Bucky Schrader’s pregame ritual has grown elaborate over the years.
The senior running back leaves school between 2:40 and 2:50 p.m. on game days. He heads home, where he lays out his clothes on the floor, including an Oakland Raiders shirt with the phrase “I’ll never say L.A.” that he wears every game.
The same music playlist, ranging from classical to rap, plays as he picks out his clothes, pets his dog, Ellie, 10 times and drives back to school going exactly the speed limit.
He listens to “The Beast” by Tech N9ne before heading to the team dinner, gets his wrists taped and puts on his three pairs of socks, left foot first for each pair.
He hits the field for individual warm ups. Then the nerves hit, and he vomits for the first time near the trees at Eagle High. He’ll throw up at least once more in a trash can before the game. Sometimes more, if it’s a big game.
“Then at halftime I throw up again,” Schrader said. “And sometimes throughout the game, I just throw up. It doesn’t matter. Whenever I need to, I just let it out.”
Schrader said his stomach troubles date back to his Optimist Youth Football days. But whether it’s the vomit or any other aspect of his ritual, Schrader isn’t deviating.
The process works for him.
The 5-10, 187-pounder has exploded in his third year as a varsity starter. He leads the 5A Southern Idaho Conference with 19 touchdowns through six games. He’s run for 838 yards and racked up 1,013 total yards as Eagle (4-2, 2-0 5A SIC Pod B) heads to Vallivue (2-4, 1-1) on Friday.
“Athletically, you almost have to put a film on in slow motion to appreciate the subtleness of what he does,” Eagle coach Paul Peterson said. “He’s been given a gift of getting the opposition off balance in the opposite direction of where he’s really going. He’s got subtle changes of his body at a very high rate of speed.
“I think people underestimate his 40-yard time because he’s so fluid. But his hips and his balance are just a subtle gift. I haven’t seen anything like it. I’ve seen a lot of speed guys and power guys and quick guys. But some of his cuts are just crazy. He’s been born with a gift, no doubt.”
Schrader entered the season as one of three returning starters on offense. He led the Mustangs with 1,168 rushing yards and 13 TDs last season to earn first-team all-conference honors, and he started at running back as a sophomore. But he shared carries the past two seasons with Josh Labrador and quarterbacks like J.T. Williams and Hunter Floyd that Eagle used as running weapons.
With all those players graduated, Eagle has leaned on Schrader this fall, opting to hand him the ball out of the backfield, split him out wide and even snap the ball straight to him in the wildcat formation.
“We’ve got to get Bucky the football,” Peterson said. “Bucky has to have 25 touches a game for us to be successful. He’s too good. We want to win football games, and Bucky is the ticket we need to ride a little bit.”
Peterson said Schrader added 15 pounds during the offseason, adding a more physical and downhill element to his shifty running style. But despite all of his success and increasing stat totals, Schrader remains superstitious and slavishly devoted to his pregame ritual, vomit and all.
“I feel like if I don’t do something, then I’m not going to play as good,” Schrader said. “So I just have to make sure I do everything on time.”