For these guys, gameday isn't just from 2:30-6:00. It's all day
The night before the game, football players sleep in a hotel – not their dorm rooms.
Preparation starts hours before the game. From the moment they get up in the morning, it’s all about getting their minds right. For a 2:30 p.m. game, they won’t get to the stadium until a few minutes after noon, so the morning is not as rushed. They board the buses to Ryan field at 11:40 a.m.
At 12:05, they are greeted at Ryan Field by fans, cheerleaders and the band, which makes a tunnel that the players walk through en route to the locker room. As the players, all in formal clotches, exit the bus, the band plays the fight song and fans cheer.
Michigan departs their hotel at 11:45 a.m., arriving at Ryan field at 12:30 p.m.
Once in the Nicolet Center, the players each go through their own personal game preparation. For some, that means going to the training room to get taped up, for others that means going to the equipment room to get extra gear. Many listen to pump up music to get in the zone before kickoff.
In the equipment room are the clothes for each of the coaches, too. Each coach has a cubby full of cleats and one full of cold-weather gear. Against Michigan, it’s cold (around 43 degrees), but not quite cold enough for the heavy-duty gear. Lining the walls are helmets of every team in the Big Ten, every team we have played in recent memory and every NFL team that a Northwestern player has ever played for.
From the time the team gets to the field until 12:20, players get some freedom to do what they want. Some need to get nagging injuries taped up, others need some ice. But starting at 12:20, they’re on a strict schedule. At that point, the offense comes out to stretch as a team. Move That Dope by Future feat. Pharrell & Pusha T & Casino, among other songs, blares on speakers run by one of the many coaches helping prepare the players for the game.
Ten minutes later, it’s the defense’s turn. By 2 p.m., (35 minutes until game time) the whole team takes the field.
The schedule is structured down to the minute, and at precisely 2:15, the team heads back into the locker room for a final pep talk and the official team introduction, which begins at exactly 2:27 and culminates with the team running through fireworks, cheerleaders and the band at 2:29.
At 2:29:30, Michigan gets some attention as they run out onto the field.
After the 2:32 coin toss, the game begins three minutes later.
Approximately three hours and 12 minutes after the 2:35 kickoff time, Michigan runs off the field victorious following the ballsy but failed coaching decision to go for the would-be game-winning two point conversion. The ‘Cats go back to their locker room for a post-game speech.
Finally, Fitzgerald and a few players come out for the press conference, where sports journalists question them about everything, ranging from play calling to basic game strategy.
From the moment they wake up at 8:30 a.m. until the time they get back to their rooms around 10 p.m., it’s all about the team and the game. Thousands of people (42, 429, to be exact) cheer them on in representing Northwestern.
It was a long, yet typical game day for these football players, who have the privilege of doing this on twelve different Saturdays during the fall.