Heaters and Vaseline: How Georgia Tech players stay warm in cold games

All things considered, the expected weather Thursday is pretty nice for December in Atlanta — sunny and a high in the mid-60s. But by the time Georgia Tech takes the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium against Pittsburgh at 7 p.m., the temperature will be starting to decline toward a low of 38 degrees.

The Yellow Jackets have practiced outside a handful of times in the past few weeks, so they’ve gotten used to working in cold temperatures during their morning workouts. In games, though, there’s a lot more standing around and, therefore, more opportunity to be affected by chilly weather.

Even players who are on the field for every snap their unit plays are still on the sidelines for approximately half the game. And it isn’t just the players who have to work to stay warm — the balls get cold, too. Senior punter Pressley Harvin notices it when he’s punting, because balls don’t travel the same when they’re cold, and they have a tendency to deflate slightly as well.

For specialists such as Harvin, staying warm is even more of a challenge because they’re on the field only for short and infrequent periods. Harvin also said it tends to get windy inside Bobby Dodd Stadium — a recipe for a cold night.

“The biggest thing is just you’ve gotta stay warm longer,” Harvin said Tuesday. “It’s harder to get into it with the weather being so cold, but me and the guys, we’ve got a routine now that we’ve been doing for a couple weeks since we have practice in the morning. We just came from practice, it was pretty cold today. We have the kicking net on the sideline, so we use that a little bit more. We have different tools like a Theragun and stuff like that to massage our legs and stuff to try to keep us warm throughout that cold process of the game.”

Every player has his own preferred methods to stay warm, and for wide receivers, such as Andonicas Sanders, keeping their hands warm is of the utmost importance. Sanders said he bundles up as much as he can on the sidelines to keep his body warm, but his real concern is his hands.

“Being a wide receiver, the most important job is to have your hands warm,” Sanders said. “That’s the thing I focus on the most. Catching a cold ball is no fun, so I just try to keep my hands as warm as possible. Hopefully, we’ll have some heaters on the sideline. When the defense is on the field, I just have my hands by the heater, keeping them warm until it’s time for me to get in the game.”

For Harvin, tights and long sleeves usually do the trick to keep out the cold, but that’s not an option for defensive linemen such as Djimon Brooks — Tech’s defensive linemen have a policy that they don’t wear sleeves in games.

“We’ve got a little thing about not wearing sleeves during the games,” Brooks said. “... You can’t go out there looking soft.”

A common trick for players who don’t want to wear long sleeves is to slather Vaseline on their arms to keep the wind and cold air off the skin. That’s what running back Dontae Smith does. Perhaps the Vaseline has some magic powers because while all the players said they don’t mind the cold, Smith was the only one who professed a real enjoyment for cold-weather football.

“I like playing football when it’s cold out just for the fact that nobody else likes it, so it makes my job easier,” Smith said last week. “When people are cold, they move around slow, they’re not all the way awake, they’re not as active as they would (be) when they’re hot. That tells me if I turn it up a notch, it’s a big gap right there.”