"You just walked away from death" - The sports trainer who took Serena Williams' career from the brink

Mackie Shilstone chats to Off The Ball about working with tennis great and Peyton Manning

Mackie Shilstone, Bernard Hopkins

Fitness trainer Mackie Shilstone helps boxer Bernard Hopkins stretch in New Orleans, Tuesday, May 23, 2006. Hopkins is in New Orleans to work with Shilstone for his light heavyweight championship fight against Antonio Traver scheduled June 10, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Judi Bottoni)

As Peyton Manning crowns his career as one of the great quarter-backs and Serena Williams continues to win Grand Slams into her 30s, both American sporting aristocrats have something to thank Mackie Shilstone for.

The renowned sports trainer is credited with working with the duo at a time when both were struggling with physical issues.

Tonight, he joined Off The Ball to tell us just how he helped them back to their best.

His work with Manning, who won his second Super Bowl on Sunday, began last year after the Denver Broncos quarter-back was fighting back after a thigh injury.

"I knew his father Archie for years," Shilstone told Ger Gilroy.

"When it came time for the issue on Peyton to make a decision last year whether he was going to go one more year, Archie reached out to me."

 

After doing rehab on Manning's thigh, "he and I worked one on one for over a month" in a performance program.

"At the end of that month, he said 'do you think I can do this?' I looked to him and I said 'I don't think you can do it, I know you can but we're going to have to have a strategic plan to get you through the season,'" said Shilstone, who added that he introduced a focus on throwing the ball from the hips, explaining the process and science behind that approach.

Seeing the Super Bowl win on Sunday was "the conclusion of a year of stressful events" said Shilstone. 

In the case of Serena, he has had a longer working relationship with the tennis great.

One example of how he boosted her career was the time she tore a tendon in her foot twice, before suffering a pulmonary embolism shortly after.

"She literally had three hours to live but she survived," he began, explaining that it affected her breathing patterns upon her return. Shilstone then found a solution.

"I put a heart rate monitor on her, I put a pulmonary monitor on her and then said 'I'm going to teach you how to survive when you're breathless' and I said 'don't make me come in and get you.'

"And I said 'you go out into the middle of that pool, you throw that bleach bottle with water and then I want you to take both hands on the handles, put it over your head and the only thing that's going to keep you above the water is your legs and you go for it. If you fail, you might as well die there in the pool'. And I said 'I want you to understand something. When you're on that table with three hours to go, you saw that white light. So why are you afraid of opponents? How can you ever be afraid of an opponent? You just walked away from death.'"