With the NFL Draft less than two months away, coaches and front offices around the league are poring over the results of speed, strength and agility tests to find some valuable insight into their picks. It’s not an exact science, but numbers do tell the tale.
In Indian Country, there is a guy who won’t be on anybody’s draft board come May 8, but his powerlifting maximum lifts do compare with the stuff NFL recruiters are analyzing.
Cherokee tribal member Brady Tanner is one of the newest members of the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, and the only special needs athlete ever inducted. In 2011, the 32-year-old from Lawrence won three gold medals and silver at the World Special Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. Based on his combined weight totals, Olympic officials called Tanner the strongest Special Olympian in the world.
Tanner’s stats are jaw-dropping. The 5-foot-7, 265-pound Special Olympian with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome can bench press 450 pounds. His personal best in the deadlift is 575 pounds, and he can squat 625 pounds.
In old times, the greatest assessment of a warrior’s achievements came from the other warriors. The same is true today. American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame member Jim Warne, NFL Hall of Famer Randall McDaniel and Jamie Yanchar, an assistant strength and conditioning coach with the world-champion Seattle Seahawks, all weighed in on how Tanner’s numbers translate in today’s National Football League.
“For his age and the weights he’s lifting, those are impressive numbers,” Yanchar told ICTMN. “If you took a poll from the majority of people in the world, how many people can do that?”
Warne capped his collegiate career at Arizona State helping the Sun Devils to a victory over Michigan in the 1987 Rose Bowl. The 6-7, 320-pound Oglala Lakota was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1987 and played 2½ years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He was inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.
Even in his prime, Warne, who is the founder of the Center for American Indian Rehabilitation/Continuing Education Program at San Diego State University, said he didn’t match Tanner. “Any NFL lineman would enjoy his totals,” Warne said. “I was the Collegiate National Drug Free Powerlifting national champion back at ASU. Brady is stronger than I ever was in college or the pros. My best bench at Tampa Bay was 440.”
Courtesy Tanner family
Brady with his parents, Gary and Janie Tanner, after receiving The Special Athlete Achievement Award from the Kansas City Sports Commission.
McDaniel played on the same Arizona State offensive line with Warne in the Sun Devils’ Rose Bowl victory, before being drafted in the first round by the Minnesota Vikings in 1988. He played 14 NFL seasons and was considered one of the finest offensive linemen in NFL history. He was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
“Comparing Brady's numbers to those in the NFL weight rooms, they would stack up very well with the max lifts of most NFL offensive and defensive linemen,” said McDaniel, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. “In fact, they would probably beat many of them.”
Without getting too carried away, most NFL weight rooms are designed to build strength in the off-season and maintain it during the season. Maximums are more for bragging rights, McDaniel said.
Still, it is interesting to see how Tanner’s lifts translate. One of NFL Combine strength test is to set up with 225 pounds, including the bar, and attempt to complete as many consecutive repetitions as possible. During one of his workouts last week in Haskell Indian Nations University weight room, Tanner did his own private test.
“We didn’t worry about form or anything. Brady pressed 225 pounds 23 times,” said Gary Tanner, Brady’s father and trainer.
NFL candidate? Nope, but the strongest Special Olympian in the world is putting up powerlifting numbers comparable to what today’s NFL lineman are doing.
“You only get to those numbers with a singular focus of getting stronger each day, week, month and year,” McDaniel said. “Obviously Brady enjoys and excels at the tough sport of weight-lifting. I'm thrilled to see his hard work has paid off with induction into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame.”
Warne echoed those thoughts.
“Brady is a fine example of the Seventh Generation and represents what we all should have within - the drive to succeed with humility and grace,” he said. “In old times, we didn’t have a word for disability or label a person like that. Every member of the tribe had his place and Brady, being as strong as he is, would have taken his place among the warriors.”
Courtesy the Tanner family
Brady Tanner poses with his numerous medals
When Tanner returned from the Special Olympic Games in Greece, he was awarded the Kansas City Sport’s Commission Special Athlete Achievement Award and was listed as one of the Ten Most Distinguished Kansan’s of 2011.
“Brady brings this community together – downtown [Lawrence], Kansas University and Haskell,” said Gary Tanner, who coached football at Haskell for 16 season. “He’s everywhere. So when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame, we had people from KU and Haskell. The mayor of Lawrence was there.”