Olympic Consultant Focuses On Speed

With Michael Bennett out for much of the season, the Vikings will be without one of their fastest players. But an Olympic consultant is hoping his speed work with everyone on the team shows itself during the season.

Does the name Shaun Alexander bring back cringing memories of the ugliest Vikings loss in quite some time? It should. Last year Alexander, the star running back for the Seahawks, put up huge numbers against the Vikings on Sept. 29 to finish Minnesota's pre-bye-week record at 0-4.

As painful as it may be, let's revisit that game for a minute. Alexander had 139 yards on 24 carries. Worse yet, he scored five touchdowns in 15 minutes of clock time -- and three touchdowns in a horrid one minute, five seconds of clock time at the end of an excruciating first half. His five touchdowns in the first half read in the box score as such: S. Alexander 2 run; S. Alexanders 20 run; S. Alexander 80 from Dilfer; S. Alexander 3 run; S. Alexander 14 run.

So why should Vikings fans revisit that painful past? Because Joe Gentry hopes to help the Vikings be on the giving end of that sort of punishment this season, just like Gentry helped Alexander out-race Minnesota's defenders last September.

Joe who? To football fans, Joe Genry may not be familiar. To track fans, Gentry is an accomplished speed coach, which is exactly his specialty as a consultant to the Vikings this offseason. And he isn't shy about his expectations for the Purple in 2003, although he sounds like he pities the teams that will have to chase the Vikings.

"They will know when they play Minnesota, be ready for a track meet. We're going to have some speed, no question about it," Gentry said.

He should know. He's a two-time Olympic track coach who has three rings to his credit.

The Vikings were planning on Olympic-caliber speed from Michael Bennett this season, but his recovery from offseason surgery took a major step back with a second surgery Thursday and he will miss much of the season. Gentry has other players he's also excited to see his work through.

"When you're talking about Randy (Moss), you're talking about Jesus," Gentry said. "Chavous is tough. This (Larry) Ned is very fast. And I'll tell you, Daunte (Culpepper) isn't a slow guy at 270 pounds. (D'Wayne) Bates has improved."

How does a speed coach in track apply his knowledge as a speed coach for football? "You look at the poundage of the pads and also you look at being hit. Then there's the bump and run. I've taught them technique. They know what to do, and d-backs are in deep (trouble). I taught them how to get away from people, how you biomechanically change your body position."

"Remember, these are the best athletes on the planet … and they listen because this is their wallet we're talking about here. They're very attuned."

After the NFL season, Gentry turns his attention to college players who are ready to try to make NFL scouts stand up and take notice. He is hired by Consolidated NFL Agents, and four of the seven players in Gentry's camp this year signed an NFL contracts -- Donnie Nickey, a cornerback from Ohio State, signed with Tennessee; Derrick "Blue" Adams, a defensive end from Cincinatti, signed with Atlanta; Brandon Hicks, a defensive tackles from Bowling Green, signed with Indianapolis; and Danny Adams, a cornerback from Cincinatti, signed with Detroit.

At Gentry's rookie camp in Cincinnati, the players check into a hotel and attend his camp just like a football minicamp. One player he took from running a 4.58 to 4.37 in six weeks. "That's where we get our money," Gentry said. The Vikings would be thrilled with anything close to those results in their own players this season. If they get it, you can credit, in part, Joe Gentry.

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