Put simply, there is nothing quite like the college football arms race. In an attempt to one-up each other, college football programs will spare no expense, especially if they believe it will help their team win games or sign recruits. That includes everything from waterfalls and barbershops in the football facility, to advances in technology, training and nutrition.
As a matter of fact, college football is getting so advanced that at this point, they've actually surpassed the NFL in many regards. After all, in the pros, there aren't recruits to impress, so there's no need to go to such great extremes to keep players happy. Slowly though, the pros are catching, and realizing the value in everything that college football programs pour into their programs.
That's especially true in New Orleans, where Sean Payton made a confession Monday: Much of what he and his staff know about nutrition, they learned, ironically enough, from the Alabama coaching staff.
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Payton was asked how nutrition has evolved in the last 10 years. And here's what he said, according to a press release from the Saints:
"Quite a bit," Payton told reporters." Typically, in a lot of cases, the college game is a tick ahead because their budgets and their recruiting (puts them) constantly in an arms race with facilities, nutrition bars, and things that they can do. A lot of times, that flows up. In our case, we had been to Alabama for a workout and saw the recovery station they had, with protein shakes for if you were trying to cut weight or if you were trying to gain weight. (They emphasized) proper nutrition during the day, after a practice, or leading up to a practice."
That is in stark contrast to what the Saints were doing just a few years ago.
"I think in the last, probably five or six years -- I'm sure there are some teams that did it a little bit earlier than that -- that's like a double challenge in New Orleans. The way you prepare the food and what you're eating -- it wasn't too long ago that on Saturday you travelled to you away game and you're eating Popeye's chicken on the plane. The nutritionist comes in and says, 'Well, that's the most important meal! They're going to be playing on that the next day!' A lot of times, not just in football, we all do things because that was just on the itinerary before us. So, I think it's changed quite a bit in the last six years."
Hearing Payton say that, it really is shocking how quickly things have changed in the NFL, and how inefficiently they were done in years past. Obviously we all know that every team in the NFL might not have been on the cutting edge of nutrition a few years back, but the idea of eating Popeye's the night before a game seems a little absurd as well. These are professional athletes after all, and it doesn't take Dr. Oz to tell us that fried food hours before a game isn't the best idea.
However as Payton points out, the evolution has come quickly in the NFL, and it isn't only in New Orleans. As you may remember, Chip Kelly made big-time waves in Philadelphia a few years ago, when he removed 'Taco Tuesday' and 'Fast food Friday' and installed a juice bar instead.
What will be curious now, is to see how else the trends of college football trickle up to the NFL.
As Payton said, college football programs continue to spend at exorbitant rates, on just about anything they think can help them win games (and sign big-time recruits).
It'll be interesting to see what the next trend is.