NY Jets Rookie Sam Darnold Talks His Go-to Workout and Why Cardio Is Important for Quarterbacks

Sam Darnold of USC poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being picked #3 overall by the New York Jets during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium on April 26, 2018 in Arlington, Texas.
 Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The New York Jets have found their franchise quarterback.

After trading up with the Indianapolis Colts for the third-overall pick in the NFL Draft, the team selected USC quarterback Sam Darnold, making him the next potential savior for the Super Bowl-starved franchise. The California native was ranked as one of the best prospects in the draft, and now he’ll bring his famous head of hair to the East Coast for his pro career.

“I’m excited to get to the next level and work with my teammates and coaches,” Darnold told Men’s Journal. “It’s great to be part of a team again. During the draft process I wasn’t part of a team for the first time in my career. I can’t wait to start working alongside my teammates and seeing what we can do together.”

At 20 years old, Darnold will be one of the youngest players in the NFL, but he’ll have a savvy veteran to learn from in 38-year-old Josh McCown. Darnold says he’s looking forward to working with McCown at the pro level, and he’s also excited about the chance to travel and see more of the world in the future—when he has the time, that is.

“There’s a lot of places I want to go,” Darnold says. “I really want to travel to Europe and see all that history. I’d like to visit China, Japan, and places around there as well. But right now, it’s all about football for me.”

Men’s Journal caught up with Darnold, who was promoting a Mother’s Day campaign for Kay Jewelers alongside his own mom, to ask him about his NFL Draft experience, how he’s training for his first professional season, his favorite places to travel, and his go-to outdoor adventures.

If you could only do one type of workout to train for football, what would it be?
Sam Darnold: Can I say lifting and running? [Laughs] I would say probably cardio, like running and those high-intensity workouts. As an athlete, you need to stay in shape, and that’s the biggest thing for a quarterback, keeping your body in the right shape and eating the right things. You can understand an offense and what the defense is trying to do to you on the field, but if you’re not in shape, you’re left behind a bit. You want to stay consistent with your routine, and that makes an athlete who they are. I always try and keep that mindset, and running and cardio workouts play a big part in that for me and keeping fit.

What are you looking forward to working on as you get into the professional stage of your career?
I am ready to learn, and having a veteran quarterback that’s had experience there is going to be key. So getting with him and understanding what he’s thinking and the process they go through to get ready each week, and [how they] handle themselves as professionals. I’m ready to learn as much as I can about being a pro, and looking at a defense and understanding what they’re going to do at this level.

What are your favorite and least favorite workouts to do in your training?
I really love the days when I’m working on upper body and lower body. My least favorite, I would say, is cardio. Even though it’s so important and it’s something we have to do no matter what, it’s not always fun to do. We do a lot of squats and single-leg work. It’s important to have that balance as a quarterback. Those are some of the go-to workouts I’ll do when working on lower body.

Do have any favorite gear or tech you like to use in your training and workout routine?
I don’t really use any specific gear in my training. But actually, I love taking my shoes off and working out with bare feet, or just with my socks on. It helps when you’re working on your lower body and leg stability, because as athletes, especially as football players, we’re always in cleats, and it’s really hard on our feet. So it’s important to stay grounded there—literally and figuratively—so being able to feel the ground, and be comfortable there, is something that I like to get used to.

Where have you traveled to that you’ve enjoyed the most, and what do you like to do while visiting?
Growing up in California, luckily I didn’t need to travel anywhere for nice weather, so I didn’t need a vacation in that sense. I loved going to Hawaii when I was younger—that was an incredible place. We visited Kauai with my family and we did a lot of stuff there, going to the beautiful beaches and getting in the ocean. We went kayaking and that was an awesome experience.

You had your family with you during the draft process, including your mother Chris for a promotion with Kay Jewelers about Mother’s Day. What was that like for you and what did you all enjoy most about it?
It has been a great experience having my mom and my family with me through the whole draft process. Family is important to us, and she’s made a big impact on me through my career and helped me with just all the love she’s shown me my whole life. I was able to get her a nice necklace from Kay ahead of Mother’s Day just to show my appreciation, and she really loved that gift.