Superstitions out the window. Rituals to the wayside. Give wide receiver Chris Chambers a few tunes, a nice shoe selection and some time to visualize his game— he’s ready to go.
Interview by: Rachel Trem
STACK: Toward the end of the week, as the game approaches, what do you think about?
CC: By Friday, I like to get away from the game a little bit. By that time, our plays are in, we’ve cleaned them up, executed everything and we’re prepared, so I’m ready to get away from it.
CC: Maybe go watch a movie and have some dinner. And on Fridays, I like to get most of my rest. I can’t really rest on Saturday, because I’m up thinking about the game. I doze off, but I don’t get much rest.
STACK: What are your Saturdays like?
CC: We come in and watch films. And then we get away a little bit again. When I get back home or to the hotel on Saturday night, I watch more films and prepare for the game. That’s really when I move into game mode and start getting excited.
STACK: Excited. What’s that feel like to you?
CC: I get the jitters—the nervous jitters. Once I feel them, everything happens so fast. I wake up on Sunday and the next thing I know, I’m on the field—actually playing. And you just feel it from there.
STACK: When you’re back home or at the hotel on Saturday, do you have any particular routine?
CC: We have a meeting pretty late—about 8:30—and we’re done around 9:00. Then we have to wake up about 8:00 the next day, so I just go back to my room and finish watching whatever college game is on. I’m a big college fan. So I just watch that to take my mind off tomorrow’s game, because we already went through meetings and all that. So I just rest my mind, watch some college football and try to fall asleep from there.
STACK: Is there a specific food or meal you make sure to eat the day or night before a game?
CC: No specific meal, but I try to get a lot of carbs in a couple of days before a game, like on Fridays. I’ve been eating a lot better this year, because I hired a nutritionist chef. It’s really making a difference; I have a lot more energy when I’m practicing and playing.
STACK: Take us through your pre-game ritual starting when you wake up.
CC: All of our games are day games—no primetime, which is a little different, because the day is longer with a lot of time to kill. So for normal day games, I get up and go to the meeting if we have one. If there’s no meeting, I wake up at whatever time, and then, you know, eat breakfast. I try to take the track athlete approach, so it’s usually some type of protein, eggs, pancakes, a little fruit—kind of a light breakfast. Actually, I listen to a little bit of music when I’m at my house—I turn my stereo up. Then, I take a shower and get myself ready to go to the stadium. I don’t like to get there early.
STACK: Why not?
CC: I don’t know. I just like to get there and get on the field and let’s go. Some people need to get there early to warm up. I have two different ways. With home games—because it’s so hot and humid—I try not to go outside before the game. The heat beating on me drains my energy. But when I’m away, I get to the stadium and go on their field for a while. I warm up, get used to the stadium’s surroundings and see how the field is—the surface and everything. I run around for a little bit, get my heart rate up, get warm and then go back in.
By the time I come back in, it’s pretty much time to get dressed. So I get me a really good stretch—have one of the trainers stretch me—and from there I put on my clothes. I always get dressed at the last second. Some guys dress hours before the game, but I wait until the last 15 to 20 minutes before we have to be out there—that’s when I start putting on my gear and getting everything together. I have to have my towel placed a certain way, and there’s always little things I have to do before the game—you know, taping my shoe or whatever. I’m always listening to a little bit of music in my headphones, too.
STACK: What kind of music are you listening to?
CC: Oh, man. A little bit of everything. I like listening to soul stuff like Common and I like rap stuff. It depends on what’s hot that week, because I make myself a CD.
STACK: Each week you make a new CD?
CC: It’s like every two to three weeks—when there is a new song I like. A song I like right now is Soul Survivor, by Akon and Young Jeezy. I’ve been listening to that the last couple of weeks to really get me going. Stuff like that gets me going—songs that mean you’re out there by yourself, it’s up to you to get it done, you gotta be the man. There is no one song in particular I have to listen to every single time, though. Like I said, I like a lot of different music.
STACK: You said you keep your towel one way and tape your shoe another. Is there anything else you have to do?
CC: One thing. When I bring my gear in, I probably bring four or five different pairs of shoes, because I don’t know which pair I want to wear. I have to look a certain way. If I don’t feel like I look good, I don’t play good. I’m telling you, it’s happened before. So there is no one specific thing, but I’m really big on my shoes and my gloves.
STACK: You’re two minutes from game time; what are you feeling and trying to focus on?
CC: You know what? It goes so fast, man. Once we all come out of the locker room, it seems like we’re playing the next second. So, I’m really concentrating on the first play. That’s what I’m really thinking about. I think about the initial play because I want to start well. I’m visualizing how I’m going to run the first play, or what I’m going to do when the ball comes to me. It is very important for me to start out fast and get involved in the game. That’s probably what I think about the most.
STACK: Is visualization a big part of your preparation?
CC: Yes, I actually do it throughout the whole week, especially once we’re practicing plays and I know the exact game plan. I set some time aside. Like I’ll get in the tub and soak my body for five or ten minutes and think about the plays I’m going to make. Sometimes I actually play the game in my head. I’ll visualize myself playing very well. Then, I get out, stretch and get into bed. But visualization is a big part of my game plan.
STACK: When did you start practicing that?
CC: I did it in college, but when I got in the NFL I had a coach who was really big on visualization. A couple of days before the game, he would actually have us all sit in the room with our heads down, and he would make up plays. He’d stand in front of everybody, and say, “Number 84 gets the ball on the 20, makes someone miss, breaks outside, crosses the 30, 35, 40—he crosses midfield and breaks it. Nobody’s gonna catch him.” Then sometimes we’d sit there with our eyes closed and visualize running our routes, catching the ball and making perfect plays.
STACK: You were a three-sport athlete in high school. Do you have any final thoughts you want to leave with our readers?
CC: I coach high school camps in Cleveland every year. And I always hear the athletes out there talking about rims, cars, jewelry, girls. I tell them they don’t need that. Once you get to college and beyond, you’ll have everything you need. But for now, focus on your grades and doing well.
I also tell them not to get hung up on playing one position. Everyone likes to score in high school, but don’t limit yourself to glory positions. Train to be good at many positions.
Playing more than one sport is important, too—especially track. Track helps build your speed and strength. Everything you use in track you use in football. Why wouldn’t you want to work on getting stronger and faster? Why wouldn’t you want to build your conditioning level? Track also improves your level of concentration and ability to go head-to-head with someone, because that’s what track is—head-to-head competition. Playing more than one sport also teaches you to balance your grades with sports and to be a better teammate.