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    As any football fan knows, game day is a serious affair. Players spend hours preparing their bodies and minds for the task. NFL football players are some of the biggest superstars in the world, and as such, they have some pretty strange rituals when preparing for their big games. While some might see these rituals as odd, there’s no doubt they work for the players performing them. 

    As the saying goes, “There’s no such thing as too much preparation.” After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn, File)

    Harrison Smith

    Harrison Smith is a man of many talents. Not only is he a Pro Bowl-caliber safety, but he’s also an excellent breakfast connoisseur. His pregame meal of choice? A cup of coffee, half a plain bagel, and a shot of Tabasco sauce. That’s right – the man likes his hot sauce and is not afraid to down a healthy-sized shot of it before taking the field. 

    Some might say that skipping actual sustenance in favor of hot sauce is a bit unusual, but Smith knows what works for him. After all, it’s not like he has to worry about working up an appetite before games – the adrenaline rush of competition is more than enough to get his stomach growling. So if you’re ever looking for a pregame meal that will get you fired up, Harrison Smith has got you covered. Just don’t forget Tabasco.

    (AP Photo/Phil Coale)

    John Henderson

    The defensive tackle for the Jacksonville Jaguars is known for his love of getting slapped in the face by his trainer, and it seems to do the trick for him. He claims the pain helps him get pumped up for the game. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there’s no denying that it’s an effective way to get psyched up for competition. Of course, it’s not all fun and games. The trainer looks like he’s in pain, too, and there’s always the risk that Henderson might take out his aggression on him.

    Football is brutal, and anything that can help you get an edge on your opponents is worth considering… maybe. You have to wonder… how long can they keep this up? Someone is going to get hurt. Or worse, they might start enjoying it too much.

    (AP Photo/Steve Luciano)

    Benardrick McKinney 

    For many people, getting dressed is a simple matter of putting on whatever clothes are clean and presentable. But for Houston Texans linebacker Benardrick McKinney, the process is a bit more complicated. As he told ESPN, “I have to put everything on the left first. My left sock has to go on before my right sock. My left shoe has to go on before my right shoe. If not, I feel like it’s bad luck.” 

    While McKinney’s superstition may seem excessive to some, it clearly works for him.

    (AP Photo/ Jeffrey T. Barnes)

    Emmanuel Sanders

    Emmanuel Sanders might have the most entertaining pregame superstition on any NFL team—quite literally. Before every Pittsburgh Steelers game, the Denver Broncos wide receiver likes to beat that day’s opponent in an exciting game of Madden. Pre-game rituals are all about finding what works for you—and what helps you get in the zone come game time.

    Perhaps a video game success helps Sander visualize beating his opponent on the gridiron. For Sanders, it looks like playing some Madden is just the ticket; the wide receiver has been a Super Bowl champ in a rousing six seasons.

    (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun, File)

    Michael Strahan

    For Michael Strahan, part of that preparation involved talking to his socks. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Strahan explained that he would ask his socks which foot they wanted to be on that day. Strahan clarified that he didn’t do this out loud because his teammates would’ve thought he was nuts; he did it silently in his head. 

    He is quoted as saying, “I had to listen to the socks, I had to.” While it may seem like a strange ritual, Strahan credits it with helping him to lead such a successful fifteen years with the New York Giants. 

    (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

    Ron Rivera

    While Rivera isn’t an NFL player (he is the former head coach of the Panthers), his pre-game ritual deserves mention for being one of the most wholesome pre-game routines in the NFL. In a world of Gatorade showers and costly end-zone celebrations, it’s refreshing to see a wholesome pregame ritual like this one. 

    Former Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera begins his day with a homemade cookie from his wife Stephanie every game day. She also cooks him a breakfast of cinnamon toast and ham – talk about a power meal! Rivera credits his wife’s delicious cookies as being the secret to his success on the field, and we have to say, we’re inclined to believe him. After all, who doesn’t perform better after eating a homemade cookie?

    (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

    Taybor Pepper

    Taybor Pepper is one of the best long-snappers in the league, and he credit’s his success to his strict nail-care regimen. Pepper carefully cuts his fingernails to precisely the right length two days before every game. He says that this gives him the best grip on the ball and helps avoid accidental finger injuries. And so far, it seems to be working. Over the past two seasons, Pepper has been one of the most accurate long-snappers in the league. So if you’re looking for the secret to success, don’t underestimate the power of a good manicure.

    (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

    Eli Manning 

    For New York Giants former quarterback Eli Manning, his lucky charm was a specific T-shirt he wore during every regular season game. Don’t worry… the shirt does see a trip to the laundry after each game. Each season Manning was very careful about which t-shirt he chose before the season began. During the preseason, he sorted through dozens of potential candidates before making his final selection. 

    While some might say that this is all a bit much, there’s no denying that the T-shirt has brought Manning good luck over the years. After all, he’s led the Giants to two Super Bowl wins (2008 and 2012) while wearing it. 

    (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

    Frank Gore

    Frank Gore was a damn successful running back for the San Francisco 49ers, and some people might say that his pre-game ritual is the reason for his success. He holds the rank of third most career rushing yards in the NFL. Gore always listened to two Michael Jackson songs before every football  game, and these two songs are ‘Bad’ and ‘Man in the Mirror.’ 

    Some people might think that listening to these songs would get him warmed up for the game, but the truth is that Gore mostly just listened to the rhythm of the music and not the lyrics. Maybe the pumping bass of ‘Bad’ got him pumped up for the game, or maybe the message of ‘Man in the Mirror’ inspired him to be his best. Either way, it seems like Gore found a winning formula!

    (Steve Luciano/AP Images for NFL)

    Jake Elliott 

    Jake Elliott might not be the most superstitious player in the NFL, but he does have one quirky pre-game ritual that he strictly follows. Elliott has a slice each of pizza and cheesecake before his games. According to Elliott, the ritual started during his college football career after he made a 56-yard field goal to beat South Florida. He was looking for some karmic meaning behind the kick and decided that it must have been because of the slice of pizza and cheesecake he had eaten the night before. 

    There’s no word on whether or not the Eagles organization approves of Elliott’s pre-game meal, but as long as he keeps making kicks like an MVP, they probably don’t mind too much.

    Kick Off Your NFL Season With RunYourPool

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    Whether you’re a diehard fan or just in it for the social aspect, there’s nothing like an NFL pool to make watching the games more enjoyable. And there’s no better place to set up your pool than RunYourPool. We make it easy to get started, and our user-friendly interface makes it even easier to keep track of your picks and standings. Plus, the fun doesn’t end with the NFL… RunYourPool has pools for various sports, from the NHL to the NBA to the MLB. 


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    About Author

    Matt K

    Matt is the Social Media Manager at RYP and currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts. He has experience managing social media accounts with agencies, small brands, and large companies. He’s a diehard New England sports fanatic, and if he’s not watching the Celtics, he can be found roaming around Boston discovering all that the city has to offer.

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