ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When linebacker Joe Mays walked into the weight room at the Broncos' Dove Valley headquarters to begin his first offseason workout, he barely recognized his surroundings.
Gone were the machines, dumbbells, bench press stations, squat racks and rows of treadmills that lined the weight room last year.
In was an entire new set of equipment designed to maximize the efficiency of a workout and utilize the 9,000-square-foot space in the most effective way possible.
"When I first walked in it was all empty," Mays said. "He pretty much told us what was going where and what machines he was going to get. It's sweet – they took out everything that we had in there before. We have all new, state-of-the-art equipment. We just go in there and try to work our hardest and it's been great so far."
Brand New Philosophy
With the arrival of Strength and Conditioning Coach Luke Richesson and his staff came the first overhaul of a strength program that had been in place for 17 seasons with the Broncos.
"Our methodology is: there are two reasons why we're here," Richesson explained. "It's either to improve performance or to help someone recover from an injury, help someone get through some pain. The program is all-encompassing with that, from the warm-up to the approach from the volume and intensity, the tracking and the power and the conditioning, everything is geared around those two things."
A major change to the team's weightlifting program centers around the structure of the workouts.
Instead of working out in small groups, Richesson introduced larger-group workouts.
"We wanted the offense and the defense -- 45 guys on each side of the ball -- to know each other, to be able to watch each other train and get a certain sense of intensity that it takes. We wanted to raise the bar there. I think we did that."
That approach has been embraced by the players thus far.
"For one, we're getting faster and stronger together," Mays said about the benefits of working out as a team. "Two, we're building that camaraderie together. I think that's going to be huge for us this year. The fact that he's brought that approach in with him has been great."
Back to the Beginning
The program that Richesson is installing in Denver didn't sprout up overnight. Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coaches Mike Eubanks and Anthony Lomando have worked under Richesson's tutelage for six years, dating back to when the pair were interns under Richesson at Athletes' Performance Institute.
From API, a premiere training facility for college and professional athletes, the trio moved to Jacksonville as the strength and conditioning staff for the Jaguars. The group was hired by then-Head Coach Jack Del Rio, who said bringing in Richesson was a no-brainer.
"Luke, in the time that he had under his belt there at API, was very productive in getting guys ready for the (NFL Scouting) Combine, getting them ready to have special years, and I found that a lot of my squad wanted to go out there to Arizona and train," said Del Rio, now the Broncos' defensive coordinator. "So I met with him and brought him in. … I think he's a really good coach. He's all about helping the team win. He's a tireless worker, and I think he'll be an asset to the organization."
It was also in Jacksonville that Richesson reunited with Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Jason George, who he first worked with at the University of Kansas.
"I think the No. 1 thing is that you have to have trust and loyalty," Richesson said about his staff. "I know my guys, and I can trust them. That's with anything, whether it's watching my children or running a group, they've proven that they are committed to what we do here and they believe in the methodology. They put their own blood, guts and sweat into it so there is automatically buy-in from that perspective."
The fact that all four members of the staff are able to work together seamlessly shows when it comes time to work out the players.
The foursome bounces ideas off one another and is constantly seeking ways to keep up with the ever-changing field.
"There's a good line of communication when it comes to developing the methodology," Richesson said. "If you track all the way back to Jason George, it's coming up on 16 years that we've been connected. There's a deep-rooted path there. He and I know each other. He knows what I'm thinking. And Anthony Lomando and Mike Eubanks are two bright, up-and-coming minds who understand some of the newer things in methodology."
Having four coaches on the staff allows each player to get the individual attention needed to go through an effective workout, pre-practice or pregame routine.
"Those three are not interchangeable," Richesson said of his assistants. "If they ever want to leave, I'm going to make it as hard as I can on them. They are rock solid. I don't think there are any better."
While each individual brings his own strengths to the group, each has the ability to push the group toward improving its program.
"It never amazes me how much you learn in every one of those conversations," Richesson said. "You can come away with somewhat of a different thought process that you hadn't thought of. When I brought my guys in, I wanted them to be able to do something that I wasn't able to do but still be able to do all of the things that are required. I think we've acquired some unbelievable talent."
Richesson, George, Eubanks and Lomando have their sights set on making the Broncos into a true powerhouse team – not just in the weight room, but on the field.
"Jason George, Mike Eubanks and Anthony Lomando have been a huge part of the puzzle," Richesson said. "This plan here, to be able to go indoor, outdoor with the turf, I don't think there's a better setup in the NFL."