First, Kyle Kalis and Pat Elflein had to live together in an apartment in the suburbs of Phoenix as they prepared for the 2017 NFL Draft.
Then, they found out they were going to have their training regimens taped for distribution on the internet.
This sounds like the start of a football-centric version of the popular MTV reality series, The Real World, right?
The pairing comes with a further twist: Kalis was an offensive guard at Michigan. Elflein was one of the nation’s top collegiate centers at Ohio State. As any college football fan knows, those two fan bases really don’t like each other.
“I only knew of Kyle, and my first encounter with him was when I came to Arizona,” Elflein said. “We sized each other up a bit.”
So one might expect that two players from those schools might not like each other, either. Especially when they’re going after the same goal: to play in the NFL. But within a few weeks, they found a certain medium — and it was all caught on tape.
Their pursuit of the NFL is being documented on In The Trenches, an ongoing NFL.com web series sponsored by Ford Motor Company. It follows Elflein and Kalis as they live in Tempe, Ariz., and train at LeCharles Bentley’s O-Line Performance training facility in nearby Chandler, all in preparation for the draft.
The 2017 NFL Draft begins at 8 p.m. ET Thursday in Philadelphia. CBSSports.com projects Elflein as a second-round pick and the top center in this year’s draft, while projecting Kalis as a late-round pick or an undrafted free agent.
“Kyle’s a very hard worker and a very smart football player,” Elflein said. “Any time you’re paired with someone like that, it increases your performance every day. It gives you someone to compete with.”
An unlikely regimen
When Kalis and Elflein arrived separately in Arizona in January, the light bulbs came on and the video cameras swooped in. Yet they had no idea that their preparations for the NFL would be taped as part of a web series.
“Going to Michigan, and [playing] college football, though, you kind of get used to that,” Kalis said. “The past few years, whether it’s in interviews or playing in front of 100,000 people, a few cameras is something you’re used to, and it makes you want to work that much harder.”
The series also opens a window into the training that Kalis and Elflein are doing at O-Line Performance, a facility run by former Bentley (a former Ohio State center and, like Elflein, a Rimington Trophy winner). O-Line Performance operates with the philosophy that linemen are high-caliber athletes.
“The training is to get away from being solely bruisers as linemen,” Kalis said. “We have that reputation, and people think of offensive linemen as players who aren’t athletic. Training focuses on functional movement, things that correlate with offensive-line movements and a lot of exercises and workouts that use explosion drills, to increase athletic movement.”
The way Kalis describes training, it sounds more like a science regimen than an athletic regimen.
Every aspect of training is systematically broken down, not just to work with brute force and strength, but to refine technique. There are athletic drills, too, such as pulling a 2-ton pickup truck (a Ford, no less — the company is providing vehicles for the filming) in the Arizona heat.
“Being a lineman is not that easy,” Kalis said. “It’s a game of angles, force, technique. If you miss one little thing, you lose a rep, and that can cost your team a sack.”
Elflein also learned about the nutritional aspect of training — in basic terms, you are what you eat. Elflein cut out carbs and sugar from his diet, and concentrated on taking in more fats, proteins and vegetables.
“The diet is the main thing, and that’s what turned on the light bulb for me,” Elflein said. “It became about getting leaner and making every movement more efficient. Getting rid of that excess body fat? That makes you more efficient.”
The series isn’t just set inside the training facility. It chronicles different aspect of Elflein’s and Kalis’ lives as they prepare for the NFL, including when they returned to their respective hometowns. When Elflein went back to Pickerington, Ohio, a camera crew followed him and his family for 10 hours one day — including during a visit to his high school, Pickerington North.
“I didn’t realize how much filming goes into a 4-minute video,” Elflein said. “But they want to capture everything. They came and watched us cook breakfast one day at our apartment in Tempe. They’ve watched us play the guitar. They’ve watched us work out.”
It also chronicles a budding friendship between a pair of linemen from rival schools. Away from training, Elflein and Kalis found they shared the same love of country music, enjoyed the same game shows on television, and each had a similar sense of humor.
“I had no idea Pat was coming down here until he got here,” Kalis said. “And now he’s my roommate. It’s a funny story, because we knew who each other was, but after a few days, we just gelled. And over the past couple months, he’s become a good friend.”