Super Bowl LVII: Sixteen Super Bowl players and coaches share stories about Super Bowl nerves

Preparing for his Super Bowl debut in February 2014 Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby WagnerPeyton Manning and the facing of him was not something he stressed about. Denver Broncos‘ record-setting offense.

Wagner's nervousness showed at the start of the kickoff.

Wagner stated that “I was more nervous about the moment all the flashes occur,” to ESPN Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson. “It was bizarre. It was weird. The kickoff is the best part of the game. You can only imagine being there and experiencing all the moments. I noticed that I was paying too much attention to the game, but then I snapped back.”

Wagner, who recorded 10 tackles in the Seahawks' victory in Super Bowl XLVIII, was a formidable force once the flashes faded. While smartphones have made it obsolete to use flash cameras, the pregame jitters still remain a fixture at Super Bowl XLVIII.

Both players and coaches can recall how they dealt with nerves prior to the Super Bowl. On average, 100 million people watch the Super Bowl broadcast across more than 170 nations.

Some nerves can be very severe for some. The Philadelphia EaglesBrandon BrooksAnd Lane Johnson raised awareness about anxietyYou can share their stories. They began to vomit and missed games due to the intense feelings. Brooks retired from the sport in January.

For others, these feelings can act as a signal that they are about to be involved in something important.

Coping mechanisms may range from creating distractions to waiting for the first hit. Andre Rison was an actor for the Green Bay PackersSuper Bowl XXXI was a great way to calm your nerves.

Rison shared his nervousness with ESPN reporter Eric Woodyard, “I was nervous so I called Deion Bernies and we spoke hours before kickoff.” “He had played in one. The rest was history.

Brett Favre's 54-yard TD pass to Rison was the key to the Packers' win 35-21 over the Bears New England Patriots.

Rison stated that she also had a lot of body art done to distract from the big game.

Although stories of Super Bowl nerves vary, they all share a common theme: It's not like any other game.

— ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley

Editor's Note: Some responses were edited to be more concise and clear.

Doug Baldwin: “Who's with me?”

Analysts said that Seattle's receiver team was nothing without Percy Harvin leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII. Cris Carter called them appetizers, prompting a back-and forth with Doug Baldwin. This included the memorable line from Carter: Google me, man. You can see if I'm not in the Hall of Fame.

Baldwin answered questions from the podium after the Seahawks' win. A hat to commemorate their Super Bowl title was right next to his microphone. He was asked by a reporter for a headline to the story his team had just written. Baldwin simply replied “Google that.”

“It was about finding motivation beyond the norm to get rid of anxiety. My attitude was “Who's against you?” Who wants to discuss s— about me or the receiver's capabilities and our collective goals? I am looking for those to help me overcome my anxiety and give me something to work for. Cris Carter was one of the men who sat in the room with several others discussing the Super Bowl's receivers.

“I am trying to find some slight so it addresses that anxiety, so it doesn't really need to be dealt with.”

Super Bowl LVII: Sixteen Super Bowl players and coaches share stories about Super Bowl nerves

Doug Baldwin

“But the bottom line is that everyone handles anxiety differently. Because you have two weeks before the game, it was obvious that I felt it. However, my strategy was: How can I find an additional motivator to get past the anxiety? I'm looking for something that will address my anxiety and make it less overwhelming. Although I don't know if this is a healthy way to manage it, it worked well for me. [competitive] arena.”

— Henderson

Carl Banks: “Damn, I am in the Super Bowl!”

Banks is a two time champion linebacker for the New York GiantsWho played in Super Bowls XXI & XXV?

“Any player who hasn't wished for a specific type of game or certain plays during a tournament is lying. So I dreamed that I would just make plays. I also studied a lot. However, there is anxiety. [you feel]It's amazing how big the moment is when you step on the football field. But by the end of the anthem, it's only football.

“You suddenly realize you are in the Super Bowl. It starts with the player introductions. Then the national anthem plays. You feel it. It's like, “Damn, I am in the Super Bowl, here we go.” But then, it's football.


