Philadelphia Eagles' Gardner Minshew spent offseason in old prison bus, focused on 'Super Bowl or bust'

Gardner Minshew spent five months living in a bus parked next to his gym, where he focused on getting ready for the season. @gardnerminshew5/Instagram

PHILADELPHIA -- Trainer Anthony Tumbarello didn't know if Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Gardner Minshew was serious at first when he told Tumbarello he wanted to live in a bus outside of Tumbarello's gym in Bonita Springs, Florida, this offseason.

But sure enough, on Feb. 20 following a few weeks of cross-country travel, Tumbarello said he heard the "beep, beep, beep" sound coming from the back of the industrial building where his gym is as Minshew pulled the beast into a spot near the garage. And there it remained for the better part of five months before Minshew reported to training camp this week, where he'll look to build on a successful first year in Philadelphia.

"Hey, I don't know any trainer in the country that can say their professional athlete pulled up in a bus and was eating, sleeping and living in the gym 24/7 getting ready for the season," Tumbarello said.

Bus living is something Minshew has wanted to do since high school, he said in an Instagram video detailing his long, strange trip this summer. "I just love the freedom that it affords me. It affords me a place to come and focus," he said. "I’m living at the gym, eat, sleep, shower here. Everything. It’s kind of my own little island here. I love it."

To fulfill the dream, he bought an old inmate transport vehicle and gave the interior a hippie makeover, complete with a bright orange couch accented with white shag throw pillows, a flowery '70s-style bed skirt, a trove of album covers lining the walls (Pink Floyd, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Janis Joplin, Black Sabbath -- the works), candles, and of course, a lava lamp. He learned to play guitar.

With the property backing up to a preserve, Minshew made a gravel pit and set up a hammock nearby, where he'd read from a collection of books that included Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and George Mumford's "The Mindful Athlete" during his downtime. With a brewery featuring live music nearby, the bus was often a gathering spot for trainers and athletes, Tumbarello said, to mellow out on a nice summer night.

Minshew hooked the bus up to the gym's electric to power his fridge, the (semi-effective) air conditioning unit and his cooking station. He showered outside in the open -- don't worry, he wore compression shorts -- using the gym's water supply and his own rinse kit. He had to rely on the gym to use the bathroom, too, as the bus wasn't equipped with one.

His personal quarterbacks coach, Denny Thompson, said he had "initial concerns" about Minshew's decision to live on a bus, wondering if it was the best thing for a pro athlete physically. But those close to the QB have come to expect the unexpected from Minshew, one of the truly unique personalities in sports who likes to stretch in only a jock strap in the locker room before games, wrestles large fish, and once tried to break his own hand with a hammer to gain another year of eligibility at East Carolina University -- tales that have fed into "Minshew Mania" since he entered the league as a sixth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2019.

"If somebody calls you who is a professional athlete and says, 'I'm gonna live on a bus in the offseason,' your assumption is it is going to be this big RV that's probably nicer than my house, right? I never really thought that about Gardner because I know that's not the kind of guy he is. But when I saw the bus, it was even more like, 'Whoa, wow, this really doesn't even classify as a bus. It's just not that big.' But I saw that he was handling it well and was actually thriving with it," Thompson said. "I think it ended up being one of the better things for him to just disconnect."

Tumbarello's gym, called CTP (Coach Tumbarello's Performance), became Minshew's second home. He'd wake up and head inside about 7:30 a.m., where he'd microwave his breakfast and have his coffee while setting the plan for the day. They'd hit the field at around 8:30 for an hour or two, take a short break, and then head back inside for a workout.

They focused on a number of areas, from footwork to arm strength to speed training, Tumbarello said. Thompson came in for a couple of days each week during portions of the offseason. Given that Minshew already excels at off-platform throws, they concentrated on quick rhythm routes with both feet planted on the ground.

"We've been able to get data every 30 days so we can see what his percentages are," Tumbarello said. "His mobility, his flexibility is probably the highest it's ever been. He's definitely gotten faster, which has been huge. You're going to see that translate onto the field at some point. Just overall he's stronger, he's faster, he's ready to go. This is the best version of Gardner Minshew, for sure."

Minshew, who was acquired by the Eagles for a conditional sixth-round pick last August, made the most of his limited opportunities in 2021. He went 20-of-25 for 242 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a December start against the New York Jets in place of an injured Jalen Hurts in a 33-18 win -- the first of four straight victories that propelled the Eagles into the postseason.

With 41 touchdowns to 12 interceptions over 27 games in the NFL, there's no doubt Minshew, 26, wants to return to the QB1 status he enjoyed over parts of two seasons in Jacksonville. But it remains Hurts' show, so Minshew's eye is on the team's success, according to Thompson.

"The focus this entire year for him -- and this kind of captures his vibe and what he wanted out of this offseason -- was he loves the roster that Philly has and he wants a Super Bowl. That was the focus behind everything that he did and not one time did anybody discuss kind of his role with the Eagles. His job is to be ready," he said.

"It's Super Bowl or bust for him. When most guys are out traveling to different islands and stuff like that, he's literally living in the back of a bus outside of his gym and throwing three times a week the entire year. Even last week, he came up to Jacksonville. He's got a house in Jacksonville, but he didn't stay in that house. He parked the bus behind my gym and that's where he stayed the couple days he was in Jacksonville on his way up to Philly. So I think it's just a commitment to: This is the grind that I want, this is the lifestyle that I want and I want to make it all about ball. And that was the vibe the bus had: This isn't a luxury accommodation. This is fun and it's gonna get me through the offseason but I'm focused 100% on football."

The bus days -- at least for now -- are over. Back in Philly for camp, Minshew has put the bus up for sale and is asking $25,000 for it, but said on social media he really just wants "to see her in a nice and loving home," while noting it could be perfect for Eagles tailgating.

"This grisled [sic] vet has seen 146k miles," Minshew wrote. "When I took her to get serviced most recently, the mechanic said in his professional opinion, and I quote, 'This thing is awesome, man!'"