JEFFERSON, LA - Wyatt Harris operates a boot camp atmosphere at the Sonic Boom Speed Conditioning & Strength Training Academy. He issues instructions on how an athlete can reach his maximum potential, along with a generous dose of confidence.
Harris barks out commands to his troops in a Sgt. Carter style (circa the classic TV show â€˜Gomer Pyle') as he pushes the tempo, demanding no less than the very best. He has earned what he has in life through strenuous work ethic. And he expects that kind of effort from others.
Although a first glance of Wyatt Harris during drills would give you the impression of a tough taskmaster, he is a lot like a tootsie roll pop - tough on the outside, but soft in the middle.
The name "Sonic Boom" was derived from a track workout from Harris' days at Southern University under track icons Rodney Milburn and Willie Davenport along with Jags track coach, Johnny Thomas. Wyatt also polished his football skills as a wide receiver under former NFL star Wes Chandler.
Harris is a complex and unique individual with a background to match. He was an International instructor PR-24 (Protect and Restrain with a night stick) for the New Orleans Police Department.
Harris was a two-time All Natural bodybuilding champion in Florida. He is a certified instructor by the FBI and was the last line of authority for New Orleans police cadets for physical fitness training as a defensive tactics instructor. Harris also a Black Belt in Taekwondo and a certified nutritionist.
Wyatt lettered 3 years at Southern in football and track (hurdles and 4 X 100 relay), graduating with a degree in biology.
Taken as the very first player in the inaugural World League (football) draft by the Montreal Machine in 1990, Wyatt also made stops on the gridiron with the Detroit Drive and Orlando Thunder of the Arena League.
Harris then played under former Tulane head coach Vince Gibson as a member of the New Orleans Night Arena League team in 1993-4. Vince liked what he saw in the young athlete.
"He was one of my favorite football players," Gibson grinned. "He always had a smile on his face, never complained. He was the first one at practice and worked hard. He was real winner."
No matter who you are or what league you're from (NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball or college and high school athletes), Wyatt asks for the exact same commitment.
"All I need is for you to bring the body," Harris exhorts. "It's tough."
Harris is the guy that nobody wants to train with for fun, but his training methods produce results. He'll tell anyone within earshot.
"If you don't strive to be the best in your field, this isn't the place for you. For the first three weeks, you are not going to like coming here," Harris said. "Without struggles, there isn't any success. Are you going to do it right when the cameras are off?"
Sonic Boom offers programs for ages 7 and up. The academy has a clientele that includes teens, as well as pre-teens, but the list of his athletes reads like a "Who's Who" in their field. His clients speak not out of fear, but great reverence and respect.
One client who has shown outstanding results is New Orleans Saints wide receiver Robert Meachem.
"It is above the shoulders (mental)," the Saints' # 1 pick in 2007 said. "I can't wait to show the world what I'm capable of. Some people write you off. There was something deep down. I never doubted myself."
"My first year (2007), my confidence was down. I got down on myself because of injuries. I was trying to make it happen. I was taught not to make excuses."
Robert has had a scintillating off-season, which has spilled over into Saints minicamps and workouts. He dropped 10 pounds. and his stride has improved. Meachum hopes the extra work will make recent nagging injuries a thing of the past. He is raring to go for the upcoming season. His instructor sees a driven and relentless spirit, "Meachem is like a gorilla."
Additionally, Meachem's teammate Marques Colston is a daily visitor to Sonic Boom.
"A lot of stuff that we do is relative to what I do as a receiver," says Colston. "Everything in the off-season is team-oriented. This is more personal attention. Itâ€˜s helped a lot."
Colston has also dropped weight and body fat. His quickness and explosion are noticeable. Despite having more receptions in his first two seasons than any player in NFL history, Colston believes Harris can help him reach greater heights.
Similarly, Saints cornerback Tracy Porter is ready to regain his starter's role after a wrist injury cut his rookie year short in 2008.
"Fundamentally, conditioning, explosion and confidence," says the Port Allen native. "With what we have done , you're not worrying about fatigue. 80-90% of this is above the shoulders. Your mind tells you what you can do."
Porter faces strong competition in the newly-bolstered New Orleans secondary. He is putting in the time and effort to demand playing time.
"Being injured in the 5th game, I was able to go through the off-season program. I can't wait to get out there. It (2nd round pick in 2008) wasn't a wasted draft pick. I AM the guy," says Porter.
You won't find anyone that will both teach and demonstrate the drills and techniques with more fervor than Harris.
"I only want people that are 100% committed to get better. They must have faith in me. If a guy runs a 4.3 forty, I want him to run it consistently." Wyatt explains. "It's all about hips, footwork, mechanics.....about being in proper shape. Technique is vital. "Arms are the motor, legs are the wheels."
One of Wyatt's admirers and a close friend is Saints wide receivers' coach, Curtis Johnson, who is not only happy with the results that Harris extracted from Colston, Meachem and current Saints and former LSU wideouts Devery Henderson and Skyler Green. Wyatt also works with Johnson's 18 year old son, Curtis III , a freshman WR with Memphis, trains at Sonic Boom.
"(Curtis III) started last year, and Wyatt really taught him how to run. (Wyatt) does a great job. My son has shown marked improvement. He has good foot placement and is mechanically sound. The training phase is what they're supposed to do," says Johnson.
"Wyatt is doing things that the Saints don't do everyday - quickness, foot placement, hand placement, eye level and awareness," the Saints coach said. "Sonic Boom teaches them how to eat correctly, along with skill developments. He teaches people the proper running form, the little things, doing it the correct way becomes second nature."
