'Footwork King' helps Ty Montgomery go all-in with running back training

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Ty Montgomery is used to people recognizing him on the street; it's a regular occurrence for the Green Bay Packers' budding star.

Still, it was a bit unusual for Montgomery to be on the other end of such an encounter. But a chance meeting in downtown Houston could prove valuable for Montgomery and the Packers this season. It was there during Super Bowl week when he ran into Rischad Whitfield, who has quietly become one of the leading trainers of NFL running backs, even though he's better known by his nickname.

"He stopped me in the middle of the road and was like, 'Hey, are you the Footwork King?'" Whitfield recalled. "I told him I was, and he said, 'I've got to get in with you.' We exchanged numbers, and we went right to work."

It's all part of Montgomery's all-in approach, as Whitfield put it, to his conversion from receiver to running back. Montgomery knew of the Houston-based Whitfield -- whose Twitter handle, of course, is @footwork_king1 -- through mutual acquaintances Joe Anderson, a former NFL running back who Montgomery met during Anderson's workout with the Packers in 2015, and Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon, a friend of Montgomery's since they played together in a high school all-star game.

Both Anderson and Gordon raved about Whitfield, who also works with Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell and Denver Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders, among others at a facility called Blitz Football in Houston. In fact, Whitfield was mentioned in a recent SportsCenter piece on Sanders.

Montgomery said the work Whitfield did with Gordon, who rushed for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns last season after a disappointing rookie season, paid off for his friend.

"I hope it pays off for me, too," Montgomery said on the eve of training camp.

At some point this summer, it should become apparent if the work, which Montgomery said focused on "feet, reaction and agility," will have a similar impact on him. In a limited role last year after the midseason switch from receiver, Montgomery averaged 5.9 yards per carry but had only 77 attempts -- a number he thinks he can easily double this season.

What's already apparent is how different Montgomery looks physically.

He said when he returned to Green Bay this week for training camp he weighed in at 222.8 pounds, the heaviest of his career. But it's good weight because he's broader across the chest, shoulders and arms yet lean in the rest of body.

"That's what everybody's saying," Montgomery said.

As a receiver, Montgomery was always conscious about keeping his weight under 220 so that it didn't slow him down. He had no such worry this offseason.

"Just naturally wanted to see what my body would do," Montgomery said. "I trained without the thought of, 'Oh, I can't get too heavy.' I didn't have to think about that. I knew I wasn't going to get overweight, but I just wasn't thinking 'I've got to make sure I don't put on too much muscle.' I just kept working."

The work with Whitfield showed up on some Instagram videos posted this season.

"A lot of speed-ladder drills, a lot of change-of-direction drills, a lot of read-and-reaction drills," Whitfield said. "A lot of drills that consisted of Ty thinking quick and him keeping his feet continuously moving at all times and keeping his feet within his body within his body frame -- not getting too wide. Running backs tend to get too wide when they make a cut that their feet suddenly stop. We don't want that. I want it to where Ty is able to make a cut and go the opposite direction so there's no wasted movement and everything's still moving and moving quickly."

The two worked together before the Packers reported for the offseason program in April and after minicamp ended in June.

"He's extremely serious about this," Whitfield said. "Football is a game where you don't really have much time to think -- you've got to react. I'm trying to help him change direction quicker, make his cuts quicker and sharper. We're working on it all. He's all-in at the running back position. He wants to be a dual-threat running back.

"He's over 220 [pounds], solid and lean. Usually with that type of size, guys are kind of robotic. So I'm trying to make the uncomfortable feel comfortable. So I'm putting him in a situation to where Aaron [Rodgers] gives him the ball, the hole is there but then it's not there; can he bounce it to the next hole without stopping any progress and still going upfield."