Austin Ekeler's Workout-Warrior Reputation Began as a College Freshman
Jason B. Hirschhorn
With regularity, Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn has called Austin Ekeler "pound for pound" the strongest player on the roster. That reputation as a workout warrior might have developed recently, but the process began years ago when few in and around the NFL knew Ekeler's name.
Ekeler's workouts, renowned around the Chargers' Costa Mesa facility, have found a new audience since he began posting some of them online. He has developed a following on a YouTube channel he produces with his longtime girlfriend, Taylor Frick. In particular, Ekeler has branded some of his more unorthodox workouts as the "Freak Flex," incorporating Frick into the challenges.
Ekeler's workouts manifest on the field. Despite his relatively modest size by NFL standards -- the Chargers list him at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds -- he rarely goes down on first contact and seldom to a solo defender in the open field. Ekeler's lower body strength and balance make him unique even in a league populated by super-human athletes.
But the origin of Ekeler's wild workouts dates back years earlier. A new feature from Sports Illustrated's Greg Bishop details how, before the start of Ekeler's freshman season at Western State, his college teammates "most often found him in the weight room, squatting more than offensive linemen, 10 massive plates bending the barbell that rested atop his shoulders."
By the end of his senior season, Ekeler built himself into a 5-foot-10, 200-pound wrecking ball that opened eyes at his pro day. Given his small-school background and the lack of elite competition he played during his college career, Ekeler's NFL career likely never gets off the ground if not for clocking the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and jumping 40.5 inches in the vertical leap. As Bishop notes, "at that year's NFL draft combine, only future first-rounder Christian McCaffrey had posted comparable specs."
Over the three years since, Ekeler has established himself as one of the league's more versatile running backs and a key weapon on the Chargers offense. His 92-catch, 1,550-scrimmage-yard 2019 season secured not only his status as a premier talent but also a four-year, $24.5 million contract.
All of that success stems from Ekeler's determination and intelligence. It also comes from his nearly peerless workout regimen.
-- Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. Follow him on Twitter: @by_JBH