Lance Briggs: “This is the most important moment in our lives.”

Briggs led a Bears defense-driven team to Super Bowl XLI. Chicago lost in the end to Peyton Manning. Indianapolis Colts 29-17.

“I was more nervous in the playoffs that lead up to the Super Bowl. It was worse than the build-up to the big event.

“The locker room is the only thing that I can remember. It was amazing to me. It had our name tag and the Super Bowl patch. As you get dressed, you think this is the greatest moment in your life.”

Super Bowl LVII: Sixteen Super Bowl players and coaches share stories about Super Bowl nerves

Lance Briggs

“The locker room is the only thing that I can remember. It was amazing to me. It had our name tag and the Super Bowl patch. As you get dressed, you might be thinking that this is the most important moment in your life.

“I do recall warm-ups when there were so much flashing lights and so many people taking photographs. It was the first time I'd ever seen something like it. It didn't make it scary. It gave me a sense o accomplishment. It is so difficult to reach the Super Bowl. I told myself to not let the moment become too large.

— ESPN reporter Jesse Rogers

Kevin Butler: “I didn't want Walter Payton to down”

Butler was a rookie kicker in 1985 for the Bears, who defeated the Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX at New Orleans.

“I was nervous. “I was nervous.

“There were some demons in the Super Bowl because I wanted perfection after that championship game.”

Kevin Butler

“I had an up/down playoff. In [the divisional round against the Giants]On the windiest of days I've ever played, I missed three field goals. The week leading to the NFC Championship Game versus the Rams was nerve-wracking. However, it was a good game. [4-for-4, including an extra point]. There were demons that I had to face going into the Super Bowl, but I wanted to be perfect after that game.

“The nerves were there, however they weren't as strong due to the enormity of the football match. I have played in many big games over my career, both at Georgia and elsewhere. The moment was stressful for me. Walter Payton was the one I wanted to help. Dan Hampton was my idol. These were the people who calmed my nerves. Some of these guys were my heroes the year before. The game was the only thing that put me under pressure.


Gary Fencik – This was going to the last time that we were all together

Fencik was the safety start for the '85 Bears.

“It was one of the major issues that I had to deal with early in the week when Buddy Ryan (our defensive coordinator) told me privately that he would not be returning to coach the Eagles following the game. This was to be our last time together. We had an emotional night prior to the game, although I'm not sure if it was nerves. We were prepared with two weeks of preparation. We wanted to win because of all these reasons.

“The other thing that was nerve-wracking, was when people said to me for a decade, ‘Hey! If you ever get to the Super Bowl, call us up. I'd love some seats.' I had five sisters and brothers, and there are only so many tickets. I needed to find a Mississippi house for them. I needed to find a hotel for my parents. College friends asked me. It was unbelievable. It took me two tickets to complete the week. I was done. I was unable to access the Internet, so I went out to buy two tickets. Bob Verdi was a Tribune columnist. So, I went to dinner with him. I said that I was very in trouble with my tickets. He suggested he might be willing to help me. He offered me two tickets at unbelievable prices, but I would never tell anyone about it. It's the first time in more than 30 years that I have done this. He saved me from my butt. It was just as challenging as the game.


Grady Jarrett‘That was an extraordinary moment for me.'

Super Bowl LI was a great game for the Falcons defensive tackle. However, he lost his big moment when the Patriots overcame an 8-3 deficit to win 34-28.

“It was definitely surreal for me. It was an exciting moment. It was just an exciting time.

“You're certainly looking around, taking in all the surrounding environment. It was part of the pre-walk through stadium stuff, I don't recall if it was the previous day. In Houston, there was the JumboTron, where they were putting up the roster and your picture. It was incredible for me to see my name and picture up on the top as I prepared to play in a Super Bowl. And it was, I'm certain, for everybody else on the field.

— ESPN Falcons reporter Michael Rothstein

Ray Lewis: “You have to calm down sugar. You have to calm down.”

