EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — When the Giants and the New Orleans Saints play Monday night, there will be at least 20 players in the Superdome who weigh more than 300 pounds. There will be fleshy linemen and muscle-bound pass rushers battling to be proved the stoutest. And yet, despite this impressive collection of tape-measure biceps and unending necks, the strongest players on the field may well be the teams’ punters — the two players who, if things go right, will not have to knock down anyone at all.
Punters and kickers are, at least stereotypically, “the soft,” “wimpy” type, Giants punter Steve Weatherford said. But according to many of Weatherford’s teammates, Weatherford — at 210 pounds — is pound for pound the strongest player in the Giants’ weight room. He proudly works to maintain what defensive end Justin Tuck called (with only a hint of envy) a “total beach body.”
In fact, Weatherford’s build is so remarkable that he is featured in the December issue of Men’s Fitness magazine, a rare honor for an N.F.L. specialist and one that is not lost on one of his occasional training partners — Saints punter Thomas Morstead.
“His physique is just ridiculous,” said Morstead, who is 6 feet 4 inches and weighs 225 pounds himself. “He makes us look good even though none of us look as good as him.”
Weatherford, a seven-year veteran who has played with four other teams, readily admits that he is blessed with “some pretty good genetics.” But that does not fully explain his 5 ½ percent body fat or the fact that he regularly lifts as much weight as the Giants’ linebackers.
A few weeks ago, Weatherford was unable to do his daily workout at the usual time — he typically works when offensive and defensive players are in meetings — so he found himself lifting later in the day, when more of his teammates were around.
As Weatherford went through his progression, he noticed several players pointing at him. Then, as he went to replace the 100-pound dumbbells he was using, center David Baas — who is 6-4 and 312 pounds — stopped him. Baas was impressed.
“Why are you so strong?” Baas asked Weatherford. “You don’t even need it.”
Weatherford had a simple answer: longevity. During the off-season, he often trains with John Carney, the former kicker who is a mentor to Weatherford and Morstead. Carney retired in 2010 after playing for seven teams, including the Giants, during a career that spanned 23 seasons.
“Kicking and punting is very similar to being a golfer — you can often get to a point where you’re in a slump because something changed in your routine,” Weatherford said. “I want to keep my routine the same and I want to try and do that for a long time, just like John did.”
To that end, Weatherford can be maniacal. He works out twice a day on Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays, he does a leg-intensive program (so he has six full days to recover before punting on Sundays), and he does at least three days a week of heavy cardio (usually involving a variety of sprints).
He sleeps seven to nine hours a night — with special thanks to his wife, Laura, since they have two children — and takes a two-hour nap on Fridays (almost always from 3 to 5 p.m.) to help him be in top shape for the weekend’s game.
Weatherford’s diet, too, is a study in precision. He eats about 200 grams of protein a day (the Food and Drug Adminstration’s daily recommendation is 50 for a 2,000-calorie diet), loading up on scrambled egg whites, bunless turkey burgers and lean-ground-beef lasagna. If he and his wife go to a swanky restaurant in Manhattan, he often eats beforehand, then has a salad, “while my wife — who is 5-7, 110 pounds and works out like twice a year — crushes a steak,” Weatherford said. “She’s amazing.”
Weatherford’s discipline, though — and his ability to avoid his biggest temptation, a loaded hamburger from Red Robin — has been rewarded. At the end of his off-season program, Weatherford was able to leg-press 1,000 pounds 12 times; he could squat 475 pounds; he could bench-press nearly 400 pounds. The totals are particularly remarkable when you consider that Weatherford had surgery last year to correct an irregular heartbeat.
While other Giants players may be able to lift more — defensive tackle Linval Joseph and right guard Chris Snee are generally regarded as the leaders in that category — there seems to be a consensus among the team that no player does more in his weight class than Weatherford.
“Have I ever seen a punter work out like him?” Tuck said, repeating a question. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a player work out like him.”
Morstead, although slightly bigger, is similarly focused. A third-year punter, he doesn’t “run like a gazelle” the way Weatherford does, he said, but his weight loads may be even more impressive: he routinely bench-presses 400 pounds and integrates Olympic-style lifts, like the power clean, into his workout.
“We’re just gym rats,” Morstead said. “Just because you’re a punter doesn’t mean you can’t be a gym rat, too.”
Weatherford surely agrees. Fitness is just a constant part of his life, he said, and one of the more recent examples came last July, when Weatherford was in Chicago for the wedding of a college teammate at Illinois, defensive back Kyle Kleckner.
The day before the wedding, Weatherford, Kleckner and a group of other friends were lounging around the pool. There was suddenly a discussion — “I’m not even sure how it came up,” Weatherford said — about whether the spry and nimble Weatherford could replicate the famous Jean-Claude Van Damme stretch in which he did the splits, with his legs splayed out on chairs.
“I’m game, so I tried it,” Weatherford said. “When I didn’t blow out my groin, I thought, ‘This could be pretty cool to do in the magazine.’ So I did it again for the photo shoot.”
Morstead, who said he hoped to work out again with Carney and Weatherford next off-season, just laughed when he saw the magazine photo.
“I may be able to lift similar to Steve, but I can’t do that,” he said. “If some magazine wants to make me an offer, I’d be happy to hear it, but I sure won’t be in the shredded issue the way Steve was. He’s just crazy.”
By | Sam Borden