October 9, 2006

A big appetite for the opposition

Angus Reid of the B.C. Lions, consumes more than 10,000 calories in preparation for a Canadian Football League game

By Mike Beamish,
Vancouver Sun

Caloric intake comes easy for Angus Reid. Sleep does not.

When the B.C. Lions’ starting centre awoke this morning for game day against the Calgary Stampeders, he emerged from a fitful slumber, unable to flick the kill switch to the complicated circuitry firing in his head.

Though Reid weighs 300 pounds and has to consume large quantities of food to maintain his weight — “I’m really a 250-pound man trying to stay at 300” — he is very much a thinking man, constantly processing information about formations and alignments on the eve of a game.

Offensive linemen may look like large, overfed brutes, but the nuances of playing the position are extremely subtle and technical. No other members of a football team — except, perhaps the quarterbacks — spend as much time in film study, analysing scouting reports and opposition tendencies.

Depending on the play that’s called, Reid, as the centre, studies the defensive formation and calls out the blocking assignments. He has to process a lot of information quickly. Slow-witted individuals need not apply.

“The night before a game, I’m very nervous,” he says. “I don’t sleep well. I go to bed really early because I know there’ll be a lot of tossing and turning, no matter if they’re the best team in the league or the worst team in the league. I worry a lot. I want to do very well all the time. Because I’m the centre, I want to make sure I’m on top of every call.”

Thankfully, for matrimonial harmony, Reid’s wife, Izabela, has no trouble sleeping and hardly pays her husband’s obsessing any mind.

To fuel up for the game, Reid, who regularly consumed 10,000 calories a day as a collegian at Simon Fraser, sat down to a breakfast of Belgian waffles, scrambled eggs, chicken, juice, yogurt and toast.

He will have what he considers a “normal” lunch at mid-day, then he’ll buy a Subway sandwich to eat later around 3:30 p.m., when Reid arrives at B.C. Place Stadium to begin his pre-game preparations. Before then, he may sit down at his computer and work on some business — Reid runs a promotional printing company, A&D Solutions, with his dad — but he’s usually not very productive because his mind is elsewhere. “If I don’t try and fill my mind up with something else besides football, I’d go crazy,” he says.

Coach Wally Buono demands that his players arrive at least 21/2 hours before a 7 p.m. start, though Reid advances his personal schedule by an hour.

“You can’t stroll in a half hour before a game and expect to have your mind right,” he says. “It was a little more casual under Adam Rita [who preceded Buono as head coach]. Players under Wally Buono are a lot more disciplined. There were a lot of people back then who did their own thing. Wally’s very structured, very organized.”

Postgame, Reid unwinds by going out with his wife to Boston Pizza or White Spot for a bite to eat — in his case, many bites — though he might as well frequent an all-night diner. Sleep remains elusive, and it’s not just because he’s so sore that every mattress shift is done gingerly.

“I’ll probably be wide awake, lying in bed, until 6 or 7 in the morning,” Reid says. “You’re physically exhausted, but your central nervous system is still firing. If I’ve had a good game, I’ll be reviewing it. If I’ve had a poor game, I can’t get the mistakes out of my head.”

The hours of self-examination are exhausting. On top of it, offensive line coach Dan Dorazio is a stickler for details, and he could give Reid a negative grade if he fails an assignment.

Despite his fretfulness and consumption habits, Reid says he has never ingested a sleeping pill — and never will.