Top 10 Luckiest Pregame Superstitions in the NFL
NFL players can be quite the interesting bunch. They are some of the most physically gifted athletes on the planet—faster, stronger and agile than the average human. Yet there are plenty of them who seem to believe that elite physical talents alone aren't enough to achieve victory.
Many players look to gain some good old fashioned luck.
Pregame rituals and superstitions are a common practice for players, teams and coaches in the NFL and have been for much of the league's existence. Today, we're going to examine some of the best pregame practices from around the league.
We'll be looking at pregame rituals and superstitions from the league's past and present. We'll then try to identify those that seemed to actually bring a little luck along with them.
It's fine if you find superstitions to be a bit of silly business. Just don't try explaining that to these NFL players of habit.
Brian Urlacher's Cookies
Legendary Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher was known as one of the toughest and most physical linebackers in the entire league during his playing days. However, the bald bruiser did show a bit of a sweet side when it came to his pregame ritual.
Before games, Urlacher would eat chocolate chip cookies provided by former Bears trainer Tim Bream.
"Why? Because I liked them,'' Urlacher said, per Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
Plenty of professional athletes have a specific pregame meal or snack they enjoy. While cookies might not be the healthiest option available, they never seemed to slow Urlacher down on the playing field. If anything, the ritual really did seem to bring Urlacher a bit of luck—even if he didn't need it.
The New Mexico product was one of the most consistently dominant defenders in the game for a lengthy period of time. He was named to an impressive eight Pro Bowls during his playing career and finished it with 1,229 tackles, 41.5 sacks and 22 interceptions.
Emmanuel Sanders' Video Game Habit
Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders might have the most entertaining pregame superstition in the NFL—quite literally. Before a game, the Southern Methodist product likes to beat that day's opponent in a rousing game of Madden.
Perhaps a little video game success helps Sander visualize besting his opponent on the field. Perhaps he feels that beating his looming opponent digitally will bring a little luck to the real game at hand. Either way, Sanders' pregame ritual seems to work.
On the field, Sanders has found plenty of real-life success.
Sanders has gone from a relatively unheralded third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers to being a star NFL receiver and Super Bowl champion in six NFL seasons. He has produced 4,569 yards receiving and 26 touchdowns with the Steelers and Broncos and has made one Pro Bowl appearance.
Luke Kuechly's Ritual Dining
There are more than a few NFL players who rely on a lucky pregame meal before contests, and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly is one of them.
The star defender has a habit of eating at local chicken joint the Roasting Company. The superstitious nature of this ritual seemed to be confirmed when the Panthers lost their only regular-season game of the year against the Atlanta Falcons.
According to Ely Portillo of the Charlotte Observer, Kuechly missed his ritual meal the week of the loss.
“He was going to make sure he ate at the Roasting Company next time,” Roasting Company owner Doug Bell said of Kuechly, per Portillo.
Kuechly even had a bottle of the eatery's special sauce sent to him to consume before Super Bowl 50. Unfortunately for Kuechly, mere sauce didn't prove as lucky as a real Roasting Company meal.
The Panthers lost in the big game, 24-10.
Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/nfl/carolina-panthers/panther-tracks/article58151573.html#storylink=cpy
Tom Brady Wants His Receivers Blinded by the Light
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is definitely a creature of habit. In fact, he might really be part football machine.
As Greg Bishop of SI.com explained a couple of years ago in an article, Brady's daily schedule—including workouts, film study and rest—is mapped out literally years in advance.
However, not all of Brady's habits are quite as robotic—and no, we're not talking about that alleged pregame ritual.
One of his more intriguing pregame rituals involves taking his wide receivers to a certain spot on the game field for some throwing and catching work.
According to Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal, Brady takes his receivers to a spot on the field where the sun will be in their eyes during afternoon games. Brady seems to like to prepare his pass-catchers for a little game-day adversity by forcing them to stare into the sun when looking for passes.
Brady, of course, wants even his team's imperfections to be perfect. Though this seems like a rather quirky pregame ritual for such a grounded quarterback, it's hard to argue that Brady doesn't get the most out of his receivers.
Maybe his demanding pregame routine carries a little luck into New England. He has helped deliver six Super Bowl appearances and four victories during his time with the Patriots.
Cam Newton's Special Shoes
Legendary player Deion Sanders often stresses the importance of fashion in the NFL.
"You look good, you feel good. You feel good, you play good," he likes to say.
Apparently, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton likes to look good as part of his pregame ritual.
"One thing I look for is having pregame shoe," Newton explained a couple years back during a Q&A session with ESPN.com. "Under Armour makes a pregame shoe that I can't wear during the game, but the color schemes are amazing. That's been cool and one of the things I look forward to."
Newton wore gold "MVP" cleats during his warm-up for Super Bowl 50.
