Johnie Drake works with three of his athletes during a strength and motion exercise.

Johnie Drake works with three of his athletes during a strength and motion exercise.

Photo provided by Kelley Suggs

CMU Hall of Famer Johnie Drake making mark in speed-training world

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Metro | Published February 20, 2023

 Johnie Drake Speed Performance, located in Fraser, will work with any high school athlete, featuring personal classes, small group classes and video analysis.

Johnie Drake Speed Performance, located in Fraser, will work with any high school athlete, featuring personal classes, small group classes and video analysis.

Photo provided by Kelley Suggs


FRASER — He was always the fastest kid around growing up, and it was in large part to his elite-level acceleration.

His acceleration was unteachable, so it wasn’t surprising that his talent ended up turning into world records and his name ended up etched into Central Michigan University’s Hall of Fame in 2016.

Now past his professional years, Detroit native Johnie Drake is passing on his wisdom to young athletes through Johnie Drake Speed Performance, in Fraser.

“I think that’s part of my job,” Drake said. “What’s the point in having all this information if you’re not sharing it? This is a gift, and I shouldn’t be holding on to all this for only me; I think that would be selfish. I have knowledge, I have experience and I should be sharing it with these athletes. It plays a major role (in) being a mentor.”

Drake, who established his speed performance center in 2019, has developed a training regime to help any athlete for any sport in the high school, collegiate and professional ranks.

The speed programs focus on a multitude of training areas, but they start with the fundamentals of speed and acceleration.

Drake also features a National Football League and National Basketball Association Draft Combine training program that focuses on increasing 40-yard dash and 20-yard shuttle times, broad and vertical jumps, and three-cone drill.

With a technique of turning a march into a skip, a skip into a run and a run into a sprint, runners are able to establish basic, fundamental running techniques throughout the training. Drake emphasizes focusing on the different phases of running, and will even provide video analysis on the first day of training.

“They see the difference the first day, and I do that on purpose so I can show them what I can do,” Drake said. “I do a video analysis from when they first walk in and when they leave. When I show them what I corrected in just that one day, then they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re the guy.’”

Workouts also focus on linear and lateral training, deceleration, speed instruction, flexibility training and what Drake said is the most common issue with first-time athletes — acceleration.

It’s a different style and technique learning the ins and outs of the movements, and Drake said the lack of comfort is what catches athletes off guard at first.

“Understand that it’s a process and you have to get out of your own head, and then you have to trust in that process and in that new technique,” Drake said. “The biggest thing that I’m having issues with with my kids is the trust and the trust in the technique because it’s a different kind of feeling, and it almost feels like you’re running slower going through that process of technique.”

Deon Johnson, father of University of Michigan defensive back Will Johnson, first met Drake through a mutual friend.

Fast forward to the end of Johnson’s sophomore season. He started working with Drake heading into his junior year and has been with Drake since.

Deon Johnson said it’s not just because his son is comfortable with Drake as a person, but he also understands what the training has done for him.

“William (Will Johnson) will come down during the off-season and work out with him, and he’ll drive down a couple days from Ann Arbor and work with him because he believes in what he’s doing,” Johnson said.

Drake’s resume speaks for itself, being a four-time Mid-American Conference champion, a 60-meter and 100-meter record holder at Central Michigan, and, for a week, the holder of the world record in the 60-meter after he broke it in 2006 with a 6.54-second time.

Drake, a Cass Tech High School graduate, spent four years as a professional track runner, traveling around the world to compete.

Before his records, he was another track athlete trying to perfect his craft, and things didn’t seem to click until he met his speed trainer, Todd Gailliard.

While helping Drake improve on the track, Drake said Gailliard had a significant impact on him as a person and his itch to become a trainer himself as well.

“He was more philosophical; he would tap into your mind more so than anything and get you to believe,” Drake said. “That’s what I loved about him.”

Now, Drake has taken those lessons and utilized them to help his own athletes, building a relationship from day one not just focused on training, but the athletes’ lives and their thoughts.

The connection outside of the training facility is what matters most, and Drake said he prides himself on going to his athletes’ games and creating that fellowship.

“I try to build that bond with all my athletes,” Drake said. “We have multiple conversations; a lot of times, it’s just asking questions. I want to learn what they’re thinking and I want to learn what they’re feeling, and then at that point I can guide them.”

It’s a different lifestyle than the professional track career, but Drake has found himself in a position in which he thrives.

It may not be the same atmosphere or feeling as competing, but Drake said he still gets the feeling of racing through his athletes.

“I get the rush when they text me or message me when they’re excited about what they did,” Drake said. “When they’re like, ‘Coach, I did this,’ or ‘Coach, did you see me do this?’ When I get those text messages and those DMs from athletes saying, ‘Thank you coach. I did it. I ran this,’ and they’re excited, that’s when I get that adrenaline rush and I feel like what I’m doing is working.”

For more information about classes, pricing, or booking options, visit