With help from Gatorade, Eli, and LT, TSR spends a day in the life of an athlete

“Do you guys want to play Foosball?”

“Sure, sounds cool.”

“All right, it’ll be LT and me versus you two.”

There I was, in a trendy New York City building in SoHo, lined up across from a sure-fire, first-ballot Hall of Famer ready to play Foosball. While I tried to remember the last time I played the table game, flashbulbs started to go off around me as the ball was dropped into play.

This is going to be an interesting night, I thought to myself.

After years of it only being available to college and pro athletes, the sports nutrition leader Gatorade is set to release “G Series Pro” to the public. The beverage line, which is designed to help elite athletes perform at their top level before, during and after practice or competition, will be available at GNC stores nationwide starting on May 1.

To help launch the new “G Series Pro” product line, Gatorade held a get together in Manhattan on April 13. Along with an exclusive group of media members, in attendance that night were Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning, Jets’ running back LaDainian Tomlinson, as well LT’s new teammates, offensive lineman D’Brickashaw Ferguson and receiver Jerrico Cotchery.

“What are you doing, man?” I barked at my Foosball teammate Kyle (another member from the media) after he allowed Tomlinson to score two quick goals to send us to an early 2-0 deficit. “You’re killing us with your play!”

One of the many things that attracted Tomlinson to Gatorade is that the company can help him prepare for what he faces on the field. Athletes’ bodies are their meal tickets and Tomlinson is well aware of what Gatorade’s “G Series Pro” brings to the table.

“I don’t want to mention any names, but I was working for a competitor and I felt it was time to take the next step,” Tomlinson said while leaning up against a blocking sled, which was one of the many props Gatorade set up around the New York City loft. “This is a great product, man – I’ve always believed in them.”

A player doesn’t rush for over 12,000 yards, score over 150 touchdowns and reach five Pro Bowls without being in-tune with his body. Now that he’s heading into his 10th season in the NFL, Tomlinson is fully aware of how important his workouts are.

“I’m big on electrolytes. After workouts, I drink the recovery drink every single day. So just adding to my pre and in-game workouts is huge. I think it’s an awesome product and Gatorade always seems to have a step on everyone else.”

Manning is no different. He sees the same benefits in “G Series Pro” as Tomlinson does and is a big believer in the company producing it.

“I’ve been involved with Gatorade for a long time being an athlete,” Manning told me. “Since an early age, I’ve been drinking Gatorade and when I was in college I was introduced to the “G Pro Series.” I just know that Gatorade, with all of their studies on how to help athletes improve their recovery, is the best in the business. I know that whatever they make will be great for the body, so I swear by it.”

As I snuck the ball past Tomlinson’s Foosball teammate Brad, one of Gatorade’s many cordial representatives, to cut our opponents’ lead to 2-1, I could see the competition fire building in LaDainian’s face.

“All right,” Brad said. “We better get going.”

“Next score – next score,” Tomlinson said excitedly.

Along with launching “G Series Pro,” Gatorade also wanted media members that were in attendance that night to experience a “day in the life of an athlete.” (Or at least, a window into what goes on at a media event through the eyes on an athlete.) Tomlinson was ushered from one media member to the next throughout the night, fielding questions about Gatorade, the Jets, his career, and whatever else reporters’ wanted to hurl at him. Manning, Ferguson and Cotchery received the same treatment and while watching them interact with everyone at the party, I definitely got the sense of what it would be like to be in their shoes. While there’s no question that an event like that is an ego-stroker, the hustle and bustle that goes on with it might drive the “regular” Joe insane. (Of course, many of us would put up with it in order to get compensated like these athletes do.)

In one corner of the loft, Manning was being engulfed by flashbulbs as he held up Gatorade products for one picture after another. In a separate corner, Tomlinson was being interviewed by MTV reporter Sway Calloway and by the bar, I had my recorder stuck in Cotchery’s face, probing him about what he thought about the Jets’ new additions, Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie.

“I think they’ll mesh very well,” Cotchery said. “When we talk about having a strong locker room, we’re talking about character guys that are very close to one another. Guys are ready to go out there and lay it on the line every game and we have that – we have that in our locker room. When they come in, they’ll feel that and that’s why they feel very welcomed. They’ll be just fine.”