While Newton's super shoes might have had their luck run out during the big game, the attitude they bring him has definitely paid off in his career. Newton has developed into one of the league's top quarterbacks over the past few seasons.
Newton has passed for more than 18,000 yards in his five seasons and has three Pro Bowls on his resume in addition to a league MVP award.
Curtis Martin Read the Bible
Curtis Martin finished his playing career as one of the most prolific players in New York Jets history. Martin joined the Jets after spending three years with the Patriots, and he finished his career with more than 14,000 yards rushing.
If any of the five-time Pro Bowler's success can be attributed to luck, it may have come from his pregame ritual.
Before every game, Martin would read the Bible's Psalm 91.
The superstitious practice probably calmed Martin before taking the playing field. Psalm 91 speaks of finding a fortress in faith and of fighting fear. Martin was definitely one of the most fearless running backs on the field in his heyday.
Martin is currently fourth on the NFL's all-time rushing list.
John Henderson's Face Slap
Former Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders defensive tackle John Henderson might have one of the most notorious pregame superstitions of all time—and it's a bit more violent than Martin's.
Before games, the mammoth defender would have a trainer slap him in the face in order to get him fired up for action. Henderson didn't ask for light slaps either. Henderson might have believed that getting his first hit of the day was good luck, or perhaps he just liked to get the blood pumping before taking the field.
If the tactic was meant to bring out the mean streak in the defender, it seemed to work.
Henderson was, for a time, one of the most dominant defensive linemen in all of football. He finished his playing career with an impressive 489 tackles, 29.0 sacks and 45 passes defended. He was also named to two Pro Bowls.
Marshwn Lynch and Skittles
Recently retired running back Marshawn Lynch may have had the most prolific pregame ritual in recent league history. His Skittles habit created a genuine phenomenon among Seattle Seahawks fans and helped bring a little personality to an NFL character who let his play do most of his talking.
Though Seahawks fans often tossed Skittles to Lynch after he found the end zone, the running back's mother explained that Skittles were actually a pregame ritual that dated back to Lynch's childhood.
Delisa Lynch, per the Seahawks official website:
When Marshawn was 12 or 13, we’d go to his games and I’d always have little candies in my purse. Before the game, I would say, ‘Here Marshawn, come and get you power pellets.' I would give him a handful of Skittles and say, ‘Eat ’em up, baby. They’re going to make you run fast and they’re going to make you play good.'
Perhaps a few handfuls of pregame Skittles really did give Lynch a psychological edge during his playing days. If so, it's hard not to consider them lucky. For a time, Lynch was known as one of the league's most physical and most feared backs, and it really did seem like his favorite snack had power-inducing qualities.
Lynch finished his playing career with 9,112 yards rushing and 74 rushing touchdowns. He also played an instrumental role in delivering Seattle its first Lombardi Trophy.
Peyton Manning Liked to Sleep
Peyton Manning retired after a walk-off Super Bowl win and one of the greatest careers of any NFL quarterback. The former Indianapolis Colts and Broncos great was known as one of the most attention-driven and tedious workers in the NFL.
However, Manning's regular pregame schedule did include a portion of surprising laziness. It seems the legendary signal-caller liked to pass the time in bed.
“Hopefully I’ll sleep in,” Manning explained, per Mike Klis of the Denver Post. “It ends up being a little bit of a longer day and you can shorten the time before the game by being asleep.”
Manning's desire to rack up extra Zs like touchdown passes might seem a bit odd since the guy seemed to live for football Sundays. However, all that extra sleep may have helped lead to Manning's cerebral success on the field.
Either that, or Manning's ritual stays in dreamland came packaged with a bit of luck.
As you're probably well aware, Manning finished his 18-year career as one of the most prolific passers in league history. He racked up 71,940 yards through the air, 539 passing touchdowns and two Super Bowl victories.
Oh, and slew of surprisingly entertaining television commercials.
Odell Beckham Jr. and His One-Handed Catches
New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is known primarily for two things, aside from being a very good receiver—his trademark hair and his ability to secure insane one-handed catches.
Beckham's ability to make ridiculous catches, it seems, comes from a bit of pregame practice.
Beckham, you see, has made practicing tough catches a regular pregame ritual, which probably helps his confidence as much as his level of luck. This unique practice allows the former LSU star to go into every game knowing that if he needs to bring down a pass with one hand, he can.
It's impossible to argue with the results. Beckham has risen to the rank of elite receiver in just two professional seasons. He has 2,755 yards and 25 touchdowns in just 27 NFL games and has been named to the Pro Bowl in both years of his NFL career so far.
Perhaps the Giants are the truly lucky ones for landing the potent pass-catcher with the 12th overall pick in the 2014 draft.