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Steve Weatherford: The Sickest Body in the NFL

The New York Giants punter is more shredded than any other player in pro football. Here's how he does it.

M&F: You don’t need to train as hard as you do to play the position you play. Punters have traditionally been the most average-looking guys on the field.

Steve Weatherford: I think I have “little man” syndrome. As a kid, I was always very athletic and very fast. I was always good at sports. I wasn’t big and I wasn’t strong. When I was 13, going into my freshman year, I decided that if I was going to be the short guy on the team, I’m going to work as hard as I can to get the most out of my body. I started reading all types of books on how to get bigger, faster, and stronger—nutrition books, Muscle & Fitness magazine, stuff like that, just to try and figure out how to get the most out of my body and eventually I did start growing. It was difficult as a child because I loved sports, but I wasn’t big enough to compete at an elite level, so I developed an elite work ethic, and then I grew to an elite size.

I’m glad that it happened the way it did, because if I had been big and strong naturally, I wouldn’t have the work ethic I have now, and it wouldn’t have gotten me as far as it’s gotten me because I wouldn’t have developed that as a young kid. I developed it at a young age. It’s become a habit and a lifestyle now, waking up and training as hard as I possibly can, 5-6 days a week. I’ve been very fortunate because I’ve stayed healthy, but I have to attribute a lot of it to my maniacal diet and training regimen.

That’s very interesting because I believe it works the same way with players and coaches. It’s rare that you see a great coach who was an amazing, naturally gifted player. The true naturals don’t necessarily learn the fundamentals.

Right. You won’t work at it. Ability will only get you so far. I’ve seen tons and tons of guys over my eight-year NFL career get into the league off of natural ability, but the Hall of Fame guys—like Jason Taylor, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, LaDanian Tomlinson—I’ve played with all those guys and obviously they’re all physically gifted, but the amount of time they’re willing to spend in the weight room, the film room, and taking care of their bodies… You don’t hear about those guys getting arrested for partying at night because they don’t party. It’s all about football all the time. Even though I don’t play an athletic position like they do, I still try to take that same mindset of: If it’s not going to help me get better at what I want to get better at, then I’m not going to do it. I don’t really drink alcohol. I mean, every now and then I’ll have a glass of wine with the wife; I’m not anti-alcohol, but if it’s not going to help me get to where I want to get, then it’s not part of my regimen.

I read about your irregular heartbeat a couple years ago but haven’t heard anything about it since then. Are you all in the clear?

Yeah, I think so. The way they explained it to me was that 90% of the time with this—it’s called PSVT (Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia)—that people are diagnosed with this syndrome, they were elite athletes as kids. I ran uber-competitive track from age 10 until leaving college. So the reason I had that is because your heart becomes so efficient at pumping blood and oxygenating your body that your brain thinks that your heart is already an adult-sized heart, so your heart will kind of mutate and develops an extra artery to help distribute the amount of blood your body needs… So my heart developed an extra artery, because my brain thought it was already fully developed, to be able to handle the volume of work that I was giving my heart. I ended up having surgery—they went in and found the extra artery and cauterized it.

You mentioned Eli. Obviously he’s the cornerstone of the franchise, but training and nutrition are probably secondary concerns for him compared to film study and other kinds of game preparation. So do the guys have a lot of fun with the fact that the punter is in so much better shape than the quarterback?

[Laughs] Well, not to sound arrogant or anything, but a lot of the guys on the team are like, “Why are you in such good shape?” Because I have the lowest bodyfat percentage on the team and I think pound-for-pound I’m probably the strongest guy on the team. But they view me as a football player and as an athlete and I don’t think a lot of punters and kickers in the NFL are viewed that way. I’ve kind of earned my respect in the weight room, the fact that I’m as strong as I am and that I’ve been able to stay healthy for eight years. I can run. I can jump. If I went to the combine right now at 30 years old, I think I would be able to compete and could put up as good or better numbers than a lot of the new safeties, 21-year-old guys who are coming into the NFL, and a lot of the guys respect that. I work really hard at my craft, but I also work hard in the weight room, and I’m very disciplined with my diet as well. It’s really flattering to me when a lot of my teammates come up to me and ask me for nutrition tips, whether they’re trying to gain weight, get stronger, or get their bodyfat lower. So knowing these guys are elite athletes and they’re coming to me for advice, it’s very flattering.

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