November 24, 2012

Pre-game routines vary amongst Grey Cup combatants

Adam Gagnon/

As much as they want to make it like any other game, playing in the 100th Grey Cup Sunday will be the biggest sports moment in the life of many players.

Those players will try to prepare the same as always, keep the routines familiar and try not to do anything out of the ordinary. At the same time most know there is nothing ordinary about playing for the CFL championship.

The Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts held their final walk-throughs Saturday. Everyone seemed loose, relaxed. There was lots of laughing and posing for pictures. The Stampeder offensive line played their traditional game of bocce.

Many players spend the night before the big game watching game film and making notes.

“I like to sit down, put my feet up,” said Stampeder defensive lineman Corey Mace. “I do what I do best and that’s just be a lazy big guy.

“I go over last-minute things. See if I can pick up any tendencies, really knit pick. We watch a lot of film during the week but I try to go over some things that I notice, then share with the fellows the day of the game.”

Toronto placekicker Swayze Waters critiques himself.

“I’ll go over some film from the last couple of weeks,” he said. “I will see my tendencies, see what I did to make some great kicks. If I missed, what did I do wrong.

Belli’s Pre-Game Prep

“I try not to think about football until I get to the stadium. I will read a romance novel, curl up by the fire. Have some cookies and milk.”

Argos defensive tackle Adriano Belli

“I will make some notes to tap two or three things I need to focus on.”

Other players prefer to put football out of their mind.

“I try to stop watching film,” said Stampeder linebacker Juwan Simpson. “At a certain time you get over whelmed. To me it’s a time to sit back, relax, stay off my feet. Kind of just let things take care of itself.”

The Toronto offensive line likes heading out to a meal the night before a game.

“All our rituals as an O-line usually revolve around food and some kind of consumption,” said centre Jeff Keeping. “A bunch of the O-line guys will go for dinner, fill our bellies.

“Then it’s back to the hotel, watch a little game film, go over my notes  . . . fall asleep with the TV running.”

Playing video games is one way to pass time.

“I definitely have my selection of games that I like to play,” said Stampeder running back Jon Cornish, who was voted the CFL’s top Canadian. “They’re pretty football related.”

Calgary slotback Nik Lewis likes to watch the TV program Duck Dynasty, about a Louisiana bayou family that has become multimillionaire making duck calls. It’s also a favourite of Waters and his roommate running back Chad Kackert.

“It’s a great show,” chuckled Waters.

Calgary receiver Marquay McDaniel watches football movies like Any Given Sunday and Remember the Titans.

“Just a good movie that gets you in the warrior mode for the next day,” he said.

Toronto linebacker Brandon Isaac goes for something like Troy, Gladiator or Spartacus.

“Anything that has fighting and a combat type of thing, I’m into it” said Isaac.

Eccentric Argo defensive tackle Adriano Belli enjoys a good book.

“I try not to think about football until I get to the stadium,” he said. “I will read a romance novel, curl up by the fire. Have some cookies and milk.”


John Hufnagel, the Stampeders’ coach and general manager, also keeps things mellow.

“I go out with my family, have a nice dinner, have a 9 p.m. meeting with my players and go to bed,” he said.

Game day produces its own special routines and superstitions.

Calgary defensive lineman Charleston Hughes will eat a big, early breakfast of pancakes, an omelette, potatoes, toast and green tea. He won’t eat again until after the game, even though it’s a 6 p.m. start locally.

“Every time I’ve eaten within four to five hours of a game I’ve puked everything up,” he explained.

Toronto defensive back Ahmad Carroll likes to take a bath in rubbing alcohol and Epsom salts. He then calls his brother in Georgia.

Calgary punter Rob Maver gets to the stadium early.

“I will walk around and take everything in,” he said. “I drop the ball around, hit a few kicks.”

Depending on his mood, Mace might listen to music.

“Sometimes I’m in a music mood, sometimes I’m not,” he said. “I don’t know what is going to happen. I just go with what my body is telling me.

“Sometimes I need to amp up. Sometimes I’m really too amped.”

Keeping isn’t superstitious but keeps an eye on the players that are.

“My only superstition is to make sure they do the same things they have been doing that has been bringing us success,” he said.

Cornish has a routine he follows before kickoff.

“I wouldn’t call it a ritual,” he said. “I have a routine and a list of things I do. It’s really just to get myself in a football mindset.

“Really I can remove any single one of those things. I like doing the things I have been doing for 10 years.”

Cornish wouldn’t elaborate on what the routine entails.

Waters learned to keep tabs on his helmet during the Argonauts’ 27-20 win over Montreal in last week’s East Final.

“I always keep my helmet by the kicking net,” he said. “Last week, until half time, I had it on the table.

“After half time (with Toronto trailing 17-10) I remembered I to keep it by the kicking net. I’m not superstitious, but I will have my helmet by the net tomorrow.”

Kackert said the enormity of Grey Cup creates superstitions.

“You will see things that come up that maybe aren’t your normal routine,” he said. “You think, should I do that? Then you realize it just comes down to what you do on the field.

“As long as you have both shoes on and your helmet I think w