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HUNGER GAMES

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HOW PROSPECTS POWER UP DURING THE NFL COMBINE

SI EATS

BETWEEN ALL THE drills, tests, workouts and interviews, the combine can be a dizzying experience for an NFL prospect. Eating properly during the seven-day event can be more challenging than acing the Wonderlic. "You gotta take care of yourself," Kentucky running back Benny Snell said during this year's event, which ended on Monday in Indianapolis. "I have granola bars on me. I'm trying to drink water. But you gotta be someplace, and then when you're done with that, you gotta be someplace else, so it's easy to lose track and you might not eat."

Said Stanford running back Bryce Love, "Oh, yeah, I get hungry in between meals here. That's why I have a bunch of PB&J sandwiches in my bag. My mom made them for me."

National Football Scouting, the organization that runs the event, provides prospects with three meals a day and keeps the players' lounge stocked with snacks like fruit and trail mix. According to NFS president Jeff Foster, things have come a long way from just a decade ago, when players were handed a bag lunch of prepackaged sandwiches, chips and soda. Still, while NFS works with team nutritionists to design the menu for players, it's impossible to keep all 335 players satisfied when some are trying to lose weight and others are trying to add pounds—and some prefer PB&J sandwiches from home.

"What's hard about them having set meals here as one big group is that it's not tailoring towards their needs as an athlete," says Whitney Tirrell, NFL combine training coordinator for Landow Performance. Many prospects choose not to eat meals provided at the combine. Instead, Tirrell works with players on their individual dietary needs, bringing prepped meals with her from Landow's home base in Centennial, Colo. In the mornings, she'd heat up breakfasts in the microwave in her hotel room, then run out to find a player on the bus before the driver pulled off. Sometimes a prospect would text her in the middle of the afternoon after finishing an interview and request a meal, and Tirrell would prepare some food and rush to the Indiana Convention Center.

"We are a 24/7 concierge service," Tirrell says. "Things have to be readily available for them. They don't have time to go somewhere and grab food." Tirrell often has to text her clients reminders to eat. What did you have for breakfast? Did you eat lunch? With all the calories they are burning throughout the day, players frequently need to power up. For example, inside the backpack of Landow client Jace Sternberger, a Texas A&M tight end, was a stash of Ziploc baggies: peanuts, pretzels, grapes, oranges, turkey wraps, RX Bars and coconut water.

Sternberger wasn't planning on eating red meat or dessert until he was done with his on-field workout on his last day in Indianapolis. Tirrell and the rest of the Landow Performance staff planned to take him out for a reward at the end of the combine: a cheat meal.