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October 17, 2012

Time and Change: Pre-game routines

Follow Noon | Givler | Axelrod | Birmingham

The "Time and Change" series has focused on many of the past Buckeye greats and elements that they believe have changed within the NCAA and the Ohio State football program. These topics are not limited to things that include style of play, the size and speed of today's players, new styles of play, proliferation of the media, texting, internet and changes of NCAA rules.

In this installment of "Time and Change" we will explore the Friday and Saturday morning pre-game routine of the Buckeyes.

During my days as a Buckeye, our Friday routine for home games included attending daily classes, catching the team bus to the Biggs North Facility, position meetings, a team meeting, practice in sweat suits covering all the special teams, (Kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, punt block, onside kick, 'hands team', P.A.T. and field goal).

We would then shower, dress in a suit and tie and head off as a team to the main dining room of the Ohio State University Scarlet and Gray Golf Club. It was there that we had a terrific Friday pre-game meal including the legendary pecan caramel rolls, salad and filet mignon.

I will never forget Keith Ferguson eating as many as six filet mignons, with his own preference of butterscotch syrup. This memory comes embarrassingly from the same person who ate 10 and a half pounds of prime rib at Lawry's days before the 1980 Rose Bowl.

We would then board the bus and it was out to a Columbus-area movie theatre for a private showing of a currently movie. After the movie, it was back on the bus to a local Columbus hotel, a different hotel each week, where we would have position meetings and then move on to our rooms for the night. There was a bed check for you and your roommate, always accompanied with an apple, chocolate chip cookie and cup of cocoa. Then lights were out at 10 p.m.

Game day morning we had reveille at 6 a.m., back into our suites and ties, ankles taped at 6:30, a team walk, team prayer and team breakfast, then boarding the bus for the stadium.

The first and second team offense (Red Ones and Red Twos) would be on one bus, while the first and second team defense (the Bucks and the Bombers) would be on another. We would have a police escort leading us to the stadium.

On the way the starting quarterback Art Schlichter and his backup, Greg Castignola, would lead us in a play call and snap count calibration drill. They would call out the signals and we would clap in unity, simulating the way we would "come off the ball", crisply and cohesively. This entire game day morning was quite the schedule and Woody and Earle managed it to the minute.

Today, the Buckeye players have a similar Friday and Saturday schedule, but it is also quite different and in my opinion much more efficient.

Friday remains largely unchanged in many regards with the players still attending Friday classes, catching the team bus to the Woody Hayes Athletic Complex, attending position and team meetings, practice in sweat suits and leaving as a team for the Ohio State University Scarlet and Gray Golf Club.

Team nutritionist Sarah Wick shared with me recently that the team still enjoys the traditional Friday evening pre-game meal, but it is more conservative than in the past.

"We try to make everything as healthy and efficient as possible," Wick said, "But we're between a rock and a hard place when it comes to nutrition on Friday night.

"The Friday meal is very traditional and many of the players have the attitude that 'this is what we do. This helps us win,'" Wick added. "There is a tremendous amount of bonding and camaraderie and those minds are a very strong muscle too. We still have the traditional caramel pecan rolls and filet mignon, but the players are limited to two servings. We also have what we call 'football chicken' which is a lightly breaded chicken breast and certainly plenty of fruit and vegetables. I would say that 95-percent of the players eat plenty of fruit and vegetables."

Between meal snacks have also been supervised and enhanced since Sarah began this year as the team sports nutritionist.

"These players burn an incredible amount of calories," Wick said. "So, we now have what we call 'fuel stations', which are stocked with plenty of fruit, bananas, protein/energy bars and Gatorade. Our goal is to have healthful snacks within arm's reach at all times; in the locker room, meeting rooms and even the hallways at the Woody Hayes center."

The Saturday pre-game breakfast has changed for the current Buckeyes as well. During my playing days under Woody Hayes we had a breakfast of spaghetti and pancakes and that changed to a small breakfast steak, eggs and hash browns when Earle Bruce was head coach.

Today, the main entrée is spaghetti and chicken, but the players can also have their choice of cereal, grits, oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, French Toast, turkey bacon and plenty of fruit and Gatorade.

"On game day morning, we try to keep things as low fat as possible," Wick said. "We even have fueling stations of fruit, energy bars and Gatorade in the locker room pregame to ensure they are properly fed and energized."

The current Buckeye team experiences other elements of their pre-game routine differently than in the past. The team now stays at the Blackwell Hotel on campus, across from the stadium, so there is no need for a bus ride. The play call and snap count calibration is held in a meeting room instead of on a ride over.

The team walk, now called the "Victory" walk by many, is conducted on the way from the Blackwell to the stadium. During that walk they pass through the TBDBITL's Skull Session in St. John Arena, where they pause long enough for one pre-selected player to address the crowd, followed by some inspirational words from Urban Meyer. The band plays for the team and it is truly my belief that if you don't have goose bumps or a tear in your eye after that, you might want to check your pulse and head for University Hospital.

Once at Ohio Stadium the Buckeyes are taped, conduct pregame warm ups, have position and team meetings and it's on the another win in front of 106,000 screaming fans.

And with that, some things never change.





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