You know his name and you know his title. But given the secrecy surrounding Chip Kelly’s sports science program, very little is known about the architect behind it: Shaun Huls.
The Eagles’ public relations team says he’s “not available to the media” and scant details are in his team biography. Prior to joining the Eagles in 2013, Huls was the head strength and conditioning coach and combatives coordinator for Navy Special Warfare. Previously, he coordinated the strength and conditioning and injury prevention programs for the Navy SEAL Teams.
However, before training elite members of the United States military and becoming known as “Chip Kelly’s Mystery Man,” Huls was like many other people: a college student. At the University of Nebraska, he pursued his passion for nutrition and training. He started working for the legend who later become his mentor—Boyd Epley, the first full-time college strength and conditioning coach in the country.
To better understand what exactly Huls does for the Eagles and who he is, we spoke to his mentor. Epley told us about what Huls is currently interested in, their time together at Nebraska and much more.
How did you first meet Shaun?
“Shaun was a very bright guy, very intelligent. I had him oversee the baseball strength training. I wanted to hire him as a nutritionist because he has a real passion for that, as well. When I left Nebraska for eight years and went to Colorado Springs
“He’s now interested in something I’m interested in, which is called PRI, Postural Restoration. I just saw him recently at one of their seminars in Lincoln, Nebraska. We stay in touch. Two guys that work with him [in Philadelphia] were also Nebraska assistants: Josh Hingst and James Harris. All three of them are from Nebraska and were here at roughly the same time.
“There’s a company in Nebraska in Lincoln called Postural Restoration and it’s owned by a guy named Ron Hruska. Ron is nationally known for his expertise in helping people without surgery. In fact, I’ve sent athletes to him that were scheduled to have surgery and he fixed them in one visit. Sometimes if your back hurts and you’re limping, there might be some simple little thing that could fix it. In my case, I was a pole vaulter and hurt my back and I had to wear a back brace. But Ron fixed me in one visit. He simply strengthened my left hamstring, which caused my hamstring to shorten, which brought my back in alignment.
“So Shaun is learning to be somewhat of an expert in this Postural Restoration in helping his Philadelphia Eagle players. He also did it with the Navy SEALs. People who don’t know what that is, they will someday because it’s growing rapidly across the country. It’s something he’s been using for years everywhere he’s been.”
Could you tell me more about how PRI works?
“A lot of times people have surgery when they don’t really need surgery. They just need to have their postural aligned properly; it’s just a little out of whack. Shaun is looking for ways to improve talent, which would include being able to load people properly and have them be at what we call neutral so they’re not out of balance and you can’t load weight on them.”
What do you mean by loading people properly?
“Let’s say you have two bathroom scales and you stood on both of them. Let’s say [you weigh 225 pounds], it should say 112.5 on each scale. But let’s say you stand on them and one of them says 100 and the other one says 125. What’s wrong? You’re leaning on one side. You’re putting too much stress on the one knee and the one hip and the one ankle and you’re not in balance. What you have to do is re-position yourself so you’re standing equally on those two scales and then you’re ready to load. When you do squats, you load the body. If you load it too heavy and your body is out of alignment, you can have an injury.”
How would you describe Shaun as a person away from his work?
“He’s a guy that takes care of business. He gets things done and he gets them done right.”
Was he always as private as he seems to be now?
“A little bit. He’s always thinking; he’s very smart; he’s well-prepared.”
Does the privacy stem from not wanting attention or not wanting to give away a competitive advantage?
“I’m guessing it’s probably an NFL thing where one team needs to protect what they’re doing. But the other teams all find out soon enough.”
You mentioned before that he’s on the cutting edge of what he does. How so?
“He’s on the cutting edge by utilizing the latest in technology. He’s not only learning and looking for new and improved ways to develop athletes, he’s smart enough to understand what he’s looking at. Not everyone has that ability to understand what they’re seeing, but Shaun does. There are a lot of NFL teams trying to copy what he’s doing. He is, in a lot of ways, ahead of most them. Of course, they’re each pretty secretive, but there’s probably only a handful that’d be in the same league as him.”
In what ways is he ahead of other NFL teams?
“The Jacksonville Jaguars are also in that same league. There may be a couple of others that I’m not familiar with, but certainly those two are leading the pack that I’m aware of for the NFL. They’re using sports science to evaluate how to put the best talent on the field.”
How is he different now versus when you first met him at Nebraska?
“He’s got a tremendous opportunity in front of him working with the Eagles and Chip Kelly. He’s trying to make the most of that by looking at every possible—whether it’s technology or GPS systems or recovery or whatever—he’s trying to turn over every stone to find out the best way to improve performance for the Eagles.”