Lewis is a twice-crowned Super Bowl champion. After helping the Ravens beat Giants in Super Bowl XXXV, Lewis earned MVP honors and was then credited with seven tackles in a victory over the 49ers during Super Bowl XLVII.

“I always had a confident, nervous energy. It wasn't like the game was too difficult or that anxiety set in. It wasn't like that for me. I was in the moment at all times.

“Rod Woodson used tell me all the times, ‘You have to calm down sugar, you have to calm down. Because I was always ready to take advantage of the moment. Let's clear all the flags and fly across and let's get this ball snapped. “I was always ready to lead throughout my entire career.”


Lincoln Kennedy: I was exhausted

Kennedy was the Oakland Raiders right tackle in Super Bowl XXXVII. The team lost to Jon Gruden (ex-coach), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-21. Kennedy grew up San Diego, the place where the game was played, creating a sense of community, for better and worse.

The anxiety that comes with dealing with uncertainty is the root of all anxiety. The Super Bowl is approaching, and you aren't sure what to expect. You don't have the ability to respect this, no matter how many times it's been played.

“And, we were the last one-weekers [there was one week between the conference title games and the Super Bowl in 2003, the last time that happened]. Once you are there, you won't want to leave. [and there's a two-week gap]The first week is stressful because you have to deal the fear of the unknown, the hype, and all the other anxieties. The second week is normal. But, that was not the case.

My week was a double-edged knife on a personal level. We were playing in San Diego, my hometown. Everything was just…extra. I was the talk in the town. I was everybody's VIP. I wanted to be everywhere and I was. I was so exhausted. I was exhausted by the end of the game.

— ESPN Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez

Rob Ninkovich: “I was so nervous. It was “I must win” that I was thinking.

Ninkovich, a Patriots linebacker, went 2-1 in Super Bowls. He was a Super Bowl XLVI loss to the Giants.

“We're playing against the Seahawks in Arizona.” [in Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015]The field was extremely slippery. Bill [Belichick]They ordered that everyone wear seven-stud shoes [longer ones used for slippery or sloppy fields]. I fell so badly the first time I played. I was on the outside and had two tight ends. I reached the first tight end and was bounced out. It's everyone's fault, because it's Marshawn Lynch. I try to cut but my feet get caught under me as I run. It was so slimy that they had made the entire field green. It was very slippery and wet.

“I kept thinking all week, I haven’t won a Super Bowl. I really haven’t done anything. People assume you've won a Super Bowl, especially if you play for the Patriots.

Super Bowl LVII: Sixteen Super Bowl players and coaches share stories about Super Bowl nerves

Rob Ninkovich

“When Bill ordered the seven studs it was almost like a mental exercise. [game]. I hated seven studs, as I developed Achilles tendinitis towards the end. I felt my Achilles tendinitis worsened when I wore seven studs. My toes felt higher than my heels and it was putting pressure on my Achilles. So I was worried that I was going to break my Achilles. It was the Super Bowl so it didn't matter. If I tear it, I tear it.' This was what I used to say to guys: “If it pops today it pops.” It was great fun! They would all be like, “Shut up Ninko!”

“The whole cleat issue was probably a blessing in disguise as it distracted me from the sheer magnitude of the game. I was thinking all week, “I haven’t been to the Super Bowl.” I really haven’t done anything. Everyone assumes that you have won the Super Bowl, especially when you are playing for the Patriots. They hadn't won in over ten years. I was nervous about the second one. It was nerve-wracking. It was “I must win.” It must be a great game. Lynch must be stopped. The third game was my last. I wasn't nervous about it. It was “I'm going play and hopefully we win.”

Mike Reiss (ESPN Patriots reporter)

Bill Parcells: “It's like Elvis in Las Vegas”

Parcells coached New York Giants in two Super Bowl victories, defeating the Broncos Super Bowl XXI before leading them to the edge. Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV.

“When were we close to the Super Bowl?” [XXI in Pasadena, California]I wanted it to be moving. Also, it was too late. All the work was done. Now I was ready to have fun. Let's go.

