Donnel Pumphrey worked so hard this offseason to put on some extra weight, but just one intense, padded practice in hot and sticky 90-plus degree weather makes things a little tougher.
As Pumphrey stood by his locker after today’s practice, he had just come back from weighing himself.
He lost three pounds in the summer sun.
“Water weight. I’ll just hydrate to get that back,” said Pumphrey, who sure does seem to be smiling more this summer, and for good reason.
There’s no easy way to put it. Last year, in his first NFL training camp, Pumphrey was bad. Really bad.
He had a prolific college career at San Diego State and the Eagles even traded up to get him in the fourth round. Things were going well until he actually got the jersey on. He looked overmatched in the spring. By the summer, he looked like he didn’t belong. He made the initial roster but was stashed on IR and basically had a redshirt rookie season.
It won’t be a cake-walk for Pump to make this year’s 53-man roster out of training camp, but he’s off to a pretty good start. No, he hasn’t looked like LaDainian Tomlinson out there; he hasn’t even looked like Darren Sproles.
But at least he looks like he belongs.
“I feel a lot more comfortable this time around,” Pumphrey said. “I know what to expect. Last year, I was more thinking and I wasn’t able to play fast. And now, coming in coachable, knowing the offense, taking a whole year off, I feel a lot healthier and I’m just ready to go.”
He’s listed at 176 pounds, but Pumphrey proudly boasts that he got up to 186 this offseason. That extra weight showed on one play today, when he was able to pick up and take on linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill who came on a blitz during 11-on-11s. It’s hard to imagine Pumphrey making that play a year ago.
Last year, Pumphrey was so small it didn’t even look like he was a football player. It looked like someone brought their kid to work with them. So once his season was over and he healed from his (pretty unnecessary) trip to the IR, he began to put on more weight. He did it through increasing his caloric intake and changing his routine in the weight room.
When his teammates would do three sets of five in the weight room, Pumphrey was doing five sets of 10. He classified the lifts as “crazy.”
Gaining weight the right way to fuel himself through those workouts wasn’t easy. Eating a bunch of cheeseburgers puts on pounds (don’t I know it), but it doesn’t do it the right way. So Pumphrey worked with the chefs at the NovaCare Complex and then was put on a meal plan when he went back home to California.
He doesn’t know how many calories he put away daily, but Pumphrey was eating five meals per day. In the beginning, it wasn’t that hard. He was eating a lot of new foods, and, “I put hot sauce on everything,” he said. But the last five weeks were tougher. He felt like he was eating all the time. That has continued early in training camp. If he’s not practicing or watching film, he’s stuffing his face.
But all that work seems to be paying off so far. Pump has come a long way from his disastrous first training camp.
“I kind of use that as motivation,” Pumphrey said. “It’s still in the back of my mind, but at the end of the day, I try to forget about it when I go on the field. I don’t really think about it out there, I’m just trying to make this team.”
A better preseason would certainly help his cause. He averaged just 1.9 yards per carry last preseason and had 13 catches for 72 yards (5.5 per reception). He’ll need to be better this time around.
Making the team will be a pretty big task for Pumphrey. But he’s a little bigger this year too.