Marcus Spears explains why he prefers Jalen Hurts to Carson Wentz as the quarterback of his team.
MOORESTOWN, N.J. (2:12)
— The “Bro Barn,” the horse barn turned home gym of Philadelphia Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson, is located on a lovely two-acre property in suburban New Jersey, just over the bridge from Philadelphia.
Its popularity soared during the coronavirus pandemic’s early days, when most gyms were closed.
Because of the will-testing workouts created by strength and conditioning coach Gabe Rangel, serene landscape, and locker-room levels of trash talking and laughter, it has subsequently become a destination for a growing number of Eagles and other NFL players.
It’s also functioned as a type of home base for an Eagles club coming off a 4-11-1 season, as well as an unusual setting for quarterback Jalen Hurts to solidify his relationship with key players of the team.
The Bro Barn was hopping last Monday, with NFL training camps just around the corner.
Johnson, fellow Eagles lineman Nate Herbig and Isaac Seumalo, New Orleans Saints’ Cesar Ruiz, and Green Bay Packers’ Jon Runyan Jr. were all inside the cramped quarters.
The offensive linemen make up practically the whole group of players who train/have trained here.
Hurts is the only exception, as they both attended the University of Oklahoma and are represented by the same agency.
“Let’s make this a good day.”
Today is squat day!
” yelled Rangel, who served in the Marine Corps for six years and saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan before becoming a coach.
Players are attempting to set personal records as the offseason draws to a close.
The results will be put on Johnson’s garage whiteboard, so final bragging rights are on the line.
Johnson’s name being at the top of the leaderboard has become a running joke among the boys, with lines like, “Yes, we know, Johnson’s in first.”
What about the rest of us regular folks?
” On squat day, it’s the same story.”
Johnson approached the squat rack with AC/DC’s “Who Made Who” blasting through the barn, settling under a bar holding 635 pounds of weight, the bar straining on either side as Johnson put it on his shoulders and powered down, then back up as Rangel yelled, “Yeeeaah!”
“He’s larger, faster, and stronger than anyone out there,” Rangel said of Johnson, who is 6 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 317 pounds.
“It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in; whether you’re a surgeon or an artist, you want to know what and how the finest are doing it.”
Lane sets the bar, and the rest of these players follow because they want to know what the bar is.” Lane Johnson, an offensive lineman at Oklahoma, was picked No. 1 overall in the draft.
In 2013, the Eagles were ranked No. 4 overall.
Monday’s nearly three-hour session ended with rigorous cardio on the climber machine, courtesy of Denis Kennedy.
It left Herbig and Seumalo exhausted and cursing, “My legs, motherf—er,” as they lay on their backs on the floor.
We’ll roll over now and then.
But there’s a lot of laughter, dude,” Johnson, 31, said after the workout as he stood on his back porch, peering out at the Bro Barn.
“That’s one of the things I enjoy about it.”
That’s probably all I get out of it: the amusement and laughing.
When you talk to retired players, that’s what they miss the most, so I’m taking it all in.” Quarterback in the middle Hurts, Philadelphia’s second-round pick in 2020, has been the Eagles’ projected starter since Carson Wentz was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in March.
The Eagles quarterback is a frequent visitor at the Bro Barn, but you’ll have to get up early to see him.
He begins his training at 5 a.m., several hours before the rest of the group.
Jalen Hurts deadlifts 620 pounds.
QB1 is a formidable opponent!
The decor in the gym where Hurts and Lane Johnson work out is fantastic!
pic.twitter.com/5Q9pEHX3Ye — Thomas R. #Eagles (via Gabriel_rangel on IG) pic.twitter.com/5Q9pEHX3Ye
“I’m still sleeping,” Johnson remarked, smiling. Petersen (@thomasrp93) July 13, 2021
“I annoy him.”
‘Hey guy, you ain’t going to be playing games at 5 a.m.,’ I’ll say, but I get the discipline aspect of it.
Well, that’s how he’s wired.
He’s been like that for a long time, I believe.” Hurts, who isn’t one for putting himself in the spotlight, normally doesn’t let cameras into his workouts and declined to be interviewed about them by ESPN.
Rangel, on the other hand, has a front-row ticket to what might be quite a spectacle.
Hurts was a high school power lifter and can still move a lot of weight.
He deadlifts 625 pounds, squats in the mid-500s, and is “every bit as strong as anybody who has ever been in that gym,” according to Rangel. Hurts leads the Bro Barn leaderboard in several categories, including pull-ups (23) and deadlifts (625 pounds).
And he accomplishes all of this while multitasking.
“He’s in here, he’s got the playbook out, and he’s calling out the plays in between sets,” says the player.
Rangel stated, “I’ve never seen someone more dedicated to their craft.”
“Any team they’re going to play, Jalen has highlights.”
When we’re working out, he’ll show highlights of other quarterbacks he admires.
I can see him mentally jotting down notes as he screams out the plays and studies.
“His preparation is ridiculous.” Other members of the gang will occasionally get up early to work out alongside Hurts.
Regardless, Herbig stated that they “saw him all the time.”
He’ll either stay once he’s finished or return later for a lunch prepared by Johnson’s personal chef, who has now become everyone’s personal chef, or simply to hang out.
