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Countdown to kickoff: How I prepared on game day

By LaVar Arrington

With the Redskins playing host to the Eagles on Monday night, it got me to thinking about when I played and my game-day rituals and preparations. Getting ready for a Monday night game was no different, though the atmosphere was even more chanrged.

I can remember on game days how we would get up early for meetings and walk-throughs in hotel ballrooms. I can remember some of us going back into the meeting rooms to watch more film and go over the calls.

I can remember walking out of the restricted area and seeing the lobby full of family members and fans and how excited they were to be able to say hello, take pictures and spend time with us. It was always a pleasure to hang out with the fans for a little bit. They would have stories about how long their families have been Redskins fans or some type of memory from a play that a player made that holds true meaning in their lives.

Mondays always seemed to move so slow. I would order a caesar salad with chicken and put French fries on the top and try to pass the time.

I used to listen to Bob Marley all day. "Buffalo Soldier" used to really pump me up; in my mind, I was a Buffalo Soldier ready to go out there on the field and battle guys.

Pregame meals were mandatory. I would check in, but I was so pumped up for the game that I couldn't eat, so I would wrap up a piece of steak and a baked potato to take to the stadium.

The atmosphere at the stadium is comparable to a playoff game; it's the only game on. There are more television trucks and media people there -- way more than usual.

Driving into the stadium parking lot was amazing. The fans knew my car and would scream and honk their horns. The coolest was when the police officers would salute me. One would always stop me and ask me how did I feel and to have a great game.

As I walked into the tunnel, fans above the tunnel would scream and yell to me to go get them.

At this point there's about two hours or so before the game is going to start, so here was my locker room routine:

First I would change out of my street clothes into some team-issued gear.Then I would lay my uniform out and decide how I wanted to wear it, for example if we were wearing burgundy socks I would figure out if I wanted more burgundy or more white showing. Before I finished, I had to choose my accessories, such as wrist bands and a hip towel. But most importantly, I had to choose what cleats I wanted to wear.

After deciding what cleats to wear I would get a magic marker off Brad Berlin and go into the rest room where I would sit and color my shoes. I started doing it in high school, so when I made it to the NFL, coloring my shoes was always one of those small things that helped me remember where I came from and how hard I had worked to be sitting on a toilet with my shoes.

So once I finished up my cleats, I would place them neatly in front of the rest of my uniform and double check to see if my uniform looked right, or "sweet" as I called it.

Off to the field, I would go out on the field just to check the sights and the sounds of a Monday night game. But it was very important to check the turf to make sure the cleats I would be wearing were the right ones. If the field was damp or had longer grass I would need what are called screw-ins, but if the turf was cut low and dry then I would go with molded cleats. And yes if it were molded cleats, I would need to color a different pair, but it didn't take long to touch up a pair of spikes. I also took time to say my hellos to former teammates and coaches.

Next on my punch list was to go back into the locker room and get taped up by my trusted trainer Larry Hess; he always taped my ankles. By the time he finished, I was so hungry that I sat in my locker and ate the piece of steak and the baked potato. Once I finished eating, I now started to get into my uniform.

I always put it on the same way. First my cut-off socks: I cut the bottoms off one pair that were the same color as my pants, I did this so I could wear my pants above my knees, I was faster when my pants weren't over my knees, but equipment rules say to have your knee covered. So the socks pulled over my knee were a trick I learned to give that appearance. Then my pants and the rest of my socks. Then I put my towel on my pants.

At this point, I went back into the training room and taped my wrist and trimmed my wristbands. Once I finished up my wrist, I put on my undershirt and my spikes and then my pads. I always had Brad put my jersey on my pads. It always symbolized the moment leading up to going out on the field. We always hugged.

Now it was time I put my eye black on my face and went and sat in my locker for a good five minutes, and for that five minutes I would think of all the people who helped me through the years: my family, coaches, friends, teammates, fans and so many other things that got me here to this place. It was so overwhelming I would begin to cry, and as I sat there in my locker with my towel on my head, I would hear "last group up" and it was time.

All the hard work and preparation, all of the waiting, now it was time to go play. This was my pregame preparation for every game, but somehow it seemed to come back to me when I was thinking about this Monday night game, I hope you enjoyed the story, those were some great times and even better memories.

By LaVar Arrington  | November 15, 2010; 9:37 AM ET
 
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Comments

I have always wondered how it feels in those final minutes leading up to the game. Thanks Lavar for sharing. This almost has me ready to go home grab my equipment and sit in my bathroom until my wife says "alright baby let's go to Wal-mart. Damn I'm pumped!!! The greeter in the front of the store is going to get punished tonight!!! Great Job Lavar!!!

Posted by: Hackersk | November 15, 2010 10:26 AM | Report abuse

That a was great post... I got goosebumps reading it, really made me feel like I was there, thank you for sharing it with us LaVar.

Posted by: ccasros | November 15, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

LaVar, thank you for sharing this experience. I believe you have been a great addition to the Post, due to your life experience as a player,it would be good if former Pro Players started doing the same so us (fans) will understand a little more of what happens.

Again, thanks for sharing.

Posted by: Bergie17 | November 15, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

"How I prepared on game day."

You were always hurt so I would have thought it was on the sidelines or at home....

- Ray

Posted by: rmcazz | November 15, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Great post. I still wear your #56 to every Skins game -- anyone who's willing to go head to head with Dannyboy Snyder is OK in my book. Keep telling it like it is.

Posted by: wahoo2x | November 15, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

Thank you so much for that post. I really appreciated the inside feeling of the write-up. You are a good man.
From a 76 year old fan for many years.

Posted by: TerpinSC | November 15, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

God knows I have my issues with LaVar,,,But this is a great posting.

Thank you for sharing it LaVar.

Posted by: Defund_NPR | November 15, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Feel those words. You need to write a book bro. "The Battle Within" Stay thisty.
One9

Posted by: One9 | November 15, 2010 6:39 PM | Report abuse

okay... so when did you use the cream/clear? Before or after the game?

Posted by: mrhandsome | November 15, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

okay... so when did you use the cream/clear? Before or after the game? why Marion Jones did time and none of you blockheads had to?

Posted by: mrhandsome | November 15, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

okay... so when did you use the cream/clear? Before or after the game? why Marion Jones did time and none of you blockheads had to?

Posted by: mrhandsome | November 15, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

What do you think about interracial love? and interracial dating online?
I really don’t know why they call it forbidden love.
Love is an emotion that transcends all boundaries of race, caste and creed.
Love does not see the color of the skin, nor the social status of the person. The All pervading emotion is very pure and it can stand the test of time, if the need so arises.
I am a black girl and I met a white guy on blackwhitemeet dot com recently. What's your idea about interracial marriage? BLACKWHITEMEET DOT COM is a dating club for interracial singles to have fun together. Interracial is not a problem here, but a great merit to cherish!

Posted by: abulaw | November 15, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

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