While both Holmes and Cromartie will have to fight off bad reps, Tomlinson, who knows Cromartie well from their days together in San Diego, concurred with Cotchery.

“Both of those guys are going to be fine,” Tomlinson said. “I always say, when you’re young, you’re going to do things sometimes to get in trouble and then you’re going to learn from it. It’s the same for those guys; they were young, rich, had fame, and it’s hard to handle that part of it and do everything right. But this is where they say you know what? That’s what I used to do. I’m on my second team and I know I have to fly straight. So they’ll be fine.”

While my partner and I feverishly attempted to tie the score against Tomlinson and Brad, the Gatorade rep eventually had to pull the plug on the game in order to get LaDainian to his next interview.

“How convenient,” I quipped. “We’re about to tie this death match up and you just happen to have something else to do.”

Apparently that something else was P. Diddy, who heard that Tomlinson was going to be there and decided to make an appearance at the event.

“We got hosed by P. Diddy, bro,” I said to Kyle.

When the Diddy, LT and Eli got together for a photo opp, you could have seen the flashbulbs pop from El Salvador. As if they were in a trance, most of the party goers followed the trio around the room until Diddy finally called it a night and left the loft as smoothly as he came in.

A short time later, Manning and LT lined up at that same Foosball table in order to take on Ferguson and Cotchery. I was fortunate enough to get front row seats to the game, but I was quickly brushed aside by several photographers who successfully boxed me out while getting into position to snap a shot of the night’s main attractions.

Everywhere the four athletes went, there was the media. I wasn’t around to listen to all of the personal interviews, but I’m sure Tomlinson and Manning repeatedly answered the same questions. But they never complained and they never seemed frustrated. After all, they’re use to this because it comes with the territory. Wherever they go, they’re gawked at because of their celebrity status, or in Ferguson’s case, because he’s 6-foot-6 and 310-pounds. (Seriously, the guy must look down on all of us like we’re tiny ants.)

When Manning was drafted in the first round in 2004, he was expected to one day become the franchise quarterback and lead the Giants to a Super Bowl. But even with a championship under his belt, Manning says the expectation levels have never changed.

“I think they’re the same,” he said. “Every year I set expectations for myself to be a better quarterback and a better player, so that’s what I’m doing this year and trying to see where I need to improve. I want to go out there this year and be a better quarterback and a better player for the Giants.”

After nine years in San Diego, Tomlinson finds himself starting over. He’s in a new city, playing for a new team and will now have to adopt a role that he has never had before: that of a mentor.

“You prove what you can do on the field, you earn your role on the team, and then in the mean time you mentor the young guys,” LT said. “That’s what a professional does and that’s what a guy, I feel, in my situation does. I’m going into my 10th year and it’s something I can give to a young guy like Shonn Greene. When I’m retired and they’re in my situation, they can say, LT taught me about this. You know, that’s something special.”

With guys like Ferguson leading the way, Tomlinson feels like he’s in a great place.

“I really like being here,” he said. “I think this is the perfect place coming from the West Coast. When you come to the East Coast, you come to New York, you know? So obviously I’m excited, but my main goal is to win a championship and bring it back here. So if I do that, my career is set – I’ve done everything I’ve needed to do.”

And what about his retirement plans?

“Well, it depends. It depends on the winning part of it, the having fun part of it, and the body.”

While interviewing Tomlinson, I could tell that there’s no place he’d rather be. He seemingly enjoys being in New York, enjoys being around his new teammates and he’s looking forward to a new beginning. He also knows that this is just the start.

“We know we have a lot of work to do and we can’t be satisfied with what the Jets did last year,” he said. “We want to take it to the next step.”

Before the night came to a close, I asked Tomlinson about a potential rematch after he clearly cheated to get out of our Foosball game with some dignity.

“I figured you might ask that,” he said while flashing a grin. “Competitive guys always want a rematch when they lose.”

But before I got my rematch, Tomlinson vanished back into the crowd of people in that trendy SoHo building in Manhattan. He was off to his next interview, his next photo opportunity, his next question about Gatorade’s “G Series Pro.”

Such as the life of an athlete.

Below are some addition quotes from my interviews with Tomlinson, Manning, Ferguson and Cotchery from the event.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson

On what direction he thinks the Jets will go in the draft:
That’s interesting. You know, because of some of the offseason moves we’ve made, it really puts us in a great position to choose what we need. We have some offseason moves that we still don’t know will come through like Jason Taylor, but like I said, I think we’re in a great position to pick and choose where we want to go.

