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A Falcoholic Exclusive: Brian Stann discusses working with the Falcons, implementing training drills

Brian Stann spoke to The Falcoholic about training with the Falcons, his relationship with Dan Quinn, being an Eagles fan and CEO of Hire Heroes USA.

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As an organization, the Falcons have never worked with a well-versed American hero like Brian Stann. From the 2003 invasion of Iraq to 2008, he served as a United States Marine Corps officer, rising through the ranks to become a captain. Stann earned achievements such as the Silver Star, which is the third-highest award for bravery in combat.

In 2007, he transitioned into becoming a successful MMA fighter. The former WEC Light Heavyweight champion has fought legends such as Chael Sonnen, Wanderlei Silva, and Michael Bisping. Following his retirement from MMA in 2013, Stann decided to become a commentator on Fox Sports 1. The multitalented American calls ACC college football games and various UFC Fight Nights. After growing up in Pennsylvania, Stann moved to Georgia and has raised a loving family of three children. He is constantly on the road covering numerous sporting events, which leads to him making connections with athletes and journalists. Those connections led to his relationship with Dan Quinn and the Atlanta Falcons.

I met Dan through Jay Glazer, who has run an MMA program called MMA athletics for a number of years. I’ve worked with Jay over the years through the Fox studios and would typically go to his gym, while being in California to get a workout in. He would be training NFL athletes, which led me to jumping in as a former football player. When Jay pitched his program to Dan Quinn, who was already interested, we all got together to discuss a tailor-fit program for his players. I was going to be a small supplement in their spring and summer training for strength and conditioning.

In the end, Atlanta’s strength and conditioning coach put it all together. It was around the lines of getting these players into shape, don’t put these players in any risk of injury, and coincide with A.J Neibel’s (strength and conditioning head coach) agenda. Different combinations on the heavy bag to improve on they’re conditioning and hand speed. Different drills for players to get off blocks or develop strong blocks as well. Amongst the drills, conditioning and having a certain attitude was a few of the priorities.

Quinn is there to instill his plan for which his defenses have always had, along with the attitude to win. He wants them to think and act like warriors. He wants them to have a fighting mentality inside of them, where every single down could be a one-on-one matchup. You have to beat the guy across from you. That was the most unique part of it. We only worked together for a short period of time. This was just a small part of what he’s instilling in this franchise.

Through competing in eighteen pro MMA fights, Stann has put in countless hours towards perfecting his craft. Whether it was working with Greg Jackson in New Mexico or putting together his own camp in Atlanta, Stann prepared himself for 15-minute battles through a six to eight week training camp. Constant drilling from utilizing different techniques to being well conditioned were his main priorities. His experience through these grueling camps have taught him a wide variety of drills.

The drills would be around 20 minutes. I’d split them into two groups with one group doing hand fighting. They would be utilizing different types of strikes to get opposing players’ hands off you. I’d have them use techniques that you can see in a striking or wrestling match. The other group would be using the heavy bag to work on different combinations. They would be executing footwork that would be similar to what they used coming off the line of scrimmage. The ability to punch with good technique, while employing a certain level of hand speed was important.

Bigger football players are usually built for four or five seconds at a time. When you have to make them sprint and explode for 30 to 45 seconds at a time on a heavy bag, it can get them really tired. This conditioning process can only help increase those spurts of explosiveness more than they’re accustomed to on the field. They would do this drill at the tail end of their weightlifting routine.

When hearing about these drills, it seems that both lines benefitted the most. They are constantly in the trenches through overpowering or out-crafting their opponent. The big question pertains to which line benefitted the most from these drills.. Stann was certain that both lines learned a great amount that will help advance their skill-set.

I believe it was equal because the defense learned some more complex techniques, where the offense wanted to learn how to get an extension on them at the same time. They wanted to lock out their arms. There are some techniques from mixed martial arts, where a guy locks his arms out or they do it before they touch you. With good hand speed, you can get them off instantly. For the offensive line, having good hand speed makes a big difference. The sooner they can get their hands on a defensive lineman to lock them out, the less time a defensive lineman can swim or try to shrug their arms away to get past them.

These linemen learned the same fighter mindset. If you are an offensive lineman, particularly a right tackle. You are matching up with the left defensive end for most of the game. You got four quarters and it’s pretty much a fight. You’ll win some and lose some, but when you get to the third or fourth quarter. You want to have beaten your opponent down both physical and mentally. Just like you would do in a three or five-round fight.

From running stairs before games to using boxing pads for his defensive lineman, Quinn can be labeled as an unorthodox coach. Many fans remain curious about Quinn’s coaching style. It’s become quite evident that he continues to be adaptive and player-friendly. What other attributes does he possess that made him into such a highly-touted defensive coordinator?.

It’s his attitude and everything he does as a leader. He isn’t going to demand perfection, but he wants a fighter’s mentality. Of course, Dan wants speed and players that want to win every time. It’s that controlled violence at the line of scrimmage. Every day, he’s going to work with those pass rushers. His defenses are known to prioritize towards the defensive line. Dan reminds me of military officers that I worked with in the marine corps, where the thing they hate the most is being tied to a desk. He thrives on being with his guys and looks at them like a general does with his troops. You have to walk the lines every single day and Dan will see how they’re doing.

He will have a quick time with them and can right away tell you how a player is performing. It’s amazing how his mind can capture all of that. Full scouting reports on players that are either progressing or need improvement in a certain area. He’s got a summary of each player from being more than just there. Whether it’s the locker room or on the field, he’s with his troops every day. It transcends to his other coaches too. After these workouts and technique drills, he would have me motivate them with small speeches. I’ve learned a lot from him. It was an overall great experience for me.

