It’s a pretty safe bet that every professional athlete has become somewhat accustomed to playing in big arenas filled with screaming fans, that while the games are undoubtedly important, the athletes should be able to keep their nerves in check before the game starts in earnest. After all, these athletes have been playing their respective sports for their entire lives, and they should be used to dealing with pre-game jitters.
Fans see players warming up before the game and things rarely seem amiss. Players go through the various drills and warm-ups and can be seen joking around with teammates; they appear to be completely at ease and ready for the game to begin. So it might strike some as odd that there are many professional athletes who get so worked up before a game that they get sick and must literally vomit.
These athletes get so nauseous while in the locker room that they can no longer hold the contents of their stomach and must rush to the bathroom to violently relieve themselves of whatever they recently ate. In some cases, a vomit-fest on par with the famous pie-eating contest scene in Stand By Me can occur, with teammate after teammate being so overwhelmed by the sound and stench that they too must vomit.
Even stranger is the fact that while some of these athletes began vomiting because of their nerves, others continued to vomit as a matter of superstition. There have been several instances of athletes believing that if they didn’t need to vomit before a game then they didn’t care enough about the outcome. Whether it was nerves or superstition, these 15 athletes all made a habit of throwing up before games and were literally ill in the locker room and sometimes even on the field, pitch, court or ring.
15 Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is an unabashed pre-fight puker, as he recently revealed on Twitter that he vomits before each match. The MMA fighter has enjoyed a fair amount of success with puking as a part of his routine, as his overall record currently stands at 27 wins against 6 losses. When a fan noted that he vomited after his first BJJ class, Cerrone made him feel better by stating that it's a common occurrence for him.
— Cowboy Cerrone (@Cowboycerrone) January 30, 2015
14 Cole Beasley
If you ask professional football players which players are most likely to be the ones who vomit before games, the most frequent response would be the big guys who occupy the offensive and defensive lines. That’s not the case with Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley, who, after throwing up during a preseason game in 2012, admitted that he throws up before most every game, saying in an ESPN article, “You'll probably see me throw up a lot more than just then. I throw up a lot before the games, too. I'm not ashamed of it at all.”
13 Sherrill Headrick
Headrick starred for the Chiefs in the 1960s, earning All-AFL honors in five different seasons. The linebacker was also known for his outsized personality, and he once referred to himself as a “kook,” while his teammates gave him the nickname “Psycho.” He was also known for his pre-game intensity, which included a habit in which he threw up just minutes before every kickoff. Aside from the vomiting, Headrick was also known for his ability to play through pain, and Chiefs trainer Wayne Rudy once said of Headrick, “He has the highest threshold of pain of any man I’ve ever handled.”
12 Matt Scott
While Scott is currently out of the NFL and most recently played for the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL, he is responsible for one of the best on-field vomiting incidents in recent memory. While he is not the habitual pre-game puker that so many others on this list are, Scott appears here because during a 2014 preseason game he threw up twice just before connecting on an 18-yard touchdown pass. That was not the first time that Scott has thrown up on the field, as the quarterback has had similar incidents while playing collegiately at the University of Arizona.
11 Justin Tuck
While Donovan McNabb took a lot of heat for his alleged vomiting incident during the Super Bowl, the former Giants defensive end experienced a similar situation during New York’s successful run to the championship, as Tuck was puking just two quarters before he would be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. According to Tuck in an article on Deadspin.com, “A lot of people didn't know but I was throwing up at halftime just because you're so amped and you don't allow yourself to calm down because of the Super Bowl game.” So while Tuck is not the frequent puker that so many others on this list are, his vomiting occurred on the game’s greatest stage and had no noticeably negative effect on his play.
10 Lionel Messi
Argentina’s best soccer player has had a number of pre-game vomiting incidents and those incidents have even begun spilling onto the pitch as well. In April of 2014, Messi was caught vomiting in the tunnel before a match against Athletic Bilbao, and only a month earlier he had lost his lunch on the pitch while playing against Romania. Perhaps most famously, Messi also threw up during the World Cup final against Germany, but the footballer didn’t seem overly concerned, saying, “it’s no big deal. Sometimes I accelerate very fast and the change in air intake causes me to heave. I felt completely fine at the end of the match."
9 Rich Seubert
Apparently, many NFL teams simply have a designated puker in their locker room, and it has indeed been the case that teammates don’t feel comfortable until this designee has performed his pre-game duty of losing his lunch. For the New York Giants, this player was Rich Seubert. According to then-teammate Brian Mitchell in a book titled NFL Unplugged: The Brutal, Brilliant World of Professional Football, Seubert “would throw up before every game like clockwork. I’m in there talking about what we’re doing after the game, what I’m going to eat for dinner, s*** like that, and Rich was in the bathroom puking. The whole team didn’t feel good until he threw up.”