On whether or not Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie will mesh:
That’s definitely our hope. That’s why we have our OTAs, mini camps and eventually our training camps to make sure those things do happen. Hopefully it’s early enough that we can start to mesh and slowly but surely, we’ll get to the point of where we need to be.

On playing for Rex Ryan:
He’s got a lot of personality – a lot of humor. He’s a passionate guy and it’s great to play for a coach that let’s that show. That’s why we have such a swagger, because everyone kind of feeds off that and it makes it an exciting environment to play in.

Jerrico Cotchery

On Santonio Holmes:
It feels good. Every offseason we want to get better and it’s clear that we are focused on getting to the Super Bowl. This offseason we brought in some very talented players and even though they may have made some mistakes, everyone makes mistakes. They’ll be fine with us.

On his overall production, year in and year out:
Just don’t settle for the success you’ve had. Never settle. Whenever you get to the point where you feel as though there’s nothing else you can work on, that’s when you set yourself up for failure. Every year I just try to get better, try to be a leader on the team and work as hard as I can to maximize my talent.

On playing alongside Braylon Edwards:
That’s my guy – he’s a blast to be around. It’s one of those things were people talk about him and his character, but he’s been a blast since he’s been with us. He’s been fun to be around and really, the perfect teammate. I say that about the same guys coming in – it’s going to be a fun year.

On the development of Mark Sanchez:
I’m definitely excited for him. The way he finished out the AFC Championship Game, we have a lot to look forward to. But the key is to keep working hard and keep getting better. As a quarterback, he now has a lot of weapons so it should be pretty easy for him. (Laughs)

On playing for Rex Ryan:
It’s fun to come to work every day. That’s how you build that team chemistry, when it’s fun to come to work, when you love being around your teammates and that’s how you become a close nit group. That’s what we have in him and it’s meant everything to how we play out on the field.

On teammate Darrelle Revis:
He’s the best and he definitely makes me a better. As a player, he’s going to go hard every day in practice and he’s looking to beat you every play. That brings out that competitive nature in everyone on the team and you’ve got to have that.

LaDainian Tomlinson

On using Gatorade as part of his workouts:
Oh yeah, absolutely. When you get around three hour workouts, there’s a part when you need the energy. You need something to fuel you to keep going, so that’s where the pre-workout drink comes in. And then I said, at halftime, you need that part of it too. Then obviously the post workout, you need electrolytes to replenish what you lost during your workout.

On whether or not he’d recommend Gatorade to other athletes:
Oh, absolutely. See, that’s the thing – a lot of pro athletes are already using it. It’s the younger athletes that don’t really know about it. I guarantee you if they know the pro athletes are using it, then they’ll start using it as well. So we need to get the message out to them that this is just one thing that will aid their workouts and hopefully get them a scholarship to go to college.

On D’Brickashaw Ferguson:
I’m very excited to work with him. But look across the board, I mean you look at that offensive line and that’s why I walk around smiling. You can’t help but to.

Eli Manning

On scoring twice on himself during foosball while playing against Tomlinson:
I don’t know – I’m not very good. I pretty much scored all the goals in the game. In the first game, I only had the defensive side, so I only had to worry about putting on the goal line force.

On recommending “G Series Pro” to the public:
If you’re a younger athlete and you’re working out hard, the pre, during and post recovery workout drinks – all of it – is great. It’s going to fuel your body, it’s going to make sure you’re getting the most from your workouts and then you’re also recovering fast enough so the next day you’re ready to go at it again. They’re the best in the business.

On how the offseason is going with the Giants:
The offseason has been going well. We started our workouts about a month ago and we’ve had great energy, great enthusiasm, great commitment by the guys, everyone is itching to get back here and get started again. So, that’s the start we needed. We have great talent on the team and now it’s about putting it all together, getting the most out of the guys and I’m excited about this upcoming season.

On what direction he thinks the Giants will go in the draft:
I don’t know. I leave that up to our scouts, coaches and our experts who analyze film. We’ve done a great job in the draft and I know that whatever we do it’ll be the right move.

Special thanks to the fine representatives for Gatorade, most notably Tammy Quach, Brad Burke and Adam Tanielian for extending the invitation out to this great event.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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