Chase the light: Inside LSU safety John Battle’s training routine for the NFL combine
John Battle had to beat the light.
It flickered down the sprinting straightaway inside the Florida-based training facility, taunting him like a mechanical hare on a dog track.
“Chase the Light” is a speed drill, a part of the NFL combine training program at XPE Sports in Boca Raton, meant to boost Battle’s mid-level 40-yard dash times that partly have media analysts pegging the former LSU safety on the fringe of being selected in the NFL draft.
Athletic trainers, like Bill Welle, adjust the light’s speed from 16, 18, even 20 mph, and the athletes have to beat the light before it reaches the cone at the track’s end.
Welle said Battle entered the training program in mid-January, following the NFLPA all-star game, running 40-yard dashes in the 4.7-second range.
After nearly five weeks, Welle said, Battle has dropped his average time by a tenth of a second, landing himself within competitive range of draftable defensive backs.
“He’s progressed really, really well,” said Belle, who has trained athletes at XPE for 21 years.
An impressive showing at the NFL combine by Battle, one of six LSU players invited to the event in Indianapolis this weekend, would go a long way in securing his place among the 45 defensive backs in LSU history who have been drafted since the Super Bowl era began in 1966.
The 6-2, 206-pound Battle is projected as a late-round pick/priority free agent by Ric Serritella, creator of NFL Draft Bible and analyst for NFL Draft Scout, who said Battle “blends great size with physicality and intelligence” and despite “sub-par strength,” he’s “physical enough to play in the box.”
Battle isn’t “too pressed” on getting drafted, and he noted that former LSU running back Darrel Williams saw significant playing time with the Kansas City Chiefs despite signing as an undrafted free agent in 2018.
“My ultimate goal is to make an NFL roster,” said Battle, a two-year starter at LSU who recorded 39 total tackles and three interceptions despite missing the last three games of the regular season due to injury. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming of since I started playing.”
NFL.com has Battle ranked 27th out of the 29 safeties that were invited to the combine, and Battle underwent a rigorous weekly schedule at XPE in order to climb NFL teams’ draft boards
Most every workout began at 7:30 a.m.
Mondays were speed training days, filled with “Chase the Light” competitions (Battle said his fastest recorded time was 20 mph), followed by grueling minutes on an aptly-named machine called ” the SHREDmill ” — a mechanically-powered, elevated treadmill that works on an athlete’s running form, power and stride.
Upper body lifts were on Tuesdays, which were refreshed by massage-therapy Wednesdays, and on Thursdays, it was back to the SHREDmill.
Battle’s strength, Welle said, was showcased on Fridays, which were spent on the practice field, running through position drills and situational quizzes.
Three years under LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, “one of the best defensive minds in all of college football,” Battle said, helped gave him the on-field IQ that will likely impress NFL scouts most.
“It’s hard to quantify that,” Welle said. “Understanding what can happen defensively, offensively. John does a good job of absorbing that.”
Battle said he’s spent several minutes talking shop with retired NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who after 14 seasons with the Cardinals, Ravens, 49ers and Lions, began to help train athletes at XPE.
“I’m always getting some tips from him, what receivers look for,” Battle said.
Just what did Boldin say?
“I can’t give away his secrets,” Battle said with a laugh.
For the first time since high school, Battle has been able to consistently go home to his family on the weekends.
It’s only an hour’s drive from the XPE facility to his childhood home in Hallandale on the north side of Miami. After Saturday morning lifts, Battle would catch up with his family and his 3-year-old brother, Epic Battle.
Yes, Battle said, that is the legal name of his little brother who has been tearing up the peewee soccer and baseball leagues.
“He has no choice but to be good,” Battle said.
South Florida is a hub for several athletic training facilities. Other draftable LSU players from last season — running back Nick Brossette, offensive guard Garrett Brumfield and nose tackle Ed Alexander — have been training at other facilities in the area.
Battle’s childhood friend, Miami safety Jaquan Johnson, has also been training for the combine at XPE.
They’ve all convened at Battle’s house on weekends, eating home-cooked meals and watching TV on the couch — just “kicking it” and “talking about the old times,” Battle said.
In Battle’s five years at LSU, he saw the Tigers evolve from a plateauing SEC program into a 10-win team that finished No. 6 in the final AP poll in 2018, following a 40-32 Fiesta Bowl victory over Central Florida.
Battle is still invested in LSU’s future, and he gets nostalgic watching social media videos of his former teammates’ off-season workouts.
“I miss it a little bit,” he said. “I definitely miss the guys, but I know I’m definitely working toward something great.”
NFL on-field combine schedule
Friday March 1 — RB, OL, ST, PK
Saturday March 2 — QB, WR, TE
Sunday March 3 — DL, LB
Monday March 4 — DB
NFL combine participants with Louisiana tiesSchoolPos.NameHt.Wt.High schoolDraft projectionLSUSJohn Battle6-0*200Hallandale (Fla.)Seventh round, undrafted free agent (Ric Serritella, NFL Draft Scout)LSURBNick Brossette6-0*221UniversityFifth-round selection (NFL.com analyst Daniel Jeremiah)NW StateWRJazz Ferguson6-5*223West FelicianaSixth-round selection (DraftScout.com)OklahomaOTCody Ford6-4*337PinevilleNo. 11, Cincinnati Bengals (Jeremiah)LSUTEFoster Moreau6-4*253JesuitFourth, fifth-round selection (Jeremiah)NebraskaWRStanley Morgan6-1*195St. AugustineSeventh-round, undrafted free agent (DraftScout.com)AlabamaTEIrv Smith6-4*241Brother MartinNo. 30, Green Bay Packer (NFL.com analyst Charley Casserly)Notre DameDTJerry Tillery6-6*304Evangel ChristianNo. 29, Kansas City Chiefs (Casserly)LSUPKCole Tracy5-10*188Newbury Park (Calif.)Undrafted free agent (Jeremiah)LSUILBDevin White6-1*238North WebsterNo. 10 overall, Denver Broncos (Jeremiah)LSUCBGreedy Williams6-2*182Calvary Baptist AcademyNo. 16, Carolina Panthers (Jeremiah)MiamiDTGerald Willis6-2*298Edna KarrThird-round selection (Jeremiah)Texas A&MSDonovan Wilson6-0*196Shreveport-WoodlawnUndrafted free agent (DraftScout.com)