Head butts and religious scribes

By Brian Belford

Superstitions. Good luck charms. Ritualistic tendencies. Call them what you will, but they work in much the same way.

Some of the most superstitious people in the world are athletes, and NIU football players are no exception to this wacky coincidence.

One of Huskies’ center Scott Wedige’s pre-game rituals is so intense it will make your head ache.

“Before games, [senior right guard] Joe Pawlak comes up and head butts me as hard as he can. If you watch for it, it’s definitely intense,” Wedige said. “Last year, I didn’t have my mouth guard in for it and I thought I got a concussion.”

While it may be definitely painful, Wedige lives strong with his other superstition.

“I also have to wear my yellow Livestrong bracelet,” Wedige said. “Every game, I have it on my left wrist over my tape, and one game it broke, so I had to wear [freshman guard] Tyler Loos’, but I have like 25 backups now in my locker because of that.”

Other player’s traditions have been going on long before they started to play for NIU.

Senior linebacker Jordan Delegal has gotten wake up calls ever since he started playing football.

“On game nights, I usually talk to my cousin, and every game day, I always talk to my grandmother,” Delegal said. “She’s been calling me ever since I’ve been playing football. She calls me usually around 7 a.m., and she says, ‘Hey, what are you still doing in bed? Wake up, it’s game day!’ That always puts me in the zone and gets me ready to play.”

Delegal also writes messages to himself on his equipment to help inspire his play on the field.

“I get a new pair of gloves the day before the game and I carry them around with me everywhere: on the bus, on the plane, sometimes to class and I’ll write little messages to myself on them,” Delegal said.

And those messages have significant value to himself.

“I’m a religious guy, so I’ll write ‘Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through him.’ And I also have a lot of people who play through me, so I’ve written Tyrone Clark’s number on there, I wrote linebacker Devon Butler’s number on there, I write my little cousin’s name on there; whoever will be my inspiration for that game.”

Junior defensive back Rashaan Melvin also has his pre-game ritual with his foot apparel.

“I wear the same cleats the majority of the time,” Melvin said. “I have different cleats to use, but I stick with these same ones because I feel that once I have them on, there is no need to take them off.”

Similar to Delegal, Melvin will write religious statements on his apparel.

“I write, ‘truly blessed’ on the side of them because I’m really into my faith,” Melvin said. “I feel like God put me on the field for a reason, so I have to give honor, praise and glory to him by writing that on my cleats.”

Football is a team sport though, so the Huskies don’t only have individual rituals.

Football is a team sport though, so the Huskies don’t only have individual rituals.

Delegal explains it as it revolving around short term memory loss and not taking anything for granted. It’s called “the 24 hour rule.”

“If you win, you win, so celebrate those 24 hours, and celebrate the win,” Delegal said. “But, at the end of that win, it’s over, and you have to get ready for the next week. As a football player, you have to have a short term memory. If you have a bad play, it’s kind of like a next play mentality, where you have to cut it down and forget about it. And even if you have a good play, you have to use that emotion and take it into the next week or the next play.”