Curtis Johnson coached current NFL star pass catchers Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts) and Andre Johnson (Houston Texans) while at the University of Miami. He likes what Harris has done for the Saints receivers.
"He's given â€˜em that killer instinct," notes Johnson.
Some players travel long distance to fine tune their skills at Sonic Boom. One of those elite athletes is Arkansas cornerback Ramon Broadway out of Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport.
Broadway has run the fastest forty time (4.33) among prep juniors nationwide but is looking to improve. "I'm willing to drive 8-10 hours to work there for a week. It's worth it," Broadway says.
Broadway knows the importance of paying attention to detail. "In college, you don't have one-on-one training. With Wyatt, you get a lot of personal attention. He'll break down muscle memory. Everything that we need to do will become 2nd nature. You do drills for 2-3 hours, it becomes a habit."
Broadway admitted that his added speed has helped him with the Razorback coaching staff. "Coach Petrino has given me more responsibility. It has put me a step ahead."
Former John Curtis star and current Alabama starting safety Robby Green makes the trip from school for the training sessions.
"We learn functional speed, the ability to play the game fast with no let up. Confidence is a big part." The 6'0-173 pound product would like to gain 10 pounds and improve on his speed (4.47).
Green also sees some similarities between Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban and Harris. "Both demand your very best. They both know that you can do better. Even though they both tell you â€˜good job', they still critique you and push you."
LSU starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson feels he has improved in a number of areas under the tutelage of Harris.
"He works everything," Jefferson says. "He helped my footwork, my speed and my running ability. Wyatt pushed me to the limits. My hips and legs were focused on. I gained a lot of confidence because I felt faster. It helped slow down the process. Once you get quicker feet and drop back quicker, the game slows down."
Former Brother Martin sprinter Sean Ruth (6'4-188) is on track scholarship at UL-Lafayette. He runs the 200 and 400 meters along with the 4 X 100 relay. His 4.27 forty has turned heads, and now football maybe in his future at ULL.
"I started with Wyatt when I was 15-16 years old. It was 7 days a week. He was like my 2nd dad. He opened up a whole new understanding of track," Ruth said. "He's there to really push me. I was with him 3 hours a day after football (at Brother Martin), sometimes until 9 o' clock at night. He knows more about what he's doing than anyone else. He's there to help you and teach you."
"It's not just athletics. My relationship (with Harris) is much different than a coach. He's like a personal trainer and a drill sergeant. He's very inspirational. I'm a lot more serious about school since I've worked with him. It's like family. He made me realize that I could be a two sport guy."
Wyatt calls Sean Ruth, "the perfect runner." But perfection comes with hard work.
Former Tulane cornerback Sean Lucas is in his 4th year with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. Throughout his tenure in pro football, he has worked at Sonic Boom. His explosion, speed and conditioning have improved drastically.
"When I show up for training camp in Canada, the coaches always ask me what did I do in the off-season. This off-season is as good as or better than the previous three. The thing about Wyatt is that he can coach you and show you."
Diet is something that Lucas learned is also an important facet. "It's just as important as training," Sean says. "You perform at a high level; maintain energy and recovery quickly if you eat correctly. My body fat is 6 %. I maintain my diet throughout the season."
Abramson High School alum and current Houston Texans wide receiver Jacoby Jones (6'4-210) trains each off season at Sonic Boom and feels like it has given him an edge.
"My head coach (Gary Kubiak) asks me how it feels to be in tip top shape. Wyatt is straight forward. He brings out your best. He makes you hungry."
Jones feels like if he had gone to Harris prior to the draft in 2007 (he was selected in the 3rd round, 73rd overall by Houston), he would have gone in the 1st round. "Now I can run a 4.24 (forty) with 4.9% body fat."
Skyler Green has gotten desired results while working with Harris "My stride has gotten better. I've improved my agility and explosion. You can see the results. It builds your confidence."
Some of the methods Wyatt uses are directed to test the body and mind in the most intense conditions - in the heat, outside, on an artificial surface. It is all safe but designed to recognize how much an athlete can achieve when challenged.
"I'm going to push them so hard that when they get on the field, nothing is going to bother them," Harris proclaims. "I give them the ability to compete. I work for the athlete. They are my employer. I teach speed. 90% of speed is technique. You've got to know which buttons to push. I'm a stress trainer. There is a difference in each individual."
Lionel Vitale is the assistant director of player personnel for the Atlanta Falcons. Vitale played football at Nicholls State from 1981-'85. He has known Wyatt Harris for 18 years. He feels Harris' background makes a big difference.
"Wyatt played the game. He understands what it takes to condition players. He was the first receiver selected when the World League came into being. I was the Montreal director of player personnel (1990). He was always an outstanding worker. The game means so much. He took pride, he's a fanatic," explains Vitale.
"If a kid can go through his regimen, he can take anything in any league. If you're looking for a guy that will take you to your limits and push you, Wyatt Harris is the guy. He cares about you. He takes it personal. If you miss a workout, it's like he missed a workout. He has a lot of energy and can demonstrate what he wants. He played the game and knows the nuances."
Wyatt treats physical training as an art form, always striving for perfection through each and every person he takes under his wing. He feels each step, every repetition, every muscle twitch. Every fiber of his body hurts for his protÃ©gÃ©s.
"If a kid quits, I've failed. What did I do?" Harris laments.
His boot camp atmosphere is not for the faint of heart, but athletes who stay with it come out better for the effort at Sonic Boom.
Sonic Boom Academy
800 Central Ave
New Orleans, LA 70121-1305
|< Prev||Next >|