Story By: E&H Student Daron Vaught
Jorel Terrell of the Emory & Henry men’s basketball team is far from weak. He’s not small either. Listed at six-feet-seven and weighing 190 pounds, the first-year student is distinguished by more than his scruffy beard and long ponytail. His towering build defies all criticism that comes with being a vegan athlete.
The typical skepticism accompanying athletes who choose not to eat meat is that they do not get the nutrients needed to play at the competitive level demanded of them, especially at the collegiate ranks. Protein, iron and vitamin B12 are the most crucial items not so easily found outside the realm of beef, pork, lamb, mutton and chicken.
Terrell insists that cutting meat from his diet has not adversely affected his performance. He was always considered one of the most athletic players on the court throughout high school, when he was named to All-District and All-Region teams as well as Pre-season All-State Player prior to his senior season. Now, as the end of his first collegiate season nears, Terrell is the fifth highest scorer on the team and is a strong candidate for the Old Dominion Athletic Conference’s Rookie of the Year Award.
Vegetarianism has worked for professional athletes, as well. Prince Fielder is a first baseman for Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers, and he decided to give up meat just before the 2008 season. Fielder credits some soul-searching and the book Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin (recommended by his wife) for his choice. The power hitter’s hulking frame has hardly suffered, though, as he was selected to the 2009 All-Star Game for his stellar play and won the Home Run Derby in the same year.
Professional football player Tony Gonzalez also had great success while experimenting with his diet. After a fit of facial numbness left the tight end frightened and hospitalized, Gonzalez was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a nerve disorder that causes cranial paralysis. An eleven-time Pro Bowl selection, Gonzalez decided to focus his nutritional program on his general health instead of continuing a previous emphasis on getting bigger and stronger for his football career. Gonzalez has completely given up red meat and strictly limits his amounts of poultry intake.
At 35 years old, “Gonzo” just completed a successful season that included more than 600 receiving yards and six touchdowns for the Atlanta Falcons.
Terrell says that his vegan diet actually helps him gain muscle mass, because he consumes a high amount of lean protein that is not accompanied by excess fat. He also uses vegan multi-vitamins and supplements to make up for what he may not take in through his meals. Beans and rice, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and pasta with vegan meat are common meals for beginning vegans, but Terrell says he has learned to turn nearly any “normal” food vegan, including Philly Cheese Steak, Chicken Parmesan, and many different types of pizzas.
Jorell’s older brother, Damien, who is also a vegan, greatly influenced Terrell’s shift in lifestyle just over a year ago. “He’s the reason I started questioning what is in my food,” said Terrell. “I did a lot of research and watched many different types of documentaries on what people call ‘normal food.’ If I didn't understand, had any questions, or needed some guidance about the vegan lifestyle, I could ask my brother. The more I learned about ‘normal food,’ the more I didn't want to eat it. It's amazing how bad the food is that people eat, but they will never question it.”
When he first arrived at Emory & Henry in August, Terrell had a difficult time adjusting his dietary ways to college life in a small community. Time also became an issue. He maintains a busy schedule congested with classes, studying, basketball practices and games, and fulfilling community service hours for his Bonner Scholarship. Terrell lost approximately 20 pounds during the first month of the semester. “Here in Emory, everything is so far away, and the vegan selection around here is very small,” said Terrell. “The cafeteria is doing what they can to help me out, though.”
Planning to regain his weight over the summer, Terrell says he intends on coming up with a more organized plan for his meals when he comes back for his second year at Emory & Henry.