Over the past two seasons, Atlanta’s reputation has teetered into becoming a punch line for opposing offenses. The label of being soft has become prevalent around the league. Despite Mike Smith’s constant preaching of toughness, it never materialized on the field. Stann was aware of the situation and made sure to be hard on them on a daily basis.

I did know about that. Coach Quinn was open about them basically being labeled that. This isn’t something that we are willing to accept. In the drills, I made sure to push them and was really impressed by their response. It’s not easy for an NFL athlete to walk down the hall to be told to put on some boxing gloves to do something they haven’t done before. These players had great attitudes in wanting to learn from me. Julio Jones didn’t want to just kick-box orthodox. He wanted to also work unorthodox and to train both ways every single time. Then, Julio would yell at anyone who didn’t go hard enough. It was expected by him that every player would participate in some capacity.

Roddy White would join him on the heavy bag during the same time. Both players would knock the bag off the chains. Players would compete to see who could knock it out. They would be pushing themselves to their breaking point, even if they’re tired and have already lifted weights. That’s what we wanted them to do. My main message was how it can be easy on first and second down. The champions or really top-level athletes can ascend on being at their best on third or fourth down. I’s easy to do things when you are fresh. I wasn’t in there to implement my own thing. I can’t reiterate enough that I was only a small supplement to this process of installing their attitude towards creating a winning culture.

Whenever the name Julio Jones is mentioned in any conversation, an immediate reaction of astonishment usually transpires. People who play against or train with him absolutely marvel over his athleticism. Stann has a similar experience, although credits his work ethic as much as his physical gifts.

The thing with Julio is that it’s not by accident. Everyone talks about the specimen and the gifts that he’s been given. What I witnessed was a man, who has a real work ethic that goes first every time. He goes hard every single day and that’s rare. They have several players like that. Devonta Freeman is similar as well. I showed him a video of me hitting pads with some other fighters. He immediately wanted to hit with that type of hand speed. He felt how tired he got through a few drills and instantly wanted to keep working.

Devonta wants to prove that he can carry the ball 20 times a game and break loose on big runs in the second half. He knows that if his conditioning is through the roof, defenses will start to tire out and that’s where he can break them. Freeman has that mentality of looking for any edge that he can get and that was pretty cool. It was unique to see a running back be so persistent in learning fighting techniques. Matt Ryan couldn’t participate in the drills for obvious reasons. He was still encouraging his teammates and being extremely supportive.

From growing up in Scranton, Pennsylvania, any sort of fandom for the Philadelphia Eagles is practically a requirement. Eagle fans are known for their loyalty and passion. Somehow, Stann doesn't find himself in a predicament going into opening night.

It’s just crazy. I’ve been a lifelong Eagles fan, but I currently don’t know anyone on that team. I’ve never sat down and had a conversation with Chip Kelly in his office. It’s so unique and I was very lucky to have been introduced to coach Quinn. I’m fortunate to be working with them, where now I have legitimate relationships with a couple of guys. You can’t root against that, so I’m a Falcons fan. Knowing the character that exists in the coaching staff and what they’re trying to implement within the team. It’s the same brand that I come from and love it. The players have really embraced it and it’s been really fun to watch.

Other players are always bound to stand out through long training experiences. The entire roster embraced his methods, which made it somewhat difficult to choose between certain standouts. Stann continued to rattle off names that caught his attention.

Paul Worrilow gets a lot of attention because the odds of what he’s doing is so minuscule. He was a walk-on in Delaware, followed by being an undrafted free agent, and then leads the team in tackles. You would never know when watching him that he went undrafted. Paul is an outstanding athlete that picked up on everything quickly. If he competed in just a regular kickboxing match, I think I can get him ready in five weeks. He would go light somebody up. He’s got that mentality too. The last thing you want to do is tell him that he can’t do something. He would go through a wall in proving you wrong.

Roddy White is ranked in the same category. He’s a former state champion wrestler and embraced everything. He wanted to always get in there. The entire defensive back group would love to get in there as well. I wanted to see who could throw the fastest combinations. They are such good athletes, so it was fascinating for me to watch them. They started throwing combinations so fast that I could barley see their hands. The faster they threw, the more power was generated. It’s really tiring to hit a heavy bag, when your not used to it. The key to getting these guys past that roadblock was making them compete against one another. They have so much competitiveness that has become engrained in them. All of them hate losing.

Besides commentating for UFC events and college football games, Stann works on another major project. He is the CEO of Hire Heroes USA, which is a non-profit organization that helps U.S military veterans. They are constantly working on changing lives and helping veterans feel secure about their future.

The real future is that we’re growing. We help veterans and spouses find jobs, when they get out. Through personalized career coaching, we bring a continued service. We will help them through every aspect to find their career choice. If it doesn’t work out, we’ve had several of them come back and helped them find another career. From completely re-crafting or starting from scratch a resume to building them LinkedIn sites and other social networks, we try to do it all.

We’ll do practice interviews and linking them up with our array of volunteers. These are industry experts, whether it’s from IT or retail. They will help guide them and have them matched up with the right setting. It helps veterans migrate into certain fields after being done with their service. This has been an amazing experience. We’ve grown 70 employees in seven locations nationwide. With our new partnership with the USO (United Service Organization) and their 360 Alliance, we’re going to grow to where we can serve about 17,000 veterans and spouses a year.

You can follow Brian Stann on Twitter and view the Hire Heroes website as well.