Hurts is sometimes described as a natural-born leader who players gravitate toward.
Given such attributes, some questioned why the Eagles selected him in the second round in 2020, when Wentz was attempting to reclaim his role as the team’s quarterback following Nick Foles’ Super Bowl victory, and rumors swirled that he was struggling to connect with some of his teammates.
Wentz went on to have his worst season of his career, and Hurts took his place in the starting lineup for the remaining quarter of the season.
Coach Nick Sirianni has not officially stated whether or not Hurts will be the starting quarterback in the future, citing a desire to create competition at all positions.
Hurts hasn’t let that stop him from trying to position himself as the team’s leader, whether it’s by taking his teammates out to dinner, demanding pinpoint accuracy while passing to his wide receivers and running backs at the local high school, or simply showing up at the Bro Barn every day.
While entering the Bro Barn, the mural depicting Eagles QB Jalen Hurts surrounded by linemen, designed by Gabriel Richesson, is front and center for anyone to see.
Look at the artwork by Denis Kennedy to get an idea of how he was admitted into a rather restricted offensive line brotherhood.
A painting of the Bro Barn’s patrons may be found just inside the front door.
Several of the newcomers, including as Eagles center Jason Kelce and Arizona Cardinals linebacker Justin Pugh, are shown in the artworks that surround it.
Hurts is depicted in the mural’s center, flanked by a group of offensive linemen who “have his back,” according to Seumalo. “He doesn’t think he’s above anybody,” Herbig added.
“He doesn’t work as if he has a right to anything.”
He acts as if you owe him something.
“From ‘Rocky IV’ to ‘Billy Madison,’ I have a lot of respect for that.” When Johnson originally bought the Bro Barn three years ago, it was “sort of a s—hole,” he added.
The roof was bad, and groundhog holes pocked the dirt. Half of the structure was open air, and another part housed old horse stalls.
Johnson, on the other hand, desired a home gym and saw possibilities.
He had just hired Rangel away from music performer Adam Levine because he needed a personal trainer after being bitten by the injury bug.
Rangel and Johnson collaborated on a six-month refurbishment that converted the barn into a world-class fitness facility.
A roof was erected, rubber floors were installed over poured concrete, and high-end equipment was pushed against the timber walls.
This structure in southern New Jersey could easily be mistaken for a barn, yet beyond those doors is a full gym experience.
Johnson admires a number of athletes, including former Eagles teammate Chris Long and Cardinals defensive lineman J.J. Watt.
Watt, Andrew Whitworth of the Los Angeles Rams, and Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints line the walls and rafters.
“The only thing we’re missing are the f—ing stones and the pulleys and maybe the heater in there,” Johnson remarked, invoking ideas of the Russian hut Rocky Balboa trained in before taking on Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV.”
“But s—, I like the s— out of it.” At the Bro Barn, profanity flows like water over Niagara Falls.
While the athletes are inside, that’s fine.
Johnson’s property backs up to a preschool, so it’s a different story outside.
The kids’ outdoor time fell on the same day as the men’s Monday workout, and a teacher graciously informed them that 2- and 3-year-olds were watching and listening over the fence.
“I swear I’m in ‘Billy Madison,'” Johnson said.
These NFL players are fueled by competition, which includes keeping track of personal records set inside the Bro Barn.
Tim McManus/ESPN Even when they are on their best behavior, NFL players make fun of one another.
Herbig is frequently the target of assassination attempts.
During box jumps, he has been known to “bust his ass” (lose his balance and fall), but he did Monday.
He also stumbled out of the gates during 10-yard splits and landed on the deck, eliciting the day’s greatest grins.
There is no better gift than this to this bunch.
Herbig, on the other hand, has been one of the offseason’s major success stories.
He lost 50 pounds and was on track to come at training camp at 325 pounds, all while building strength.
Some of those steps have been made in the direction of Johnson.
“I feel like Lane is the inspiration for everything I do.”
“Whatever he’s doing, I have to get close to it or attempt to beat it,” Herbig explained.
“I feel like if I do that, I’ll be doing pretty well,” Johnson, a three-time Pro Bowler, said. Johnson is in his seventh NFL season.
The scars that run down both sides of his ankle, the consequence of many operations over the past year, are reminders that the game is wearing him down.
For the time being, Johnson’s intention is to play four more seasons.
Johnson is aware that his teammates Kelce (33) and Brandon Brooks (31) are approaching retirement age, and that their time together is dwindling.
It’s a proud group that has tasted Super Bowl victory, only to be stung by the bitter pill of the 2020 season.
The time is now for them to help get the organization back on track and build it up for the next era, which could explain why Johnson has kept such a hectic pace this summer.
“With a season like that, there will be a lot of new faces, a lot of change of scenery, a new agenda, and new leadership.”
“As I’ve gotten older, as Kelce, Brooks, Fletcher [Cox], BG [Brandon Graham], as all of these players have gotten older, I see a sense of urgency to milk every last drop out of yourself, to be the best you can for as long as you can,” Johnson said.
“Right now, all I’m trying to do is transfer the torch to these younger players because they’re going to be the Eagles’ face in the future.”