Top QB prospect taps pros to dial up speed, agility

Colleges are already scouting this 16-year-old. Football phenom, Nicco Marchiol, is fine-tuning his running to move even better on the field.
August 29th, 2019
Nicco Marchiol in profile on the football field at Regis Jesuit High School. Marchiol is working with sports performance experts at UCHealth Steadman Hawkins Clinic Denver to run even better.
Quarterback Nicco Marchiol is already a top recruit for colleges. He’s working with sports performance experts to run even better. Photos by Cyrus McCrimmon for UCHealth.

Nicco Marchiol, just a sophomore at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, already has an offer to play football at the University of Colorado in 2022. But then, the Buffs will have to beat out the likes of Michigan, Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, and Florida Atlantic, all of which have also extended Marchiol scholarship bait.

At 16, Nicco is 6-foot-2 and weighs 205 pounds. He has a sharp mind for the game; his arm is a catapult; he moves like a cat. Combine all this and you get one of the nation’s top young quarterback prospects.

Sports performance is a key goal for Nicco Marchiol, a high school quarterback seen here running on the football field and practice.
Nicco Marchiol is already a great athlete. He’s working with sports performance pros so he can move even better.

Nicco intends to fulfill his vast potential. Doing so involves improving his on-field decision-making and skills, his strength, and his speed and agility. With respect to the last of these, the challenge is this: How do you improve the speed and agility of someone who already moves like a cat? The answer for Nicco is in UCHealth Sports Performance powered by Elite Speed.

During a summer of college visits (his dad Ken, who once played for the New Orleans Saints, scrolls through photos of Nicco’s visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan where the young QB smiled with a retired QB, University of Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh), invitation-only camps, and biweekly trips to Phoenix to train with to quarterback whisperer Mike Giovando, Nicco has been working with Elite Speed co-founder Nick Vinson twice a week at UCHealth Steadman Hawkins Clinic Denver.

High school quarterback Nicco Marchiol works on his throwing with his Regis coaches. He's been working on sports performance.
Nicco Marchiol works on passing with Regis varsity head coach, Danny Filleman.

Despite having run the 400-meter dash and the 400-meter hurdles for the University of Northern Colorado and University of Colorado track teams, Vinson, 37, describes himself as a “failed athlete.”

“I worked harder than everybody but got worse,” he says.

Elite Speed emerged from the reason why: Optimizing athletic performance is not just about sheer training effort, but rather technique augmented by power, flexibility, sport-specific conditioning, and recovery, Vinson says.

Not just strength

Vinson’s approach starts with biomechanical balance – that is, making sure muscle groups work collaboratively and not competitively, which heightens injury risk – then moves through instilling proper technique; augmenting that technique with added strength; and, finally, integrating it all into sport-specific action. It works: Elite Speed now employs 24 full-time trainers who work with kids as young as eight, athletes of all sorts, on through to seniors aiming to improve their quality of life through improved fitness. Vinson specializes in professional and college athletes – primarily football and baseball players – and the occasional high school star like Nicco.

closeup portrait of high school quarterback Nicco Marchiol
Nicco Marchiol is already a top quarterback. He’s doing extensive sports performance training to get even better.

“My kids are all about getting the best-of-the-best training. This is a premier facility – and we’ve been everywhere,” Ken Marchiol says.

Come check out the UCHealth Steadman Hawkins Clinic Denver

Open House 

Who? You and your whole family

What? Exclusive first look at the state-of-the-art orthopedics, recovery and sports performance facility. Take a self-guided tour, view advanced orthopedic training and recovery equipment and enjoy refreshments.

When? Saturday, Sept. 28, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (No need to RSVP. Feel free to come check out the facility.)

Where? UCHealth Steadman Hawkins Clinic Denver, 175 Inverness Drive West Suite 200, Englewood, CO

The elder Marchiol notes the sea change in training approaches since his NFL days in the 1980s.

“It’s about complex movements that don’t isolate just one set of muscles. The focus on core strength is another big difference,” he says. “This is comprehensive in that it builds agility while maintaining strength and mobility. Physics creates speed – it’s about technique and biomechanics. There’s no more ‘strongest guy wins’ stuff.”

Nicco and a Regis Jesuit wide receiver joining him for the workout on this hot July afternoon start with what Vinson calls a “full activation protocol” of stretching, hopping and such on an expanse of well-cushioned indoor turf near the new UCHealth Steadman Hawkins facility’s towering southern glass façade. The aim is to make sure muscles soon to be taxed have a chance to wake up first. They then move to the 50-yard-long indoor turf sprint lane. Vinson has the young athletes shuffle back and forth at erratic intervals on his call of “switch!” before turning to bust into a sprint when he says “cut.” He focuses on their shin position as the accelerate. He wants to see knees up, back straight, and feet close to the ground.

