When it comes to sustaining the type of success the Titans have had on the offensive side of the ball in recent years, general manager Jon Robinson is pushing his chips to the middle of the table. The trade for future Hall of Fame wide receiver Julio Jones sent a clear message to the rest of the team: We can win the Super Bowl.
Robinson went all in on pursuing Jones. By now, you’re likely aware that the trade was completed from the Robinson family pontoon boat. Jones is a massive acquisition for this offense. The losses of Corey Davis and Adam Humphries left the Titans a little thin at the receiver position, but the Jones trade changed everything.
In order to set your expectations for what Jones can bring to this offense, it’s important to know where he’s at from a physical standpoint at this point in his career. In search of answers to these questions and more, I had a long conversation with Dallas-based professional trainer Melvin Sanders, who is well known for his work with Derrick Henry. Sanders, Jones and Henry spent a few days training together. Sanders had some excellent stories to share with me from that weekend.
I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed writing it.
JM: Everybody knows that you’ve been training Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry for years now. You recently spent a weekend training him alongside Julio Jones. Before I get into some more specific questions, what was that weekend like?
MS: Julio decided to come down for a weekend that I already had planned with Derrick. They’re so excited to be on the Titans together. It was pretty crazy how that worked out. I was training both of them together before the trade went down. We got some great work in. I’m used to working with Derrick and what that’s like. I’ll tell you this about Julio, he worked his butt off. He’s a beast.
JM: From the little peek you had into his work ethic, what do you think are the driving factors behind his success?
MS: He’s obviously been blessed with some elite traits. The guy does some things that other people simply can’t do (laughs). I saw it. We worked out three times a day and that was the norm for him. He eats really healthy. He takes great care of his body. He’s very in-tune with his body. He’s one of the great athletes in the sport because he’s always wanted to be great and he worked his butt off to achieve that.
JM: Titans fans are well aware of your work with Henry. The two of them are teammates now…
MS: I still can’t believe it (laughs). It’s so surreal.
JM: I’m still getting used to it. We saw the three of you working together and it prompted the idea for this article. While you were working with both of them, did you think they had any personality traits in common?
MS: They both work incredibly hard. That much was evident to me. It didn’t take long to notice that. They both have a strong will to get better every single day. I obviously know Henry really well because I’ve been working with him for four years now. You combine Henry and Julio, that can be a scary thing next year, can’t it? If they work together, it’s gonna be really, really scary.
JM: We can’t wait to see it. How did you see the bond develop between Henry and Jones?
MS: They brought it every single day. They pushed one another. They definitely enjoyed working out together, I can tell you that much. We went to lunch together. I felt like there was a great connection between the two of them. I really did. It kinda felt like they had known each other for years. They both went to Alabama. They’ve both played the game at the highest level imaginable. I felt like they had been teammates for a long time. You wouldn’t guess they’ve never played together. They’re both really excited about this opportunity. They’re gonna put their best foot forward this season. That’s for sure.
JM: Does your training method change for a guy like Julio that was coming off of a hamstring injury?
MS: We do a lot of mobility and movement work here. We do a lot of core focus. When he came to me, he was 100% healthy. I didn’t have to worry about anything. He was super healthy. I didn’t have to change or tweak anything due to health. He came here in excellent shape. That hamstring injury is definitely in the past. There’s nothing to that right now. I’ll tell you that (laughs). We ran hills. We did some sprinting. We did core, mobility and movement work. He looked great.
JM: We love hearing that. Generally speaking, as players age, does the way you train them change?
MS: Nope. Not one bit. I’m 40 years old and do everything I have Derrick Henry doing (laughs). I train the same way I train Henry. It definitely doesn’t change. On Julio, his age doesn’t show at all. I didn’t see any signs of him slowing down anytime soon. Actually, I think he’s gotten better with age to be honest with you (laughs). That’s 100% true.
Most athletes know how to take care of their body. They understand what they have to do year in, year out. Julio knew he had to take care of his body in order to play longer. That’s exactly what he’s done. Core movement, mobility, these things should always be a focal point. That should be the case from their first year in the league. Julio understands that. As guys get older, it does become more of a focal point because they realize how necessary it is in order to extend their career.
JM: Did anything about the way Julio trains stand out to you as different from some of the other athletes you’ve worked with?
MS: He’s a warrior. That was the first word that came to mind when I saw how he trains. From a nutrition aspect and the way he takes care of his body, I was very impressed. Where he was different, A lot of athletes don’t always understand how important the nutrition side of things is. He’s definitely in-tuned with all that. He takes care of his body. His rest cycle, nutrition, things like that are top notch for him. He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen when it came to those aspects of it. The way he works, I thought everything about him was A1.
JM: He came into the league as a 4.3 guy. It doesn’t seem like he’s lost much, if any of that speed 10 years later…
MS: I think he’s more mature now. He’s more powerful. I don’t think he’s lost any of his speed to be honest with you. If he did, he more than made up for it with power and maturity. He has the sheer will to be great. He’s a veteran. He has everything. That’s why he is who he is.
JM: What’s something a guy like him can do to maintain that speed into his 30’s?
MS: Just keep doing it. Keep eating healthy. Keep training the way you’ve always trained. Keep playing at a high level. He’s done all of these things. His footwork is excellent. I’ve touched on mobility and movement. He understands the importance of all these things. When you bring that all together, you get Julio Jones. He’s so consistent with how he works.
JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today, Melvin. This has been terrific. In closing, this is obviously a big change for him. He’s leaving Atlanta for the first time in his professional career. He’s a Tennessee Titan now. What are your thoughts on him playing in Tennessee?
MS: I think it’s exciting. Having him and Derrick Henry together, that sounds like a dream come true. You have Ryan Tannehill at quarterback and A.J. Brown as well. I think it’s very exciting. If you know me, I’m not the type of person to comment on how I think a season is going to play out.
But damn, you put these guys together… It should be a no-brainer, right?