Q&A with Sam Darnold

The New York Jets’ newest quarterback talks breakfast, leg days, and more.

After a record-setting career at the University of Southern California, Sam Darnold was selected third overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. The team sees Darnold as their quarterback of the future. While he’ll likely be a second-string player behind grizzled veteran Josh McCown, he's ready to play.

“I worked hard all off-season to get to this position and I’m excited for this summer,” he says. “The key is staying consistent with my training and understanding what I need to work on.”

As a top three draft pick, Darnold now needs to prove himself, and playing the position with the most responsibilities adds another layer of pressure. It’s nothing the California native can’t handle. He filled in Furthermore on how he fuels each day, strengthens his lower body, and keeps a strong mental state.

Photo: Getty Images

The lead-up to the draft was a crazy process. How did your training during that time prepare you?

I worked out five days a week leading up to the draft. I’d start practicing my throws around 8 a.m., then I’d do speed and agility drills from 10 a.m to 11 a.m. with Josh Allen and Kyle Allen [both quarterbacks]. After that, we’d go to the weight room to work on strength, balance, and injury prevention until 2 p.m. Then we’d get lunch and watch film for most of the afternoon. Later in the day we’d work out a little more and I’d go to bed pretty early because I had to wake up and do it again the next day.

What type of strength is important for a quarterback in particular?

It’s really important as a quarterback to have stability in all your joints, but especially in the lower body like the ankles, knees, and hips.

What are your go-to leg moves?

I like squats because they help build that foundation of strength. I do tons of single-leg moves for strength and balance because they let you test your strength in one leg at a time. But even on my leg days, I make sure to fit in some core work. The core really drives the whole body to be athletic and functional.

How do you make sure you’re getting the most out of your sessions?

I try to keep a neutral spine. That means my spine isn’t curving one way or the other but staying upright, keeping that stable athletic position that it should be in at all times so I can move properly and generate the most power. That’s where I’ve struggled at times. When I run, I really need to make sure I’m engaging my core and understanding where my power comes from.

What are some other ways you try to get ahead of the curve?

Eating right is key. Every athlete is going to train hard and lift hard and all that, so what you eat can be the difference when you want to separate yourself. As an athlete, it’s really important to put healthy foods in your body.

How do you make sure you have a healthy start to each day?

I eat simple food in the morning: Eggs and wheat toast.

What about the rest of your meals?

For lunch, I mostly have a chicken salad and I try to keep my carb intake down. I usually eat whatever I want for dinner, but I make sure it’s clean and healthy. It’s easy to know what’s bad for you and what’s good for you based on how it makes your body feel.

How do you make sure you’re in a solid mental state to play?

Whenever I get the chance, I meditate, even if it’s only for five or 10 minutes each day. It gives me the chance to hone in on myself and understand what I need to be doing. This is going to sound deep, but meditating really helps me tap into my soul.