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After his rookie season, New England Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise had decided he was done with all meat products.
The fifth-year defensive end had been researching and following the studies of herbalists, dietitians as well as studying the diets of bodybuilders and strongmen competitors who had transitioned to a vegan lifestyle. Wise not only wanted to make sure he was only always putting clean nutrition in his body, but he wanted to make sure he would feel his best each time he stepped onto the field.
“You get all kinds of injuries in football,” Wise said. “I’ve had a long list of injuries, but when I started to change my diet, I realized a lot of things I was eating wasn’t healing my body the way I wanted to. I know the foods that we eat often lead to certain diseases and I definitely wanted to clean up my diet for my physical recovery but also for my health as well.”
Since eliminating most if not all meats from his diet, Wise admits he can now feel the difference when it comes to bouncing back from a rough, hard-hit game or intense workout.
“I still have general soreness, but I recover faster, and the soreness doesn’t last as long and it’s not as intense,” he continued. “In college, after workouts and after NFL games, my body would be extremely sore, sometimes two days after [a game]. I could barely get through a workout the next day. [Recovery] is much quicker now.”
After cutting red meat and pork in college, Wise ate strictly chicken his first year as a pro. His choice to go all-in with vegan, he admits, was met with some skepticism by team nutritionists as well as his teammates.
He was told stories of players who had tried to go plant based but lost muscle mass, got weaker and they sustained injuries as a result. Confident enough in his nutrition choice, Wise made a bet with his nutritionists: If he showed any deficiencies in muscle mass and lost any of his strength, he would at least go back to eating eggs.
The results: Wise still has yet to crack an egg. Not only did he come back with added muscle mass, but Wise says his bench press and squat numbers improved to personal bests, and he continued to effectively produce on the defensive side of the field.
Eating up to five meals daily, with a few smoothies in between, Wise says he consumes up to 5,000 calories each day. His diet consists of plenty of beans, pastas, chickpeas, eggplants, mushrooms, plus he’ll throw in some Beyond Meat products to change things up every now and then.
Wise and his wife Chanel share in the cooking duties, often scouring for new and unique vegan recipes online. Oftentimes, the recently married couple will put their own spoon-fed spin on non-vegan meals by giving them a plant-based remix.
Also a constant is Wise’s offseason routine, in which he likes to keep his strength and conditioning at the same level he does during the season. Wise’s weeks consist of his usual routine of squatting, single leg lifts, dumbbell and regular bench pressing, hill runs, swimming and biking.
“I believe it’s a must to have a regimen,” Wise said. “You have to have a plan. My parents always told me that not planning is planning to fail. If you’re not following some type of routine that you do daily, then it’s very easy for things to get out of whack.
“I make sure that I’m always fit and working out during the offseason equally or more like I do during the season,” he adds. “I like to remain strong throughout the season. I try to follow the program that we have here.”
Speaking of that program, the Patriots are looking to bounce back after a 2020 season that was unlike what the franchise had become accustomed to. The team’s season came to an end at the close of the regular season for the first time since the 2008 season as they finished at 7-9, while their former quarterback went onto win his seventh Super Bowl title.
They ranked 26th against the run and 27th in red-zone touchdown percentage allowed. Their 24 sacks were the fewest for any Bill Belichick-led team in his NFL coaching tenure. Wise’s consistency, versatility, and locker room presence made it an easy decision for New England to retain his services.
Despite the down year, Wise enjoyed the best statistical season of his career. He played a career-high 565 snaps and scored the first touchdown of his career on a fumble recovery.
Losing Tom Brady in free agency was a blow, but Wise said there wasn’t a void in leadership as there were plenty of voices within the locker room who command respect. “We have so many leaders, guys like Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Lawrence Guy,” Wise says. “When one leads, the others step up.”
There also wasn’t a shortage of lessons to take from last season, which is exactly why the Patriots made some key offseason additions to their defensive unit are much deeper and more talented on both sides of the ball than they were last season.
Many experts have them returning to postseason play. Just as he’s gone about his business since entering the league, Wise leans on one of his favorite quotes and the Patriot Way philosophy.
“Don’t let anyone use their pen to write your story,” Wise said. “If we continue to do our jobs day in and day out, every day, we’ll continue to get better, and our goal is to always win. If we can continue to do our jobs, the rest will take care of itself.”