Former NFL Punter Steve Weatherford
Marius Bugge / M+F Magazine

Marius Bugge 

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2013 when Steve Weatherford was still a punter for the New York Giants.

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 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.

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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-size heart, so your heart will kind of mutate and develop 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 body fat 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 body fat lower. So knowing these guys are elite athletes and they’re coming to me for advice, it’s very flattering.

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Former NFL Punter Steve Weatherford
Marius Bugge

Marius Bugge

So you can compete with 21-year-old safeties at the combine right now?


What are your best all-time weight-room numbers?

I bench 385, 490-500 on squat, I power clean probably 335, my vertical is 39”, my broad jump 11’1’’, my 40 is 4.48. These are my all-time best. It might not be the same now, but I’m probably very close. If I were to be a safety at the combine those would be great numbers. I am blessed athletically, but I do work very hard.

Hypothetically speaking, if the team were decimated at a skill position, could Coughlin turn to you and ask you to play running back or corner?

There is a big difference between running fast and jumping high and all that, and running the football in a pro football league. That’s a real skill. Although without my shirt I may look really tough, I am not trying to get hit by those 330-lb defensive linemen. As far as athletically, I think that I could run with those guys, but they’re getting hit by some big boys, and that’s not something I’m willing to do.

What position would you play if not punter?

I think I’d be a wide receiver. I think in terms of my body type, I’m more like that than anything else. I couldn’t be a linebacker. Those guys are 240, 250lbs. So, wide receiver or safety.

In terms of aesthetics, no one on the team can really touch you. But what about the rest of the NFL? Who do you think is the fittest man in the NFL?

I think I am. [Laughs] I think Vernon Davis is another guy that’s a freak, I think the safety from Indianapolis—LaRon Landry—is a big, big guy… It’s tough to say who the fittest guy is. All I know is that when I go to bed at night, I have trained as hard as humanly possible to get everything I can out of my body. So I know I’m as fit as I can possibly be right now. I feel confident in saying that. Am I the most fit guy in the NFL? I gotta be in the top 5. 

Jeff Feagles was a guy who punted into his 40s. Sure, he took care of himself, but not in terms of the degree that you do. Do you think you can set a new benchmark for longevity at your position? Barring any unforeseen injuries, of course.

I would love to do that, but I just take it one day at a time. I know how quickly this blessing of playing in the NFL can be taken from you. I thought when I had that heart scare in 2010 in the playoffs, I thought my NFL career was over because I didn’t think there would be an NFL team that would want to have the liability of their punter having a heart attack on the sidelines. I am very blessed to be able to get that cleared up. As far as playing as long as I can, that’s something I am definitely interested in doing. That’s one of the reasons—but not the only reason—I take care of my body the way I do. I want to play this game for a long time. I want to be able to see my kids grow up, to be a grandfather, and to enjoy my family. Longevity in life is more important to me than longevity in the NFL, but it’s all part of my training.

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What is your diet like? What are your main sources of protein, carbs, fat?

I eat a lot of quinoa. I try to get as many plant-based proteins as possible. I just feel like my energy levels are higher whenever I’m eating plant-based proteins. I’m not a vegan, but I’m pretty close, with the exceptions of eggs, chicken, and I eat red meat once a week. I eat a lot of quinoa. My favorite meal is a quinoa black bean burger that my wife makes. I eat a lot of chickpeas. As far as my diet is concerned, my wife is amazing in the way that she feeds me. It’s a lot easier to go get fast food and have a hamburger than for her to spend an hour cutting this stuff up. It’s not the easy route, but she knows how important it is to me. I have three children and they eat very similar to the way I eat. I’m very proud of the way my wife and I feed our family.

It sounds like you don’t count macros and calories and you just keep it clean.

I keep it clean and I eat as much as I want. I have a very active metabolism. If I don’t eat a lot, I’ll lose weight, muscle mass, and power, so I eat a lot, but I eat clean, so that enables me to eat as much as I want. I don’t eat tons of pasta—I’m not carb-free or anything, but I try to eat high protein with lots of leafy green vegetables and all that. I drink a lot of vegetable juice too, from this place Juice Generation in New York City. I have 21 juices delivered to my house every week. I have three vegetable juices per day, usually comprised of kale, spinach, watercress, ginger, parsley, and apple, so I know I’m getting tons and tons of live nutrients.

Do you have a favorite motivational quote? 

My favorite motivational quote is Steve PreFontaine: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” I try to live my life by that. We’re all gifted with our health, but I’m trying to maximize as much of my ability as I possibly can—to obviously play as well as I can, and as long as I can. And like I said, I’ve got kids, too, so it’s more than just being fit for sports. I want to be healthy for the rest of my life. 

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