A meal of epic portions, dining with the O-line

Kari Yook '12 delves into the gastronomic world of the O-line.
Kari Yook ’12 delves into the gastronomic world of the O-line.

It is common knowledge that the majority of diners at Mission Park Dining Hall fall into at least one of two subdivisions: first-years and football players. On any given weekday, you can find the Williams football team chowing down in front of the large-screen TV that projects ESPN games after a grueling practice. What’s not common knowledge, however, are the quirky eating habits of particular sections of the team’s roster. Granted, some players on the team refuel their bodies with wholesome fare, but I didn’t go not-so-undercover to inquire about arugula and balsamic vinegar. Rather, I was looking for some kind of resolution to decisive issues such as exactly how many chicken nuggets offensive lineman Cong Tian ’13 recently regurgitated in a Mills 2 bathroom. To this end, I decided to join the team for one of their nightly dinners in search of some answers about their various eating habits.

Sitting between linebacker Conor Ryan ’12 and offensive lineman John Rabiner ’12, I threw out a rumor that had been circulating around campus: There exists a chicken-nugget-eating title for a member of the football team who can stuff down the most McNuggets in one sitting. As it turns out, the rumor was true. According to my sources, on the first Tuesday of this season, 20 players on the team headed to the nearest McDonalds to test the willpower of the offensive line’s newest members. “Every year, there’s a nugget contest between the freshman offensive linemen,” Ryan said with a hint of a smile. “Cong shattered the mark with 100 nuggets.”

According to Tian, the team was shocked. “I didn’t believe it either. I guess it just happened,” he said. Tian asserts that the Mission fare he is used to is appetizing enough that he “eats a lot” on a regular basis, but those 100 nuggets were the most food the freshman from Ronkonkoma, N.Y. has ever consumed in one sitting. “It can’t be healthy,” he said. “Right afterwards, I got back to Mission and a lot of chicken nuggets came back out.”

A witness to the incredible chicken nugget legacy sitting by Tian, Vincent Nistico ’12, told me that the previous record had only been 48 chicken nuggets, a mark set by Brendan Munzar ’11 his freshman year.

Upon learning that I was researching the football team’s eating habits, other players on the team tipped me off to offensive lineman Matt Blake ’11. His curious mealtime regimen is so distinctive that players on the team have cell phone pictures of a classic Blake dinner. When I attempted to tactfully inquire into his habits, Blake understood the insinuation immediately. “You’re probably talking about the bananas,” he said. “I eat like five to six bananas a day. I guess that’s the weirdness.”

The New Jersey native substitutes two bananas, which he takes from Mission the previous night, for breakfast each morning. Then he consumes another one or two at lunch and again at dinner. So at each dinner, Blake can be found with a plate piled with pizza, fries and, of course, bananas. “Bananas are the one really healthy thing that I eat. It’s kind of stupid, but I feel like it somehow makes my other food better,” Blake said.

Because linemen require less running and more brute strength than other positions, the offensive and defensive linemen are the ones you’ll see eating the most massive portions. “The linemen are usually the biggest players on the field,” Rabiner said.

Blake says that in season, he pressures himself to keep on weight. Looking around the table, I asked a potentially insulting question: Do O-line guys try to get as big as possible? As it happens, the answer is within reason. “You don’t want to get ridiculous, but the extra weight always helps,” Blake said. “You want to still be able to move.”

In pursuit of some “extra weight,” the offensive line patronizes a local restaurant every Tuesday night of the season. Each of the dinners is at a different venue: McDonalds is always the first for the nugget competition, but then there are also visits to Desperados, Moonlight Diner, Molton’s, Papa Ginos and a KFC/Taco Bell, to name a few. Before dinner, Graham McCulloch ’10 even has to call ahead to ensure that the restaurant has enough food to provision the O-line.

According to Rabiner, the restaurants “always accommodate” the team with the exception of the one year when they were turned away by Moonlight Diner, which was short on hamburger buns. The teams is also known for once racking up a $45 charge for sour cream at Desperados; they now bring their own when they go.

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