- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2006

Adam Archuleta always knew he would have to do things the hard way.

Even as a child, he figured he didn’t have the talent to make it to the NFL on athletic ability alone.

He would just have to outwork everyone else, just try harder.

Before he turned 10, Archuleta attacked his goal of becoming a professional football player with resolve and a risk-taking spirit. The scrawny kid from Chandler, Ariz., was going to build himself into a rock-solid athlete, one who never backed down from a challenge.

“Since I was a little kid, I told myself I wanted to be in the NFL,” said the new strong safety for the Washington Redskins. “I pretty much created my own path to get here. How was I going to make it? The first thing that stuck out to me was that I had to lift weights and train because that’s what NFL players did to get big and strong and fast. I would go the gym when my mom had jazzercise classes. I would try to figure things out, try to see how much I could lift.”

Pushing himself is innate, if not entirely safe, for Archuleta. At 7, he was jumping off the roof of his house just to see if he could do it without getting hurt. He played tackle football with kids who were five years older. After fooling around with free weights at home for years, Archuleta began organized lifting in high school. At 17, he became a disciple of strength coach Jay Schroeder.

“Jay made me time every rep of every lift, and I had to log my diet, weight and blood pressure,” said Archuleta, a walk-on at Arizona State who four years later was chosen in the first round of the NFL Draft. “It was like an extra hour of work every day, but it made me learn so much about my body. I knew that he was the guy I had to listen to.”

At 28 and with a $30 million contract, Archuleta is still listening to Schroeder. If the average player works out an for hour or so a day during the offseason, Archuleta goes beyond that.

“I probably do double or triple the work a normal player does,” Archuleta said. “People tell me I’m going to kill myself working like that, but that’s where Jay’s genius comes in. He knows how to order everything so you don’t overtrain. In the last 11 years, I haven’t done the same workout five or six times.”

Archuleta is famed around the league for the intensity of his 90-minute sessions, which he performs eight times during a five-day work week. Baltimore Ravens trainer Bill Tessendorf, a 33-year NFL veteran, cited Archuleta as one of the players who’s most fanatical about his body.

Archuleta’s coaches in Washington and in St. Louis, where he played his first five seasons, haven’t complained about him spending most of the spring in Arizona rather than alongside his teammates.

“We didn’t have a problem with [that] as serious as Adam is about taking care of his body,” said Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, Archuleta’s defensive coordinator from 2001 to 2003. “There’s plenty of time in the offseason for working out on your own as well as working out with your teammates and Adam always gave enough time to both.”

Archuleta did spend the first two weeks of Washington’s offseason program at Redskin Park learning assistant head coach Gregg Williams’ defense. He returned Tuesday for the start of organized team activities that end with minicamp from June 16 to June 18.

“It’s my job to be accepted by my teammates,” said Archuleta, who will team with fellow former first-round draft pick Sean Taylor at safety if Taylor isn’t convicted of the criminal charges he faces in Florida. “It doesn’t matter what I do in this offseason, it’s what I do when we strap on the pads. That’s when the trust and the respect is earned. That’s when my teammates will see that I’m a guy they can count on, a guy they can win with.”

Smith learned that in 2001 when rookie Archuleta helped turn the Rams from the No. 23 defense and a wild-card loser into the No. 3 defense and NFC champions.

“Safety is a hard position because you have to be able to defend like a cornerback and hit like a linebacker,” Smith said. “Adam is the complete safety. He’s strong and he has great speed. He’s also a student of the game. He knew what defense I was going to call on just about every play. We would watch tape after games and then most guys would leave, but Adam would come back to watch more tape and then he would be in again on his off day to watch more.”

That’s typical of the never-satisfied Archuleta.

“Yes, I achieved my goal of making it to the NFL, but so what?” he said. “Thousands of people have been professional athletes, but who gets remembered? There are things I want to accomplish. All the work I put in is a function of wanting to be the best. Was I born with ability? Yes, or I wouldn’t be in the NFL. But do I have the ability of some guys? Absolutely not.

“You’ve got to find a way to be special,” Archuleta said. “You’ve got to find a way to stand out. There were so many guys who had more ability than I did in high school, who had more ability than I did in college who are on the street now. It’s about working on a daily basis. You have to study your body. You have to have the ability to go inside yourself and figure out how to get your body to function better. It’s the same way you have to study your craft to take your game to another level. The better you know your body, the more successful you’re going to be. That’s easier said than done.”

But then, Archuleta has never believed in taking the easy way.

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