It was early. Looking at Lance’s sleepy face made me yawn. His better half smacked my arm. “Stop that!” Waiting in the green room of Chicago’s WGN television studios, we watched the early morning news, chatted about current events in the local newspaper and discussed Lance’s interest in cooking. Lance cooks almost every night, getting recipes from websites, friends, families, teammates and coaches. His interest is far more than just a casual concern—he plans to attend culinary school after his retirement from the NFL. Developing his sense of taste and enjoying the subtle nuances of cuisine serves as a counterpoint to the brutal effectiveness of his football life.
A small kitchen on a cart is wheeled out from the studio’s storage closet. A slab of granite sits on top of plywood, lumber and wheels. With a working range and some counter space, we measure out the ingredients called for by the recipe. Lance works with a careful sense of precision. Although he knows that no one will be eating this dish, staying true to the integrity of the recipe is of utmost importance to him. Nutrition is important to every human being, especially an athlete looking to maximize ability. Being able to cook allows for increased levels of control on the quality and value of the ingredients eaten. For most people, food is a necessity fulfilled by convenience. A chef, as Lance opines, decides not only on convenience but on preference—a sense of ownership in the end result.
D.C. Crenshaw, an Emmy nominated TV host and producer, stands with Lance after the components have all be measured and wheeled into the studio. In the commercial breaks between segments, D.C. and Lance exchange ideas and lay out a game plan for the show. Lance is ready: he’s made this particular dish already. He practiced the night before. He knows the steps.
The off-season is an important part of an athlete’s maintenance of physical ability. Most players gain weight and lose muscle mass during the off-season as they enjoy their much deserved time off. Nevertheless, maintaining a level of fitness and body composition shortens the painful process of getting back into shape when the season starts. Feeding the engine with clean fuels is the easiest way to accomplish maintenance without putting further stress on joints, tendons and muscles with excessive off-season workouts.
The rest of us are back in the green room, waiting to watch as Lance prepares himself for the segment in the studio. His expressive face appears on the screen as the host makes a glowing introduction. Lance is ready to show the audience his culinary skills. With everything prepared in Lance’s mind, the host throws a curveball that would draw the ire from the most stoic of athletes and celebrities: he begins to ask a series of questions that Lance’s representative strictly forbid him from asking. Questions about contract negotiations, especially about teammates, are generally non sequitur: as an opening to a cooking segment, they seemed particularly unfitting.
Most people in the general public find Lance’s football persona far more interesting than other, more human sides of his individuality. From his enjoyment of comic books, his various charities and his refined palate, it was refreshing to see the man behind the image consumed by the masses.
Handling the unforeseen questions gracefully, Lance navigates the host to the main topic of the program: a delicious and easy recipe of blackened salmon with a bleu cheese sauce. Combining ingredients, a rub is created and applied to the salmon. The blackening process begins on a pan as bleu cheese is melted and combined with cream and wine in an adjacent pot. Talking through the entire process, Lance executes the recipe with the same precision and focus he had while measuring ingredients.
D.C. Crenshaw is in the green room, smiling at a successful food segment. Happy to have worked with Lance, his positive energy helps diffuse the tension from the earlier faux pas. Lance rejoins us as the show enters another commercial break. Any doubts about his seriousness and conscientiousness in pursuit of culinary knowledge evaporates—Lance is only interested in feedback on the food. How did it look? Were there any mistakes? Was it any good?
Briggs is a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker for the Chicago Bears. An avid comic book fanatic, Lance’s interests and hobbies branch into food and dedicated charity work. Born and raised in Sacramento, California, Lance moved to Tucson, Arizona to play football for the University of Arizona Wildcats. Currently a Chicago resident, his diverse background helps curate versatility in both his professional and personal lives.
Crenshaw is an Emmy nominated TV host and executive producer of the show Game Time Dine. Having played in the Arena Football League for two years and subsequently developing a successful career in corporate America, D.C. as a featured media personality and food critic.