Posted: Tuesday September 2, 2003 1:58PM; Updated: Thursday September 11, 2003 5:49PM
How does a violence dispenser like Oakland Raiders linebacker Bill Romanowski play 15 years in the NFL without ever missing a game?
Something like this:
7 a.m. -- Romo arrives at Raiders headquarters. He's well-rested, maybe because he takes ZMA, GABA and/or melatonin -- all legal supplements -- to help him sleep. Few athletes in the world are as obsessed with reading about, thinking about and spending money on their bodies as Romo.
Who else do you know who has physical trainers, chiropractors, yoga instructors, acupuncturists, Pilates instructors, Reiki therapists and other consultants, about 20 in all, on his payroll? Or owns a hyperbaric chamber? Or has injected living pancreas, brain and adrenal cells of pure-strain Scottish sheep into his body?
Who else do you know who regularly sends out samples of his blood, feces and urine to a North Carolina laboratory to check for mineral deficiencies in his diet? (Hey, who's the lucky UPS guy?)
"People who call me a wacko," says Romo, "can look at all those games I've played in a row." That's 240 straight, the most ever for a linebacker. Or a wacko.
7:32 -- Romo hooks up one of his two electrical microcurrent stimulators to his body. The sessions last 20 to 30 minutes and are repeated on various parts of his body several times a day. "Each part of your body has a certain electrical frequency," says Romo, "including emotions. I can put it on the JOY setting, and I can't help but crack a smile."
Wait, there's Al Davis. Can we get him hooked up to it?
9:55 -- After team meetings Romo downs one of three power shakes he'll drink today. They're crammed full of unpronounceable stuff and count toward his colossal intake of 250 grams of protein a day. He'll also gulp between 100 and 130 pills throughout the day, depending on what his feces sample, his consultants and his body are telling him.
He carries his pills in a plastic container the size of a welcome mat -- about 500 colorful vitamins and supplements divided into dozens of tiny compartments. Inside it looks like Willy Wonka's briefcase. One time, he dropped it. "It took me three hours to pick the pills all up and sort them again," he says.
10:03 -- While the rest of the Raiders sit to stretch, Romo moves up and down the field with his personal stretching consultant. Some days the guy will stretch Romo for four hours, but today it's got to be quick. As Romo's walking along he'll suddenly kick his tree-trunk leg over his head like a very odd-looking Rockette.
Noon -- For lunch, Romo downs mass quantities of food, carefully selected by his nutritionist, be it almond-butter-covered rice cakes or the occasional shark cartilage. Romo may spit loogies in your face -- as he did to San Francisco 49ers receiver J.J. Stokes six years ago -- but at least you know they're organic.
Across the way 330-pound lineman Frank Middleton is asked if any of Romo's ways have rubbed off on him. "Are you kiddin'?" Middleton says. "Man, I'm fat. I got no muscle. I got nothin' to pull, stretch, hurt or tear."
Meanwhile, a few Raiders are going to a fast-food joint. "I like it when they go there," Romo says. "Maybe that's why I'm still playing. I hope they keep going."
12:40 p.m. -- Practice. Even at 37, nobody's engine revs higher than Romo's. His bursts still come straight out of 1988, his rookie year. He still sprints after Jerry Rice to the end zone and back on every play. His eyes are still the size of hubcaps, perhaps because of the CDP choline and pheryl he takes for intensity.
3:30 -- Most of the other players head home, but Romotron is just getting warmed up. He has another power shake -- "phosphorous and colostrum with a nice root beer flavor," he says, beaming. Yummy! That's followed by 45 minutes of weightlifting and then a 45-minute soft-tissue massage.
If this were postgame, though, he'd start an IV of 50 grams of vitamin C and five of glutathione to fight what he calls the "massive amount of stress" he puts on his body. Romo has the pain threshold of an anvil -- he once played with a torn oblique muscle, which is like playing with a wolf trap snapped onto your stomach.
Oh, he never missed a game in college, high school, middle school or peewee, either. When's the last time he got sick? "Can't remember," he says.
5:05 -- More stretching, followed by 40 minutes of hopping from a 40° cold tub to a 110° hot tub. In between Romo glugs water purified by his own portable ionizer. He'll drink two gallons today. "I had to drink bottled water the other day," he says. "Awful."
8:08 -- More self-electrocution, followed by a full-body coating of zinc and copper cream, then a TV interview, and it's finally time for mad little linebackers to go home. Another easy 13-hour day. As the last one at the complex, he turns out the lights.
10:03 -- At home Romo indulges his sweet tooth with a tiny sliver of cheesecake.
Boy, some people have no sense of commitment.
Issue date: September 8, 2003
Rick Reilly, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, has been voted National Sportswriter of the Year eight times. His latest book, Who's Your Caddy?, his misadventures caddying for tour pros like Jack Nicklaus and David Duval, hit bookstores in May. He is also the author of the best-selling compliation The Life of Reilly, and the cult classic golf novel, Missing Links, as well as five other books.