Just look at the size of Tony Mandarich. He was as intimidating as they come!
The 1989 NFL Draft produced some of the best football players of all time such as Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders. You may be wondering who was the guy drafted ahead of Sanders, Thomas and Primetime? Well, it was Tony Mandarich, offensive tackle from Michigan State, who was a Hall of Fame athletic freak but certainly not someone who ended up being a Hall of Fame football player.
Tony Mandarich was one of the most hyped up players in NFL Draft history. In the weeks leading up to the 1989 NFL Draft, Sports Illustrated coined him as “The Best Offensive Line Prospect Ever”. He was a first-team All-American at Michigan State and many looked at him as being the biggest physical specimen in college football history.
This 6’6, 330 pound offensive lineman put up some of the most impressive numbers in NFL Combine history. He ran an official 4.65-second 40 yard dash time, faster than Jerry Rice and Emmit Smith did at their respective workouts. In addition, Mandarich bench-pressed 225 lbs. 39 times, had a 30” vertical leap, and his broad jump was over 10 feet. At 330 lbs., this guy was a ridiculous 11% body fat. The Packers passed on three future Hall of Fame players for a guy who many deemed a true risk.
Mandarich was as true to the term “gym rat” as you could be. Dedicated to lifting weights, he would always look to use heavy compound movements, lifting more like a bodybuilder than for building athletic prowess. People such as Guns N Roses singer W. Axl Rose would call him “f*cking crazy” for his antics and screaming in the gym and Mandarich would always respond with, “If you’re not going to be intense, why even come in?”
He was an absolute beast but always came to the gym with his mind ready to attack the weights. He would down a 16 ounce bottle of his “Super Tea” before the gym; a potion that contained 340 calories and “maximum caffeine” according to its label. As if that didn’t create enough of a buzz, he would down another 32 ounces of coffee. Too much caffeine can cause insomnia, nervousness, irritability, etc. A normal person more than likely couldn’t consume this. Heavy caffeine use is more than 500 to 600 mg a day and Mandarich more than likely exceeded this dose. However, he was 6’6 and 330 lbs. so his body could handle heavy doses like this. What was a high dose to you might be a low dose to him. However, one cup of coffee before working out is plenty and you should stick with that. Research has also suggested that caffeine right before exercising assists in fat loss.
Mandarich put tremendous empahsis on compound movements using dumbbells, something that helped him achieve massive power and muscle mass.
He would hit the weights every morning and again at night (usually something only steroids could provide for the reparation and recovery mandated to grow back stronger). Mandarich was able to bench press 545 pounds. He would eat like an absolute animal as well and that is perhaps why he was able to build up a 54 inch chest. That’s very close to some of the world’s most renowned bodybuilders! He would eat seven meals a day totaling between 12,000 and 15,000 calories and always had a goal of being Mr. Universe when he retired from professional football. Manadrich trained so hard both on the playing field and in the weight room that he needed to consume all those calories to get enough energy throughout the day. Not to mention, Mandarich admittingly took steroids. When you take steroids and other performance enhancing drugs you can double the amount of calories you burn. Therefore, consuming more than normal calories was necessary for Manadrich.
Mandarich worked out with someone who was not a football player: Rob (Buck) Smith, who was 5’4″ and 185 lbs., but renowned for his intensity. Mandarich went through two dozen lifting partners in college, none who could keep up with Tony, but Smith was the only one who could handle the task. Mandarich said “I’d rather lift with a little guy who’s intense and crazy than with a dork who’s my size and a puss.” Training with a workout partner or spotter can really amp up your intensity and push you to new heights. This is exactly what Mandarich took advantage of during his training sessions.
This is a great tricep exercise to do. Mandarich does it on an incline to hit the triceps muscle even more.
Smith once said to Sports Illustrated, “Everybody’s looking for the easy way out. But how many guys squat till they puke? We do. I mean it. We go to the breaking point and beyond. People don’t understand.” One time, the two of them had to lie on the floor for 10 minutes after a workout because they were too exhausted and actually couldn’t walk.
Mandarich had an obsession to not be fat “like 90% of the NFL”, he claimed. He repeatedly said “If I look like a slob, I’ll play like one.” Perhaps he had something more than just work ethic: genetics. Tony’s mom was 5’11” and 240 lbs. with a regal bone structure. At 6’6″ and 330 lbs, Mandarich was definitely the benficiary of a big frame. He blasted out reps of stiff legged deadlifts of 465 pounds, did a standing long jump of 10’3″, and had a vertical leap of 30″. These are figures never touched by tackles to this day in any NFL Draft class.
In college at Michigan State, Mandarich was notorious for turning up to public meetings late, and even drunk. He also missed team meetings because he was too hungover. Two weeks before draft day, he challenged then-heavyweight champion of the world, Mike Tyson, to a street fight.
Unfortunately, Mandarich didn’t have a nearly productive NFL career. He made only 47 starts in 10 years and proved to be one of the biggest draft busts in history. The question of steroid abuse has been discussed as a possible factor in his failures, in which he finally admitted to in 2008.
Even though he didn’t produce athletically on the playing field, he had the sheer potential to be among the best in his position, a true athletic monster. He just couldn’t keep his head on straight. However, he eventually turned himself around, got off all the drugs, and kicked his butt into gear to eventually start for the Indianapolis Colts towards the end of his career.