the Italian issue

Feed the Need For Football by Mary Beth Romig

T ucked just behind the New Orleans Saints administrative offices and connected to the indoor practice facility on Airline Drive in Metairie is the organization’s state-of-the- art cafeteria, which on any given day except game days is a beehive of activity. The dining hall is part of the organization’s sprawling campus, added in 2003 as part of a $10 million renovation to the practice facility. Inside, three stations above the serving area are identified with football lingo. One station sign reads, “1 st Down: Foods for Health and Injury Prevention.” The middle station’s sign states, “2 nd Down: Foods for Energy & Refueling.”The third lane follows suit with “3 rd Down: Food for Strength and Repair.” A larger sign states in bold black and gold lettering‚ “NOURISH GREATNESS.” The message underscores the Saints’ focus on nutrition, as more focus is placed on what players are served at the practice facility and what they are eating away from the field, a far cry from the days when Archie Manning was quarterbacking the team, the second overall pick in the 1972 NFL Draft. “The team never provided players’ meals,” recalls Manning, who served as the offensive signal-caller for the Saints from 1971-1982. “There was no emphasis on nutrition back in those days, and I would have to say we were not really too informed. Heck, I didn’t even know what cholesterol was,” he adds, with a chuckle. As Manning describes his early playing days, he says he ate breakfast at home before heading to the practice field, then a low-frills site on David Drive, just a block or two off what was then called Airline Highway. “We got lunch and maybe breakfast from this place called Mano’s across the street from camp,” says Manning. “We’d have meetings

in the morning and then take a lunch break, and make some poor rookies go get food … big ‘ole burgers, fried shrimp po-boys, lots of roast beef and gravy, and French fries. We’d swallow that down between meetings, then go out and practice.” Mano’s is still open today, its website proudly proclaiming “Eat Where the Saints Eat.” Opened in the mid-1970s, the décor on the inside is filled with autographed Saints memorabilia and jerseys from past and current players. “Those were the days when we had to weigh in every Friday to make weight,” Manning continues. “Guys would wear all kinds of stuff that made you sweat, to lose weight. Then after that guys would gain 15 pounds back before kickoff the following Sunday. Gatorade finally came along, but we also knew little about staying hydrated. Those were the days of salt pills.” As for the all-important pre-game meal? “Guys would have an option, but steak was always a big item. Now we know steak is the worst thing you can eat before a game,” he says. “It’s great now to see how healthy my sons are, how much they think about what they should eat,” he adds, referring to Eli, who quarterbacks the New York Giants, and Peyton, who recently retired from the game. It wasn’t until his playing days with the Minnesota Vikings in 1983 that issues regarding good nutritional habits affecting performance were brought to Manning’s attention. “This guy came in to talk to us about nutrition, not just before a game, but throughout the months of training camp and the regular season,” says Manning, adding, “My first thought was back to New Orleans and thinking maybe that was why we were losing so much in those days … all those overstuffed po-boys and fried food.”



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