 
• Carson Wentz good and bad 
• Miles Sanders carries the load
• Greg Ward comes through late 
• Boston Scott has earned his role 
• All the young guys are earning it  
• The defense is a problem 
• Looking ahead to the Dallas matchup 

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Greg Ward plays hero with same mindset that got him here

Greg Ward plays hero with same mindset that got him here

LANDOVER, Md. — As the game-winning touchdown pass off Carson Wentz’s hand floated toward the back of the end zone, Greg Ward Jr. was thinking one thing. 

It’s pretty much the same thing he’s been thinking about for the last few years. 

“It’s mine regardless,” Ward said. “That was my whole mindset.”

There was no doubt in Ward’s mind that he was going to make that game-winning catch, just like there was no doubt he was going to be successful in the NFL. 

No matter how long it took. 

There really is something about the power of positivity. 

On Sunday, the 24-year-old Ward soared high to catch the pass over former Pro Bowler Josh Norman in the back of the end zone. It gave the Eagles a lead with just 32 seconds remaining in their 37-27 win over the Redskins at FedEx Field. 

On Sunday night, Ward was asked if he could have imagined making a catch like that when he was playing for the San Antonio Commanders of the short-lived Alliance of American Football. 

Of course he could. 

“You always think about big catches like that,” Ward said. “It is truly a blessing to be in that position and in that environment. I am truly blessed.”

It wasn’t just the game-winning catch either. In fact, on the game-winning drive, he ended up with four catches for 40 yards. And five of his seven catches on Sunday came in the fourth quarter. 

The former University of Houston quarterback, who was most recently called back up from the practice squad on Nov. 23, is pretty clutch. 

In a wild season, Ward’s journey has become one of the best stories of the year. Last week, Boston Scott credited Ward’s positive attitude for some of his success. Scott said the two have become close friends over the last couple of years and travel to the team facility together. That constant positivity rubbed off on Scott. 

Last week was the Boston Scott game. This week, Ward became the hero. 

“You couldn’t write a better story, man,” said Scott, who got a little emotional. “And to see story after story develop like that, it’s just insane man. God is just so good, man. I love seeing my boys eat. I love seeing my guys eat.”

Ward went undrafted out of Houston in 2017. The 5-11 college quarterback had the athleticism to make it in the NFL but had to learn the position. Now, that background as a quarterback might be helping him succeed. Even Jason Kelce said his background as a linebacker helps him play center; so there really is something to this. 

“I think he’s able to see the field very similar to Carson because he played quarterback,” Brandon Brooks said. “He’s been doing it in practice all year, so I don’t think anybody’s shocked or surprised. I’m just happy that everybody else is seeing it now and he’s getting the recognition he deserves. I’m happy for him.”

In the last three years, Ward has been waived from the roster or cut from the practice squad a total of six times. His transaction history with the Eagles reads like a CVS receipt. 

But he never gave up. 

And his first NFL touchdown was a game-winner with 32 seconds remaining in a very important game. The football will be an early Christmas present for his mom. 

“It just feels great, man,” he said. “It’s a blessing, man. Been through a lot. I’m here now, so that’s all I’m worried about.”

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