Buffalo's Roosevelt relies on pregame rituals

Posted by ESPN.com's Graham Watson
On Thursday, we ran a story about Buffalo receiver Naaman Roosevelt and how he's thrived as the Bulls top receiver.

But what I didn't have room to include might have been one of the more interesting parts of the story -- Roosevelt's pregame ritual.

Like many athletes, Roosevelt is superstitious. He puts his right sock on before his left and puts his left pad in before his right. He slides a picture of his family into his leg pads.

"It feels like they're right there with me," he said.

But the most disturbing part of Roosevelt's ritual comes after he's dressed.

He walks into the bathroom of the locker room and chooses the mirror second from the far wall. He places two cups of water on either side of the sink and takes a deep breath.

Then he proceeds to yell at himself in the mirror.

He tells himself all of the things he's capable of doing in the game, all that's expected of him and why he won't let anyone down.

"I'm really superstitious," Roosevelt said. "I just have to look at myself and talk to myself. It just gets me pumped up and calms me down."

Then the talking gets softer, calmer and he acknowledges his grandmother, Mattie Roosevelt, who died in 2001. Up until her passing, Mattie had been to every one of Roosevelt's games. She sat in the end zone and he would point to her when he would score touchdowns.

"She was my source of inspiration," he said.

After talking to both himself and Mattie, he drinks one of the cups of water and pours the other on his head. He said he did that before the Bowling Green game his freshman season because it was warm in the locker room. On his first touch, he ran back a kick 94 yards for a touchdown. It's been a staple ever since.

But the process doesn't stop there.

When Roosevelt finally hits the field, he finds his mother in the stands and points to her.

Then he prays.

He says one more prayer to Mattie and then one to his best friend Vjavad, who was killed in a robbery in February 2008.

"I know if he would have been alive, he would have been at every game," Roosevelt said. "I dedicated last season to him."

Although Roosevelt's pregame ritual might seem kind of crazy, there's got to be something to it. Last season, he had the best season of any receiver in Buffalo history. He was ranked in the top 10 nationally in several receiving categories and he comes into this season as one of the most anticipated receivers in the country.

"It's strange," Buffalo receivers coach Juan Taylor said of Roosevelt pregame routine. "There have been times when I've watched and thought, 'What is he doing?' But whatever he's doing, it's working."