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The Bizarre Food Obsessions of Pro Athletes

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by Belle Cushing

2014-02-04-skittles.jpg

Go ahead and credit the pre-game sugar rush for the Seattle Seahawks's win last Sunday. Running back Marshawn Terrell Lynch, a.k.a "Beast Mode," has not kept his love of Skittles a secret, and it was announced last week that the running back has just signed a sponsorship deal with his favorite candy. It's the first time Skittles has formally paid an athlete, though not the first time the company has doled out swag to its famous fans. Beast Mode already has his own Skittles vending machine and some hand-painted Skittles cleats. And now 12th Men everywhere can get Skittles' special "Seattle Mix," which includes only blue and green candies.

On the other side of the Super Bowl was Peyton Manning, the Denver Bronco who eats a very reasonable diet of grilled chicken and vegetables before every game. We get it -- this is his job, his body's a temple, yada yada yada -- but since that sort of restraint is no fun at all, here's a look at other pro athlete's food obsessions, which fall somewhere along the spectrum between little kid in a candy store (when the candy store's your house) and, well, they may want to talk to someone about that inclination.

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Kids in a candy store
Sure they're big and brawny, but as Beast Mode shows, some of these players are no more than little kids at heart -- little kids with six-figure salaries (at least) and an imperative to gain weight. Before Skittles agreed to pay Lynch for his obsession, it was giving out Skittles machines to pro athletes left and right: Houston Rocket Dwight Howard's doubles as a pinball machine, and every time Chicago Bulls player Derrick Rose walks by his Skittles machine, it triggers a recording of Rose's own voice that we can only imagine goes something like, "Hey Derrick, it's me, Derrick. Want some Skittles? I know you do because, well, I'm you. Time to taste the rainbow."

Doin' it for the swag
LeBron James sees Beast Mode's Skittlized cleats, and he raises his own Fruity Pebble sneaks. Seahawk teammate Richard Sherman loves Gushers so much that General Mills sent over a jersey crafted from Gushers, which Sherman now keeps framed in his house. Taco Bell, take note: As much as he loves Doritos Locos, all the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez got was a lame company hat.

Obsessive compulsives
Then there are the superstitious: The Nationals' Bryce Harper eats Eggo waffles before every game. They must be Eggo, and he must follow them up by taking no fewer than seven showers. Former Chicago Bear Brian Urlacher would kick off his own games with two chocolate chip cookies -- no more, no less. As for Sam Bradford of the St. Louis Rams, well, he'll eat anything so long as they come in threes -- three pieces of pineapple or cantaloupe in the morning, and if he goes to a restaurant, he makes sure to keep the server in the loop: "Listen," he told his friend one night at their usual spot, "you have got to tell our waitress that she has to bring three peppermints over here and bring me a to-go iced tea. That's the routine."

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Athletes are the new models
For every guy who can pound back red meat all day long, there's another whose diet would warrant a media freakout if the dude was a model and the fashion industry got wind. San Diego Chargers linebacker Dwight Freeney only drinks grape juice and frequently has his blood sampled to determine optimal eating habits -- he cut out bananas when blood tests revealed they were cramping up his tongue. A little over the top, sure, but then you have something truly, well, nuts: In preparation for a race, now retired jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. was known to eat a single peanut.

But can you blame them?
It's easy to see these crazy food habits as the eccentricities of fame. But can you really fault athletes for these tendencies? After all, you take a look at their coaches: e.g., LSU coach Les Miles. Before every game, he eats the turf. This is not a metaphor. He. Eats. The. Grass.

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