“Imagine a stick through your opposite ankle. Kick through the stick,” he instructs.

Nicco switch-switch-switch-cuts again.

“You didn’t pop up – why?” Vinson asks.

“I was hunched over,” Nicco says.

Strength and form

They move back to squat racks over by the big glass windows, where Vinson has the boys do a couple of reps with 135 pounds across their shoulders. This is, for them, light. Vinson is merely observing their form: based on knee angles and hip shifts he can deduce their overall musculoskeletal status. One is reminded of a master mechanic who can diagnose an engine problem based on the sound of the motor.

“It’s a final all-systems check,” Vinson explains.

Nicco Marchiol throws during a practice with teammates at Regis Jesuit High School
Nicco Marchiol with his teammates at Regis Jesuit High School.

All systems are go, which means swapping red Ivanko 45-pound plates out for yellow 25-pounders to cut the barbell’s weight to 95 pounds. With that, they do lateral single-leg lunges to strengthen the lateral rotator muscles of the hips, the hamstrings, and the glutes. This freighted sidestepping looks unpleasant, and it is.

“These haunt my dreams,” Vinson says. “I have to be forced to do these.”

But the boys appear entirely undaunted as Vinson encourages and occasionally corrects. Minutes later, Vinson rolls open one of the south façade’s three large glass overhead doors and the boys and Vinson and Ken Marchiol duck outside to a half football field of deep-green turf. The lines, numbers and yard markers are the whitest things in the universe; across Interstate 25, the top of the Ikea store is the bluest. As groundskeepers put the finishing touches on the landscaping at the far flank, Vinson has the boys cutting and accelerating among a handful of cones. The focus, he explains, is on proper form when changing direction at an angle sharper than 90 degrees.

He tells the boys to kick their knees high as they pivot so as to get their hips pointed in the right direction. That motion, Vinson says, not only turns the body and generates momentum, but also – and more importantly – raises the body to a point that the power stroke of the planted leg is maximized.

“Out! Open! Open again!” Vinson hollers. “Good!”

Quarterback Nicco Marchiol holds three footballs during practice at Regis Jesuit High School

As they walk back inside, he reminds the boys that what they’re doing isn’t easy.

“This is stuff that 20-year guys work on every day,” he says.

There are more dream-haunting side lunges and other nasty-looking exercises, more cone drills in the hot sun, and more sprint-lane sessions, now with a torture implement called a Tank M4 friction sled. One at a time, they lean into this vastly bulked-up, blackened-steel metastasis of a Radio Flyer wagon, which cruelly boosts resistance the harder they push. Vinson coaches a straight back aligned with the planted leg when it’s extended, which he describes as the “A” position. This allows greater leverage on the push-off. He wants their toes skimming on the turf as they swing their legs back forward. Then it’s back outside, back to the squat racks and, finally, back to the turf by the windows, where they commence with a warm down that looks not too different than the warmup.

“It’s a workout every time,” Nicco says, having wrapped it all up. “I feel like I’m getting a lot of speed and change in direction that will help me on the field.”

He seems as appreciative as he is athletic.

“This is outstanding,” Nicco says. “The top athletes in Colorado and in the country are coming here to be the best they can be.”

About the author

Since 2008, Todd Neff has written hundreds of stories for University of Colorado Hospital and UCHealth. He covered science and the environment for the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado, and has taught narrative nonfiction at the University of Colorado. He was a 2007-2008 Ted Scripps Fellowship recipient in Environmental Journalism at CU.

His latest book, "The Laser That’s Changing the World," tells the story of the inventors and innovators who saw, and ultimately realized, the potential of lidar to help solve problems ranging from smokestack-pollution detection, ice-sheet mapping, disaster recovery, and, ultimately, autonomous-vehicle guidance, among many other uses. His first book, "From Jars to the Stars," recounts how Ball Aerospace evolved from an Indiana jar company - and a group of students in a University of Colorado basement - to an organization that managed to blast a sizable crater in the comet 9P/Tempel 1. "Jars" won the Colorado Book Award for History in 2012.

Todd graduated with a business degree from the University of Michigan, where he played soccer, and with a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Before becoming a journalist at the turn of the millennium, he was an IT and strategy consultant. He once spoke fluent Japanese and still speaks fluent German.

When not writing, he spends time with teenage daughters and wife Carol, plays soccer, and allows himself to be bullied by a puggle he outweighs by a factor of seven.