The body of an NFL player is a finely tuned machine. Every machine, of course, needs fuel. While that usually means a great deal of lean protein and vegetables, football players are also perfectly capable of calling an audible from time to time.
Most of those changes come on game day, when many players follow specific superstitions; plenty of players can’t take the field without eating their traditional snack. Six of those ritual meals, however, are especially weird.
1. Ron Rivera’s Breakfast Ritual
Whenever the Carolina Panthers have a game, Ron Rivera’s wife, Stephanie, makes the head coach the same breakfast: cinnamon toast and ham. But that’s not her only contribution to his pregame routine. Riverboat Ron also has to eat a homemade peanut butter and oatmeal cookie before taking the field. If you’re going to have a cookie, that sounds like a healthy enough recipe!
2. Falcons kicker Matt Bryant needs a milkshake
The 44-year-old kicker has been around the NFL for a long time, but his culinary ritual dates back to 2002. As a rookie, he was impressed with the sundae bar in the New York Giants dining hall and felt the need to indulge.
“I went into this little dining hall [as a Giant] and saw a sundae station. I asked, ‘Is that for us?’ And they were like, ‘Yeah,” Bryant explained. “Then I was like, ‘Is that free?’ And they said, ‘Yeah.’ So I made me a chocolate shake. For the last 17 years, I’ve had a chocolate shake before every game.”
3. A Minnesota Viking spices things up
Vikings safety Harrison Smith likes to keep things simple before a game, eating half of a plain bagel and drinking a single cup of coffee. But then he spices things up, literally, by slamming down a shot of Tabasco sauce. Some Sundays, he forgoes food altogether, only drinking hot sauce.
“It wakes me up,” he explained. “I can’t have too much coffee or I’ll cramp up easily, but the hot sauce is mandatory.” NFL players are tough customers, but Smith must have an iron stomach.
4. Michael Dickson’s drink of choice
Seattle Seahawks punter Michael Dickson carries over one pregame tradition from his time at Texas. Before taking the field, he drinks a cup of coffee with one unusual inclusion: a shot of chocolate milk in the place of coffee creamer. While the caffeine surely helps, Dickson also enjoys his customary beverage.
“If I didn’t do it, I’d still be fine but I just like doing it,” he said.
5. The Philadelphia Eagles kicker doesn’t count calories
During his time in college, Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliot made a 56-yard field goal off the crossbar. Before taking the field that day, he ate a piece of pizza and a slice of cheesecake; to keep the momentum going, he’s eaten the same meal before every game since.
It might not be the healthiest meal for an NFL player, but how can you argue with a Super Bowl champion?
6. Don’t mess with Chris Thompson’s breakfast
Every Sunday, Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson sits down to the same breakfast: a plate of waffles, topped with blueberries, strawberries, and whipped cream, followed by an omelet stuffed with peppers, avocado, bacon, and cheese. One weekend, however, there was a problem with his order.
The hotel didn’t have any whipped cream on hand, which disrupted Thompson’s routine. “My whole mood was thrown off from there,” he recalled. “I don’t remember how I played, but I remember just being mad that morning.”