49er Patrick Willis Likes Cold Baths & Phil Collins

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis is a pretty good football player. We know this because even though he plays on a team that never makes an appearance on national television these days, and has won only 10 games in the last two seasons, Willis was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, and was chosen for his second Pro Bowl in as many seasons earlier this week. If he were playing for the New York Giants or Dallas Cowboys, he would probably be talked about in the media as the next Ray Lewis.

Patrick Willis

So Patrick has been good enough at football in his first two seasons to start causing people to wonder what it is that he does before a game to get himself ready to dominate. After all, a lot of professional athletes have odd superstitions that they follow before every game. Patrick is no different, though I’m pretty sure he’s the only player in the NFL willing to admit that Phil Collins is a must-listen before each contest.

From Patrick’s blog on PLAYBOY.COM:

Like a lot of players, I have my gameday rituals. The night before, I’ll sometimes make myself a cold-tub — an ice bath — at home and sit in it. When I go to bed, and warm up, it helps me have a really deep sleep. I wake up feeling rejuvenated.

I get up about 8am with the mindset that it’s gameday and it’s time to go play, time to work and also time to have some fun. Of course, it’s always more fun when you’re winning. You do a routine during the week, and by Sunday, your body feels it’s ready to play.

If the game starts at 1 p.m., I like to get there early, get into the hot tub, get my body relaxed, get it just right. I like to do my thing and don’t like to be rushed. I’ll get into some music on my iPod. I’ll maybe start off with some gospel, then some R & B. Then rock it up a little with a song like “Eye of the Tiger” — the tune they used in the Rocky movies. It’s got that inspirational side to it.

Then maybe some Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight” because it sneaks up on you (“I’ve been waiting for this moment”) and then hits you with that great drum roll. If I’ve got some extra time, on my iTouch I’ll watch that cool clip from Any Given Sunday where the coach talks about it being a game of inches. That always works for me.

Now, while having a professional athlete whose job description is basically “find the guy with the football and kill him” saying that Survivor and Phil Collins are what helps him get pumped up before a game is weird enough, what makes it even stranger is that both songs were popular before Willis was born. While his awareness of “Eye of the Tiger” can just be traced to the Rocky movies, his love of Phil Collins had to be something he discovered for himself.

Of course, considering that Willis could probably kill me with a stare, I’m not going to get on his case too bad for this. Besides, that speech in Any Given Sunday from Al Pacino would work for me too. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some people to kill, and I’ve got to listen to the John Denver mix on my iPod to get me in that space I like to call my “killing zone.”