While most professional athletes follow a strict diet, everyone does things a bit differently. Tom Brady famously avoids dairy, carbs, and strawberries; Steph Curry pounds popcorn and pasta, while LeBron James has been known to indulge at breakfast. Then there’s Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Last season, Jackson burst onto the national stage, leading the Ravens to the top seed in the AFC and taking home the NFL MVP award. Before he hit the field, though, he had to eat one specific meal.
Lamar Jackson’s breakout 2019 season
Every NFL season, a handful of players emerge as stars. Last year, no one shone more brightly than Lamar Jackson.
Jackson’s road to the top, however, started in Florida, where he cut his teeth as a high school quarterback. Thanks to his mother and a promise from Bobby Petrino, he then headed to Louisville; Jackson would win the Heisman Trophy during his second season with the Cardinals and headed to the NFL after his junior campaign.
Despite his talent, concerns remained about Jackson’s ability to run an NFL offense; consequently, he slipped to the end of the first round. The Baltimore Ravens took a chance on the quarterback, however, and slotted him in behind Joe Flacco. When the veteran went down injured, everything would change.
Jackson started eight games in 2018, and, when the 2019 season began, he remained under center. The Ravens turned into the team to beat—at least until the playoffs—and their dual-threat quarterback was at the center of their success. He finished the season with 3,127 passing yards, 1206 rushing yards, and 40 total touchdowns; while Baltimore came up short in the postseason, Jackson also finished the season by unanimously claiming the NFL MVP title.
Shrimp Alfredo is the key to success
In the NFL, success consists of much more than showing up on Sunday and playing well. Beyond his film study and team meetings, however, Lamar Jackson needs one specific meal during his pregame preparation.
“Shrimp Alfredo, that’s my meal before the game,” the quarterback told CNBC. While the meal provides a psychological boost and maybe a bit of luck—Jackson has ritually eaten it since high school—it also may give him a more tangible benefit. “They say [pasta] helps your brain,” he continued. “I feel like I go out with a level head and I can think [thanks to the meal.]”
While carb-loading is most commonly associated with endurance athletes like marathon runners, eating pasta could help Jackson’s performance on the football field. Glycogen keeps your muscles going during long periods of exertion; if you’re low on energy and feel like you’re crashing, you’re not going to make good decisions.
It’s probably not ideal to eat that pasta coated with butter and cream, before taking the field, but everything seems to be working out for Lamar Jackson.
Lamar Jackson will be under pressure in 2020
Last season, Lamar Jackson burst onto the scene as an NFL star. This year, however, will be an even tougher test; the quarterback better not stop eating his shrimp Alfredo.
In 2019, the Ravens were supposed to be a solid, if unremarkable, squad; similarly, Jackson wasn’t supposed to be anything special. To some extent, they took the league by storm. Even if you studied Jackson’s game tape and Greg Roman’s offensive tendencies, you probably would have expected them to run all over the NFL.
This season, however, the secret is out. Opposing defenses will take the field ready to follow the Tennessee Titans’ gameplan, clogging up the interior and daring Jackson to throw toward the sidelines. It will be up to the Ravens—and their quarterback in particular—to show that last year wasn’t a fluke.
When the season begins, however, Lamar Jackson will have some advantages. Regardless of what the critics might say, he’s an incredibly talented quarterback; on paper, the Ravens also have a pretty easy schedule. And, if all else fails, he always has shrimp Alfredo to give him a boost.