The Payne Train: The Vegan Monologues

Seth Payne
Shutdown Corner

Selected in the fourth round of the 1997 NFL draft by theJacksonville Jaguarsout of Cornell, former NFL defensive lineman Seth Payne played five years for the Jacksonville Jaguars, and five more for theHouston Texans. Since leaving the game after the 2006 season, Seth has been honing his writing skills, andhas proven to be a real treat on Twitterwith his football knowledge and wicked sense of humor. He'll be bringing both to Shutdown Corner on a regular basis.

Arian Foster, the prolific Houston Texans running back, has created a stir by announcing via Twitter that he has gone vegan.  For those of you who live outside of L.A., Manhattan or Boulder, this means that he has decided to stop eating all animal products, including eggs and dairy. The immediate concern of many is that he will be unable to sustain his size and strength, and hence his fantasy football kick-assedness, on such a restrictive diet.

As a guy who spent 10 years in the NFL happily eating lots and lots of dead animals,  I would still tell you that this is probably not that big of a deal.  Foster has many resources available to him, financial and educational, to ensure that he gets the proper amount of protein. What's more, the fact that Foster is paying attention to his diet at all puts him way ahead of many pros.  One of the leanest guys I ever played with was wide receiver Corey Bradford.  As best I could tell, Corey's dietary strategy was to forget to eat until he became light-headed, at which point he would wolf down whatever was nearby.  On Saturday mornings in-season, that might mean a tray of donuts or a bag of kolaches.

Several world class athletes have actually done well on vegan diets, including sprinter Carl Lewis and boxer Timothy Bradley. The name that is always brought up, though, is that of former NBA player Bill Walton.  Many blamed his lifestyle for the lanky center's frequent injuries.  It was undoubtedly to blame for his silly Amish beard.  But it should also be pointed out that Walton spent a lot of time at Grateful Dead concerts, and while we don't know what his drug habits were, he almost certainly wore his body down with extended bouts of hippie dancing.

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In the football world, the most notable player to have tried the vegan thing is Tony Gonzalez, the future Hall of Fame tight end.  Gonzalez is about as dedicated and educated as they come in matters of sports nutrition, and he actually owns a company that sells his own brand of dietary supplements.  After experimenting with a strict vegan diet he decided to add occasional servings of free-range chicken and wild-caught fish.  To some hardcore vegans that probably sounds as good as occasionally clubbing a baby seal.  Nevertheless, Gonzalez is performing well at an advanced age on a diet that includes far less animal protein than what his peers consume.

I suppose we could take issue with the fact that Foster publicly announced his veganism before he proved to himself that he could successfully pull it off.  Theoretically his pride could prevent him from returning to a conventional diet if he has a change of heart or a dip in performance.  Foster is wired differently than most of us jocks, though, with a degree in philosophy and an intellectually curious nature.  I get the feeling he is treating this like an open experiment, and in his tweet he wrote, "We'll see how this goes."

If at any point he feels it's not right for him I imagine he'll simply explain it to his Twitter followers, excuse the "anti-awesomeness," and move on.

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