If you haven’t heard much about Cleveland’s Chris Ogbonnaya, that could change this season if the Browns continue to play the running back in their starting fullback slot. Last summer, Cleveland coaches tapped the 28-year-old for the position, and by the end of the season, Ogbonnaya had fielded 48 receptions—more than any other FB in the league.
This year, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound University of Texas alum says he won’t know which role he’ll play this season until he gets through training camp, but he’s happy to do whatever his coaches want—and happy to adjust his weight accordingly. “Last year, when I played more fullback, I wanted to be heavier, so I tried to gain more muscle mass and weight,” Ogbonnaya says. “But when I was just playing running back, it was a different workout regimen.”
If he has to add weight this year, though, the former Houston Texans player, originally drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2009, says he’ll do so with clean, healthy foods. “I try to eat protein like chicken and fish and a lot of vegetables—that stuff tends to help you lean out and put on good muscle mass,” he says. Of course, there’s still room in any fullback’s diet for a little Chinese takeout and ice cream. To see the rest of what Ogbonnaya eats, keep reading.
You’re not likely to find Chinese food in Ogbonnaya’s fridge, but that’s not because he doesn’t love a plate of beef with broccoli or sweet-and-sour chicken. “I try to do all the damage in one sitting—I try to finish what I order that night and not have leftovers,” he explains. This is not to say Ogbonnaya, who averaged 4.9 YPC last season, sits down to General Tso’s and fried rice—his favorite duo—every night. “After a hard week of work, I’ll give myself a cheat day or two just to say sane,” he says. “I am human, and I do love to eat, but I work really hard and think I can get away with it a little better than other people can.”
“Hydration is the ultimate for me,” says Ogbonnaya, noting his fridge is usually filled with this simple staple. “Water is key to your development as an athlete and to maintaining your body.” But unlike other bottled-water drinkers, the former University of Texas player doesn’t care which brand supplies his hydration. “I think water is water,” he says. “And if I don’t have any bottled water, I’ll drink tap water.” Ogbonnaya says he tries to keep his fridge well-stocked with water when he’s living in Houston, where he trains in the offseason.
Chicken breast: While protein-packed chicken is a fridge essential for many athletes, most don’t take the time to prepare a bird like Ogbonnaya does. “There are a lot of recipes I’ll look up online and try,” says the Houston native. “I’ve tried chicken masala, barbecued chicken [with homemade sauce], and sometimes, I’ll just go to the store and buy different chicken rubs.” The running-back-turned-fullback says he’s willing to attempt almost any chicken creation—except one: “I don’t allow any fried chicken around, because I will get my hands on it and eat it all,” he says.
If you’ve read this column before, you may have seen this unusual entry in the fridges of a few other pro NFLers. “I can’t believe other people have this,” says Ogbonnaya of his favorite juice pouch. “I thought I was the only one.” As it turns out, other football players also have fond childhood memories of Capri Sun, which the Cleveland starter says he also grew up drinking. “I’ll go to the grocery store, and the child with me will just come out,” he says. “And it tastes so good.”
Brown sugar: “Lately I’ve been on this brown sugar kick,” says Ogbonnaya, who uses the sweetener when making homemade barbecue and tomato sauces. “It brings out a different kind of sweetness in cooking. I also put it on oatmeal and mix it into spaghetti sauce.” No full-time personal chef for Ogbonnaya, the five-year NFL veteran says he’s not afraid to prepare elaborate meals and spends the offseason experimenting with new dishes. “[Some recipes] don’t always turn out how I want them to, but they’re always edible,” he says.
Blue Bell Ice Cream: Ogbonnaya says he loves ice cream, especially ice cream sandwiches and Snickers Ice Cream. But when it comes to taking a spoon to the carton, the five-year vet says he’s more discerning. “I’m particular about the brand—it has to be Blue Bell,” he says. The label, sold primarily in Southern states, makes four flavors Ogbonnaya says are his favorites: cookies and cream, butter pecan, vanilla, and strawberry.