Picture this: heaping piles of grilled chicken, burgers, hot dogs, an assortment of colorful salads, perfect domes of corn, peas, and carrots all stuffed onto plates and smothered in a bath of savory, creamy sauces. Alongside these dishes are cups of Gatorades lined up as far as the eye can see. All the while, the pungent aroma of grated Parmesan atop pasta fills the room.
Where are we? A buffet? A restaurant’s kitchen? The intersection of the entrées with the grilling station at Annenberg?
Try dinner with the football team.
But instead of talking about blocking assignments or this week’s upcoming primetime matchup against Dartmouth, the topic of conversation at a recent meal turned to the building blocks of life: food.
The biggest eaters of all were—not surprisingly—the linemen. To one who has never watched a football game before, a lineman’s task sounds simple enough: just control the opposing player on the line of scrimmage. But when the sheer size and power of these young men are taken into account, things no longer seem so simple.
On ESPN’s Sports Science, two NFL offensive linemen, Marvel Smith and Joe Staley, were able to push a truck with a whole football team inside—the equivalent of 15,000 pounds. Since American football’s inception, a lineman’s job has transformed into something resembling that of a modern-day gladiator.
How does one create these powerful beings that do things that are physically impossible for the average American? The answer of course is complicated and depends on a variety of factors, such as genetics, training, and willpower.
Nevertheless, what these guys put into their mouths plays an essential role. Some strength and conditioning coaches recommend that in order for a lineman to maintain his weight, he should consume 5,000 calories a day, which is two-and-a half-times the FDA standard.
Many on the line follow these guidelines, including defensive line stalwart senior Josue Ortiz. Thus far this season, Ortiz leads the team with six sacks. As a junior, Ortiz was named to the Associated Press All-America third team.
But while Ortiz’s stats are eye-popping, his eating habits are even more so.
On a typical day, what Ortiz consumes—steak, grilled chicken, brown rice, and other foods he qualifies as “basic”—is not unusual. What separates him and other linemen is how much they eat.
Indeed, like many red-blooded American males, Ortiz’s favorite food is steak. But when asked how much usually fills him up, he said about 32 ounces. This number exceeds any steak served at Frank’s Steakhouse, a Zagat-rated steakhouse on Massachusetts Avenue, by a whopping 10 ounces—the size of another small steak.
Senior Kevin Murphy, a 295-pound left tackle who used to play tight end and quarterback in high school, and 305-pound junior right guard John Collins, who wrestled competitively before college, demonstrate the fact that no two lineman are alike.
“[The difference between] John and me is [like that] between night and day,” Murphy said. “Some people have a bigger problem stuffing themselves with food. I have to eat a lot to put on weight.”
Collins explained that his metabolism was naturally slow and that during the offseason, despite trying to lose weight, he ended up putting it on.