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Overcoming odds, training for excellence

Ryan Englebert, right, works with Justin Rindt through a set of heavy ropes earlier this month at ETS Gym in Woodbury. Englebert, a former college football standout who earned a brief shot in the NFL, opened his new sports performance training center earlier this fall in Woodbury. Staff photo by Hank Long.1 / 2
Upon completion of his college career, Ryan Englebert signed as a free agent with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals. He competed in training camp for a roster spot before injuring his ankle. Englebert now owns ETS sports performance training center in Woodbury. Submitted photo.2 / 2

Adversity and achievement. Ryan Englebert has experienced both in a dramatic fashion.

It's the hard work between those two disparate mile posts that the former standout Division III football player says led him to where he is today - a small business owner who wants to help young athletes achieve their big dreams.

Englebert and his wife Heidi are the founders of Englebert Training Systems (ETS) in Woodbury. The sports performance training center housed in the business park just off Commerce Drive, does not look like your typical gym. That's because it isn't.

Athletes at ETS aren't spending a lot of their time working out on the treadmill or bench press. They are swinging heavy ropes, pushing sleds across artificial turf and flipping over tractor tires. They are committing themselves to individualized workouts with a focus on improvement of their flexibility and range of motion and speed and explosiveness. Oh, yeah, and strength too.

"Regardless of the sport, I don't care if its cross-country, swimming or football," Englebert said, If the skill level between two athletes is the same, the stronger athlete is going to win every time."

It's a strong opinion that comes with credibility. Before he and Heidi opened ETS in early September, Englebert had spent the last three years managing a sports performance training facility near his hometown in the northern Milwaukee suburbs. Englebert started his athletic training career after a very brief stint in the National Football League.

Coming off an all conference season as running back for the University of Wisconsin-Stout football team, Englebert signed as a free agent in early 2007 with the Cincinnati Bengals. He made it through some grueling weeks of training camp before breaking his ankle, which effectively ended his pro career. But the fact he even had a shot in the NFL says quite a bit about the young man who was told only four years earlier he may never walk again.

Overcoming odds

It was 2003 and Englebert was in his sophomore season with the Blue Devils (Stout is in Menomonie) when he was involved in a car accident in nearby Amery that nearly claimed his life.

He spent two weeks in the hospital as doctors and surgeons tried to figure out what to do with a displaced femur and shattered pelvis.

A top surgeon was flown in from San Diego to perform several surgeries to put Englebert's mangled leg back together.

"I asked him if I would ever be able to play football again," Englebert recalled, "and he told me I'd be lucky if I could ever walk without a limp."

The surgeries were successful, but Englebert said he went through several months of grueling rehabilitation to attempt to return his strength, range of motion and speed to a level that would allow him to play college football again.

"It wasn't easy, but I learned so much through that whole process," he said. "It's lead me to where I am today."

After receiving a medical redshirt after the 2003 accident Englebert fought through some additional injuries in his sophomore and junior season, but earned team MVP honors his senior year when he led his team in rushing yards and touchdowns. He then impressed enough scouts at the NFL combine to earn a training camp spot with the Bengals.

"I tell all the kids that come in there same thing, regardless of how cliché it sounds - dream big and don't ever let anyone tell you can't do something," he said. "We tell every kid that comes in here that they can be whatever they want to be if they work hard enough, and we treat them like that too."

Settling in Woodbury

Englebert, who earned a sports science degree from UW-Stout, worked with his wife, a former Stout soccer player with a business administration degree, to find an optimum location to plant ETS and settled on Woodbury for two important reasons.

"There are not a lot of sports performance gyms in the east metro," Heidi Englebert said. "So we knew this was a market where we could fill that niche. But we also have come to find Woodbury is a pretty strong community when it comes to athletics."

The couple, who resides in Hudson, Wis., founded their business, hired training staff and immediately began marketing their services to the community. In just a few short months they have found a clientele in some of the community's top prep athletes and a few college and former college athletes looking for a shot at the pros.

"We even have some college-bound athletes driving in from as far as Cokato to work out here," Ryan said. "We're pretty excited about what we've been able to accomplish in just a few months."

ETS has programs for youth and adults of all ages, starting as young 8.

A "Speed Plus" program has been developed for children 8-12, and a strength component program is enveloped into youth 13 and up. Englebert said his trainers will work with small groups, but the goal is to help athletes progress with individually-tailored programs.

"At the end of the day, everyone has a different body type and different abilities, so we want to provide for them their own path to success," he said.

Englebert said his own experiences have taught him just that.

"I've been around sports my whole life, but the main reason I am doing this is because I had to find a way that worked for me to get where I wanted to go. That's why I have such a passion for helping other athletes do the same."

For more information about Englebert Training Systems go to