Kendall Hunter’s recovery from an Achilles injury defied the norm.
The injury required surgery and 9-12 months of rehab before being ready to start returning to game speed.
But last May, just six months after surgery, the 49ers running back was back on a limited basis. He was cleared for full practice in August.
And Hunter was running faster than he did before the injury.
Coaches and trainers wanted to find out how and what did Hunter do that made him special?
The answer was a little known performance center located in East Texas.
APEC Tyler is no longer an unknown.
Even before Hunter’s recovery and subsequent return to the 49ers lineup, Accelerate Performance Enhancement Center (APEC) has played a large role in a Major League Baseball perfect game and numerous current and former NFL and MLB players continuing their careers.
But Hunter’s recovery brought national attention.
“Kendall was nice enough to give us a lot of the credit and we got some good publicity from that,” said Bobby Stroupe, founder and training director for APEC. “Typically it is a nine-month (deal with Achilles) and 18 before you’re back to normal.
“Kendall’s calf was 18 inches on one side and 14 inches on the other side (after the surgery) so we had to work fast to get him ready to go,” Stroupe said. “It came together and he’s having a good year and I am glad that he’s healthy.”
Thus far this season Hunter, a John Tyler graduate, has averaged 4 yards per carry on 58 attempts with three touchdowns.
He has been active for every game this season.
The biggest sports corporation in the world wanted to find out how.
Stroupe was invited to speak at Nike World Headquarters in October as part of their Nike Trainer’s Roundtable held at the Bo Jackson Sport Center. The roundtable would feature an elite group of physical therapists, athletic trainers, personal trainers and professional strength and conditioning coaches.
While in the northwest, Stroupe also was invited as a guest by Oregon Ducks strength coach Jim Radcliffe, a longtime colleague, to tour the facilities at Oregon University.
“(Nike) was interested specifically with how we do our warm-up processes, our speed and how we integrate into our strength and stability training,” Stroupe said. “Coach Rad found out I would be two hours away and told me to come on up.”
Some current professional athletes who use APEC are Matt Flynn (NFL, Green Bay Packers), Josh Tomlin (MLB, Cleveland Indians), Josh Aubrey (NFL, Cleveland Browns) and David Snow (NFL, Buffalo Bills).
Pictures of all of them are prominently displayed when entering the metal building housing APEC, which is almost hidden from street view. One of those photos is of Graham Harrell. Once a Heisman candidate at Texas Tech, Harrell went undrafted in the NFL and wound up playing in the Canadian Football League. After leaving the CFL, Harrell figured his career was over.
Then he started coming to APEC.
In 2010 he signed with the Green Bay Packers.
“APEC is the best training I have had at any level,” Harrell said on a testimonial on the APEC website. “The unique approach has improved my arm strength and athleticism.”
Humber has something in common with Harrell as it was also arm strength that was holding him back. He’d bounced around the majors pitching for the New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Kansas City Royals. He was with the Chicago White Sox when he began working with APEC after Tommy John surgery and his arm strength and velocity increased.
Prior to 2012, the main thing Humber was known for was being a big piece in a trade that brought Johan Santana from the Twins to the Mets.
Now he’s known for throwing the 21st perfect game in Major League history.
“Bobby is a true genius in his field,” Humber said on the website.
A few more recent stories involve Snow and Aubrey. Snow played multiple offensive line positions at Texas but went undrafted. Aubrey played for Stephen F. Austin at defensive back, but needed knee surgery at the end of his senior season.
Working with APEC trainers, Snow improved his measurables enough to sign with the Bills as an undrafted free agent. APEC helped Aubrey run a 4.39 at the combine to eventually sign with the Browns as an undrafted free agent.
Stroupe estimates APEC has been partly responsible for more than 125 Division I scholarships in seven sports.
There are currently 200 athletes in APEC from elementary to high school. There are also 70 athletes in an adult program.
Stroupe said he learned many of the motivational techniques he uses from legendary high school football coach G.A. Moore when he was the strength and conditioning coach first at Celina and then at Pilot Point.
“He taught me so much how to talk with people,” Stroupe said about the winningest coach in high school football. “Not X’s and O’s or strength and conditioning; what he was so good at was knowing how to motivate people and knowing what to say and when to say it.”
And that came into play a couple years ago when Stroupe said an “overweight and out of shape” high school underclassman stepped into APEC. Zack Spears wanted to be a varsity starter at Arp in basketball, but Stroupe admits he didn’t see a chance of that happening.
Stroupe and training manager Kye Heck call Spears’ transformation their “biggest triumph.”
Stroupe said Spears transformed himself into a high school varsity athlete and helped lead Arp to a state basketball championship as a junior in 2006 and an All-East Texas football player as a senior in 2007. He went on to sign a scholarship to Trinity Valley and later played college football at Iowa State.
Stroupe said those stories are why APEC is here and why he loves his job.
“What this place is about is that kid sitting on the bench,” Stroupe said. “We want them to change their confidence and how they feel about doing work the rest of their lives. This place is not about Kendall Hunter rehabbing or kids like Dalton Santos and Kendall Sanders, who trained here since freshmen, but had great genetics and both go to Texas.
“This is about the guy or gal who needs a bump — that confidence — and needs to get better so they can enjoy these sports and play to the best of their ability. That is why we do this and who we are dedicated to.”