“The game started at 3:18 on Pacific Coast, and I was there in my dressing area at a quarter past 8. I wanted to get outside the hotel and into my surroundings.

It's an exciting moment. This is what I remember. I don’t think the word ‘butterflies’ is the right one. I believe that ‘impatience might be a better choice.

Bill Parcells

It's an exciting moment. This is what I recall. I don't believe butterflies is the right term. Impatience may be a better choice.

“[In the tunnel before the game]I was not thinking about my life or its journey. It was more of a statement that ‘This really is the big show. It's almost like Elvis in Las Vegas. Everybody is watching.

“One of the things I was most concerned about was George Toma, who was responsible for the field. He told me that the field was a bit oily. I was there quite early, I think it was 9:15 or 9. I was just trying to find slippery spots. I knew that the bleachers at the end of the field were quite close to the zone so I was able alert my receivers. If you are going to the back of this zone, be cautious. Although it sounds absurd, I was simply looking for slippery spots on the field. I was trying figure out where the shadows would appear, where the sun will shine, and where it wouldn't. This kind of stuff.

Rich Cimini, ESPN Jets reporter

Patterson is normally relaxed before games. He jokes with teammates and fans, tosses the ball into stands to play catch with them for at least fifteen minutes, as part of his pregame warming-up. Even though he admitted that it was just a little different when he was with the Patriots before Super Bowl LIII.

“I was anxious the entire game. Couldn't hear. Couldn't breathe. My heart was beating so hard that I couldn't breathe. It was completely different.

“I was doing my little.” [pregame]It's routine, but it just became very tiring. It's bizarre. To truly understand, you have to be there. It's difficult to explain.

“[He kept telling himself:]It's a fun game. It's an adventure. It's still a fun game that we have been playing for our entire lives. Just come in and enjoy the game.

— Rothstein

Dean Pees: “Do your usual routine.”

Pees was the Patriots' defensive coordinator and linebackers coach in Super Bowl XXXVIII. For Super Bowl XLVII, he was the Ravens' defense coordinator.

“The very first Super Bowl that I attended was with New England. Bill Belichick did an amazing job of talking to players. They had been to one two years before. Pregame is full of guys who are all excited about the Super Bowl and getting out there. Keep up your usual routine.

“I felt that his teams always had an advantage because he had them toned down. You see other teams jumping around and going mad and they look great for the first two series. But by the third series, half of them are hyperventilating from having expended all their energy at pregame and in the start. He was a great leader and kept everyone calm and in a routine.

— Rothstein

Antwaan Randle El says, “It's just going out and hitting someone.”

Steelers receiver threw a touchdown to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL.

The Super Bowl is no exception. “You get jitters before any game. It's as simple as going out and hitting someone. It doesn't matter if you are hit or knocked down – it's just a matter of hitting somebody.

Preparation is the key to a lot of this stuff. It's not like you get your normal night of sleep the night before Super Bowl. However, I always took Ambien anyway so I was okay. It all comes down to being prepared. Once you are prepared, it's easy to go out and catch the ball. You're now ready to go.


Nate Solder: “I couldn’t catch my breathe”

The Patriots' former offensive tackle was 2-2 in four Super Bowls.

“You have more time to think about everything. “What if they did this?” What if they did that? You'll have so much more time for your own thoughts and less time to worry about everything else.

“I can remember the entire game.” [in Super Bowl XLVI]I couldn't stop breathing. A month later, I still remember talking to my high school coaches. I told him that it was the most bizarre thing I had ever seen. Even the smallest movement I made, it was impossible for me to catch my breath.

“I think I was holding my breath all the time, probably because I was nervous. This is what you do. Your natural functions lock up.”

Super Bowl LVII: Sixteen Super Bowl players and coaches share stories about Super Bowl nerves

Nate Solder

“He asked me, ‘Were your breathing?' “He said, “Were you breathing?” I replied, “Probably not.” I think I was holding my breath because I was so nervous.

“You have a tendency to do that.” Your natural functions lock up.”

Jordan Raanan, ESPN Giants reporter

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