Drinking Earl Grey tea. Eating a large plate of spaghetti. Listening to rap and hip-hop music to pump up or calm down. Saying a few prayers — even for the opposition.
Those are a few of the pregame rituals for some of the Chiefs as they head to Foxboro, Mass., to take on the New England Patriots on Saturday in the next round of the NFL playoffs.
During a recent spin through the Chiefs’ locker room, running back Charcandrick West said he likes to eat a cheeseburger he cooks at home the night before a game. But the food changes when game day rolls around.
“I eat Skittles before the game,” West admitted. “I’m a big sweets guy. It’s that and Sour Ropes.”
West has another ritual once he goes onto the field for pregame warmups.
“I like to spend a little time with the fans and take pictures,” he said. “They take time out of their day to come and show us love, and I want to show them appreciation and let them know I care about them.”
Offensive lineman Donald Stephenson has a pregame ritual that he’s been following since his freshman season at the University of Oklahoma.
“I always eat spaghetti and a lot of carbs,” Stephenson said. “And I drink a lot of Gatorade.”
The 6-foot-6, 300-plus-pound outside linebacker is also into music.
“I’m a huge music fan. I really like rap,” said Stephenson, naming favorite artists that include Kendrick Lamar and Biggie Smalls.
Stephenson doesn’t have a predetermined set list — he prefers to let things “flow.”
“Before the game, if I don’t feel I’m jacked up enough, I choose something to get pumped up. … But if I have to calm down, I’ll listen to more mellow music.”
As for Stephenson’s musical selections for this weekend’s game against the Patriots, he said, “When I wake up (Saturday) I’ll see how I feel.”
Punter Dustin Colquitt has a detailed routine he follows beginning the day before a game.
“I spend a lot of time with our snapper and kicker,” said Colquitt. “Then we’ll go down and have ice cream together.”
On game day, Colquitt starts in again.
“I try to sleep as late as I can,” he said. “I set my cellphone with an alarm, but I unplug all the other phones.”
Then begins Colquitt’s tea regimen.
“I will drink Earl Grey tea, eat four eggs over medium over a bed of rice and bacon,” Colquitt said.
He says former Chiefs tight end Anthony Fasano, who now plays for the Tennessee Titans, introduced him to the meal.
“It’s tough to eat before a game,” Colquitt said. “His method is good for getting enough to eat but not too much.”
When it’s time to go to the stadium, Colquitt always rides on the team’s second bus and puts on headphones.
“I listen to Kenny Chesney, Jack Johnson and Jimmy Buffett,” he said. “It gets my mind going — not too high or too low.”
All the while, Colquitt is still downing Earl Grey tea — served hot with nothing added.
“I’m a purist,” he said with a laugh.
Some players don’t have a routine established. Not yet, anyway.
Offensive lineman Jarrod Pughsley had a few rituals he followed in college at Akron.
“At breakfast one day, one of the guys spilled the salt, and someone threw it over their shoulder to avoid bad luck,” Pughsley said. “After that I started throwing salt over my shoulder, and we started to win, so I kept it up.”
Pughsley doesn’t do the salt thing anymore.
“I haven’t been able to get into the groove here (with the Chiefs),” he said. “I just go with the flow.”
Kicker Carlos Santos, a native of Brazil, has his own pattern for game day.
“I like to eat about four hours before the game and take a shower right before we head out to the stadium,” Santos said. “I also listen to music to clear my mind.”
On Santos’ music list is the punk rock group Blink-182.
“They’ve been a favorite since I started playing guitar when I was 11,” Santos said.
If there’s one thing that several players have in common before kickoff, it’s communicating with family members.
“My mom always sends me a text message that says, ‘Burn your cleats and not your soul,’ just before the game,” West said. “She ‘s been doing that before every game since high school.”
Santos also connects with his mother and sister, who live in Brazil, and his father, who resides in Los Angeles.
“I kind of wait for that and respond,” he said.
Colquitt speaks with his wife before each game and has been doing so throughout his Chiefs career.
“I go into a hallway or a closet, and I call my wife and say a prayer,” Colquitt said. “My wife has an eloquent way of saying a prayer. We always say a prayer for the safety of the other team.
“Last week my 9-year-old son Brinkley heard us praying and said, ‘Dad, you forgot to pray for J.J. Watt’s hand,’ so we added that too,” Colquitt said, referring to the Houston Texans defensive end, who suffered a broken hand in December.
Colquitt also calls his mom and dad, Craig Colquitt, who was a punter for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Dustin’s last communication before taking the field is texting his brother, Britton, the Denver Broncos’ punter.
“I send him a message and tell him to kick high,” he said.