INDIANAPOLIS – Two weeks before leaving for the NFL Scouting Combine, Eagles Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach Duce Staley received a call from Steelers Vice President and General Manager Kevin Colbert asking for a request. Colbert is one of five club executives who is a member of the NFL Scouting Combine Working Group that aids in coordinating the logistics for the weeklong job interview in Indianapolis. Colbert, who was with Pittsburgh when Staley was a running back there from 2004-06, explained how other running backs coaches from around the league wanted Staley to run a particular drill on the turf of Lucas Oil Stadium.
What drill could be so special that the league reached out to the Eagles' legend? Well, it's one that he created. The Duce Staley Drill debuted during Friday night's workout.
Staley humbly doesn't think that the drill should be named after him. It should, he argues, be after the all-time great running back who inspired Staley to devise it.
On March 13, 2014, the Eagles acquired Darren Sproles from the New Orleans Saints for a fifth-round draft pick. The typical agility drills, Staley surmised, weren't good enough to maintain the foot quickness for someone of Sproles' pedigree.
"When he first got here, I said, 'I've got to do something off the beaten path. I had to do a little bit more for guys like Sproles who have quick feet, super-quick feet,'" said Staley, whose voice was raspy after over three hours on the field. "We might need to change the name (of the drill). It was created for him."
What exactly is the Duce Staley Drill? Three bags are laid on the ground to form the shape of the letter T, with the middle bag sandwiched in between the other two. The player lines up behind the left bag and steps over it with the right foot, sidesteps over the middle bag, and goes back over the final one. Then, the player must quickly transition and do it again, starting with the right bag. To finish, the player runs up the field and cuts either to the right or the left based on the look from the coach.
It tests a runner's ability to change direction in a small space. To succeed, a player must display quick feet, show a capacity to toe-tap, and make decisions in an instant.
Not only did Staley get to coach the prospects at the Combine through the drill, sporting his old-school Eagles jacket, but he also had a little bit of help. Sproles, who now serves as a personnel consultant for the Eagles, was on hand to demonstrate it for the players. Sproles retired following the 2019 season ranked fifth in all-purpose yards in NFL history. He earned Pro Bowl honors in each of his first three seasons with the team and helped bring home a Super Bowl Championship in 2017.
"It was awesome to go out there and represent the Eagles," Staley said. "To get Darren to be able to come out there and show how the drill is done, you could see the prospects' eyes light up. It was like a kid in a candy store. It was good to have that."