Y’all crazy with this vegan thing!

As Coach Amos Stagg walked out onto the University of Chicago’s Marshall Field for the first day of fall football training in 1907, he had no shortage of strategies to carry his Maroons to the championship. Fans across the nation, having watched in awe as the Maroons clinched a perfect record Western Conference victory in 1905, expected nothing less of the renowned coach. But one of Stagg’s strategies took everyone by surprise: For the 1907 season, he was putting his team on an a vegetarian diet, the same one he himself had been following for nearly two years.

When they became vegetarians, the Maroons also became standard bearers for a fledgling Chicago based vegetarian movement. “It has been proved very conclusively that under certain types of muscular strain, the non-flesh-eater shows far greater endurance than the athlete who eats flesh,” Stagg told one newspaper. For vegetarians everywhere, and the meat eaters who mocked them as listless and weak, this was a throw down: Chicago’s upcoming season would prove or not the superiority of a vegetarian diet.

In their first game of the season the vegetarian team beat the Hoosiers, who were laughing at them the night before the game, in a 27-6 victory. When they won their next game against the Minnesota Gophers 42-6, no one was laughing anymore. In the next week’s Purdue game, the only surprise was the sheer size of the blowout: the Maroons won 56-0. The all-vegetarian football team went on to be the 1907’s Western Conference champions.

Fast forward to 2016, eleven members of the Tennessee Titans football team adopted a plant-based diet. At first, linebacker Wesley Woodyard was skeptical: “Y’all crazy with this vegan thing,” he recalls thinking. “I’m from LaGrange, Georgia. I’m going to eat my pork.” But soon enough, Woodyard, too, had converted. At least fifteen team members have switched to plant-based meal plans for the current 2018 season.

Plant-based diets are now making their way through the NFL. The famous New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is still playing at 41, and said Wednesday he’d like to keep going until he’s 45. He credited his plant-based diet as one of the keys to his success. Learn about more athletes choosing a plant-based diet.