Former NFL defensive tackle John Henderson liked to be slapped before every game. In the locker room, the team trainer would wind up and hit Henderson across the face as hard as he could. Henderson felt like this helped him get pumped up, and he required the ritual before every game.
West Ottawa football players have their own rituals as well.
Sr. linebacker Mason Dekker eats Quick Subs before every game. Also, whenever the team wins, Dekker wears the same pair of compression shorts for the next game. “If I do something before a game and we win, I’m going to do the exact same thing the next week. Right now I have to eat Quick Subs before the game, and I do not shave until game day. If we win, I totally believe in it.”
Sr. safety Collin Deshaw also eats a sandwich before every game, but his isn’t made professionally. For Collin, the only person who can make his sandwich is his mom. “I believe superstitions have an effect on how we perform. They seem stupid but I think they work.”
The “king of superstition” on the WO football team is, without a doubt, Sr. quarterback Caleb McNitt. Last year, Soph. lineman Keenan Montoya (current Jr.) gave McNitt a dime before one of their games. After winning that game, McNitt can’t move that dime from the coin tray in his car. The superstitions don’t end there though. Every game McNitt wears the same undershirt that he wore during their first win. Before every game, he ties each shoe three times. This ritual doesn’t just mean he triple knots the shoe. No, he ties, then unties, then ties, then unties, then ties his shoe one final time before he’s ready to play. When the players all run onto the field and break through the banner, you won’t see McNitt anywhere near the front. That’s because he’s the last one through, every single time. When the players all line up for the national anthem, McNitt doesn’t sing along… at least not for the first half of the song. He joins in about half way and sings the rest with the team. Before the game actually starts McNitt goes up to each of the offensive lineman and individually tells each one, “I love you.” “I do not believe that superstitions actually help me in terms of my performance during the game. However, they do make me feel more comfortable. A familiar pre-game routine is good for every athlete.”
So far theses rituals have been very effective as the panthers are off to a 4-1 start. The panthers will try for their fifth win in their homecoming game against East Kentwood on Friday, October 3rd.