8 Art Donovan
Art Donovan is a Hall of Famer who won two NFL championships and was selected to the All-Pro team on four different occasions. While he is known primarily for his on-field achievements, Donovan was also known to throw up before every single game that he played. There is a famous story, according to a book titled It's Not Over 'til It's Over, in which the legendary Weeb Ewbank, in an attempt to fire up his players before a game, went through every player in the locker room and pointed out how each one had overcome failure someplace else to be successful with the Colts. When he got to Donovan, Ewbank said, “They got rid of you, you were too fat and slow. Then I got you back. I’m awfully glad you’re here today.” Immediately following this address, Donovan tore off for the bathroom to throw up -- not because of the words of Ewbank, simply because it was his pre-game ritual and it couldn’t be avoided.
7 Donovan McNabb
Donovan McNabb has taken his fair share of criticism for reportedly puking on the field during an important drive in Super Bowl XXXIX (McNabb denies this ever happened, Lito Sheppard says it most definitely did), but that particular moment would not have been the first time that McNabb puked on or off the field. According to Jason Short in a book titled NFL Unplugged: The Brutal, Brilliant World of Professional Football, McNabb’s teammate with the Philadelphia Eagles, the former quarterback would often throw up before games in the locker room, though he certainly wasn’t the only Eagle to do so.
6 Mark Schlereth
Schlereth wasn’t the only member of the Denver Broncos to routinely throw up before games, as it often seemed that the team’s entire offensive line would have to vomit as part of their pre-game preparation. So all twelve of the team’s linemen would gather around a garbage can before games in order for the puke party to begin. According to Schlereth in a book titled NFL Unplugged: The Brutal, Brilliant World of Professional Football, “Somebody, usually myself or Tommy Nalen, would start heaving and it would be a chain reaction. Next thing you know, four or five guys are puking over the trash can.” Schlereth relayed that the puking was caused by nerves, shrugging the team ritual off by simply saying, “We were pukers.”
5 Glenn Hall
The legendary Chicago Blackhawks goalie would get so nervous before games that he would literally cause himself to vomit in the locker room. This began while he was still playing in juniors, but the routine would follow him all the through his Hall of Fame NHL career. It became such a part of his pre-game routine that he worried he wouldn’t play well if he didn’t throw up at some point before the game. According to his teammate Glen Skov, all of Hall’s fellow Blackhawks, “felt sorry for him, you know, it wasn’t put on. He was genuinely that nervous before games. Of course, we were all nervous. You should be nervous before a game because that helps to keep you stimulated. But Glenn was really affected…we felt bad for him.”
4 Darren Drozdov
A professional football player before joining the WWE, Drozdov made a name for himself in both sports due to his penchant for puking, earning himself the nickname “Puke” after he threw up on the football before it was snapped during a nationally televised Monday Night Football game. He also famously told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that he threw up before each and every game that season with the Denver Broncos.
After his NFL career ended, he wound up in the WWE and continued to carry the “Puke” moniker – among others – in the ring, owing to the fact that he told Vince McMahon that he could vomit on command, and did so during the hiring interview that was featured in Beyond the Mat. McMahon requested that Droz puke in a garbage can in his office, and Droz was able to promptly oblige.
3 Bill Russell
There’s an argument to be made for Bill Russell as basketball’s greatest player ever, and there is certainly no doubt that he is the game’s greatest winner. He may also be the game’s greatest puker, as the Hall of Fame center was known to vomit before all of the team's most important games. According to legend, Russell was so intense that he would work himself into such a frenzy that there was no way he could avoid throwing up.
According to a biography written by Murry Nelson, Russell's puking became such an expected event that Celtics coach Red Auerbach would not let the team onto the floor until Russell had vomited, as Auerbach considered this something of a good luck charm. It got to a point where Russell’s teammates welcomed the sound of the vomiting, as John Havlicek once said, “It means he’s keyed up for the game, and around the locker room we grin and say, ‘Man, we’re going to be alright tonight.’”
2 Jim Kelly
Jim Kelly is a Hall of Fame quarterback and certainly remains a true Buffalo legend to this day. While leading the Bills to four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s, Kelly apparently puked so often that his teammates believed it to be central to the team’s success. But his puking was not limited to the NFL, nor was it limited to football either. According to Kelly in an issue of Sports Illustrated, the vomiting began in high school and happened before basketball games as well.
Like Bill Russell before him, teammates became anxious if Kelly didn't throw up before the game, and Kelly once said of his own pre-game vomiting, “We were so superstitious that my offensive line would not leave the locker room until I threw up … But the times I didn't think I needed to or it wasn't one of those games where I was so pumped up - like if we had [already] clinched - those games the offensive line wouldn't leave. So I went in there and pretended, just to keep those guys happy."
1 London Fletcher
Fortunately for Fletcher, most of his NFL teammates have a high threshold for being grossed out, as the former linebacker was not able to vomit in the locker room before games, but instead had to let loose on the team’s sideline. When asked about his predisposition for puking, Fletcher once energetically said in an article from The Washington Post, “I’m a vomit guy. I’m SUCH a vomit guy.”
Fletcher’s routine was fairly expansive as well, as the intimidating linebacker would puke up to five times on the sideline before the game even started. Fred Smoot, Fletcher’s teammate while on the Washington Redskins, had observed this behavior and casually relayed his experience with Fletcher’s puking, saying, "I've seen London Fletcher throw up a couple times. He'll probably play with a piece of corn right there on his mouth. That's just London."