By Rachel Terrill, Player Engagement Insider
The impact that the 2016 NFL Draft has on the lives of the players drafted is not lost on Colts’ strength and conditioning coach Darren Krein. This season is Krein’s 17th as a coach. But, before that, he was an NFL player.
On the weekend of the 2016 NFL Draft, Darren Krein, like so many of his former teammates and other NFL players, reflected on the day his name was called back in the 1994 NFL Draft. Like most players, Krein can tell you where he was, who he was with, and what it felt like when he was drafted. For Krein, it was 22 years ago, but he remembers it like it was yesterday.
With his landline phone beside him, Krein waited. Unlike the fanfare experienced by the early round picks of the 2016 NFL Draft, Krein was at home with his close friends and his agent, all of them hoping the phone would ring. Afraid to get up, and afraid to miss the call, he sat in anticipation, and boredom, until it rang.
“Television, publications and a landline phone were the main means of communication, so waiting for pick after pick was nerve racking and made for a very slow process,” he recalled.
In the fifth round of the 1994 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers selected Darren Krein with the 150th overall pick. “I always dreamed and it was my goal to play professionally,” he said. “However, as a college player I focused more on the college game than the NFL. The college experience was really exciting for me and we were fairly successful.”
”Fairly successful” may be an understatement. Krein attended The University of Miami where the Hurricanes dominated college football in the 1980s and early 1990s and won multiple national championships. Krein was a standout linebacker turned defensive end who was named unanimous First Team All-Big East selection his senior year. He won national championships in 1989 and 1991 and dozens of his teammates joined him in the NFL, including his college roommate, actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
After injuring his knee, Krein spent only two years as a player in the NFL and one year in the World League of American Football (later NFL Europe) where he played for the Barcelona Dragons. The following year, he was hired as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Seattle Seahawks. He spent eight more seasons as an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Seahawks before being hired as the head strength and conditioning coach for the Miami Dolphins where remained through the 2015 season before being hired by the Indianapolis Colts.
Krein has been in the NFL long enough to see changes in the Draft process. More people than ever watch the NFL Draft. Preparation for it is different now too. Instead of training to play football, Krein finds players are training more to excel in the NFL combine. The push for athletes to focus on the NFL Combine may come from their agents.
“I think agents have a stronger hand in the Draft process now than they did before,” Krein said. “They help determine where players live and where they go to train.”
Training for the NFL Combine may get players noticed, but not all are ready to play when they arrive at the team facility. “From what I see in the weight room, players today tend to train with less specificity towards the demands of football and more towards what is asked of them at the combine and their personal workouts,” Krein said.
He also finds that more players seem out of shape than they did years ago. “After the NFL Draft, players are sometimes out of shape and not ready to go for a mini-camp or an offseason program. Training for the Combine and for workouts can be completely different than preparing for an actual football season, OTA (organized team activity), or a mini-camp.”
Although his playing days were shorter than he’d hoped they might be, the NFL has offered a good life for Krein and his family. He and his wife, Jenny, have three children who have grown up with their dad’s NFL reality as their reality too. As a coach, Krein has helped hundreds of young men work hard in the weight room to achieve their NFL dreams.
Things may be a bit different today than they were for Darren Krein in 1994. But some things remain the same. Drafted players are still living the moment they’ve dreamt about since they were young boys. In a single instant, their dreams are still coming true. And someday, even decades from now, they too will recall the moment their names were called and they forever joined the NFL family.