J.J. McCarthy’s secret is daily meditation

Most of what J.J. McCarthy does is by design.

From his reads as a passer to his reads as a runner down to how he wakes up and approaches every day, McCarthy is intentional with everything he does.

Somewhere between leading Michigan’s offense, being a college student, navigating a handful of NIL projects, and attending various events, the 19-year-old finds 40 minutes daily to close his eyes and meditate.

“I (meditate) every single day, twice a day,” McCarthy said following Michigan’s 59-0 win over UConn. “Before the game, it’s about getting into that present moment and finding that flow. I wake up, and I’ll meditate for 30 minutes. And as everyone sees out by the field goal post, I’ll meditate for 10 more minutes before the game.”

Last season, as a true freshman, McCarthy famously went criss-cross apple sauce in front of the field goal post before Michigan’s Week 1 game against Western Michigan. It was his first time meditating in The Big House, something he’s done at every game since, home or away, and a tradition that won’t go anywhere soon.

Wise beyond his years, McCarthy is keeping his head where his feet are.

To him, the meditation isn’t about football. It applies to everything. Some people think of meditation as a trendy way to “find yourself” or enjoy some peace. But most people, at least in America, don’t meditate.

According to The Good Body, only 14 percent of Americans have meditated once. Among those who do meditate, the majority of them are between 45-to-64 years old.

McCarthy, a 19-year-old who won’t turn 20 until January, is one of the six percent of humans on Earth who regularly meditates.

“I’ll meditate for 10 minutes (before the game) just as that quick tune-up to really make sure I’m completely present and in the moment,” McCarthy said. “That is, especially on game day, a huge focus for me.”

To McCarthy, it’s a lifestyle and a foundation to his success as a human first and a football player second.

His mindfulness is a key factor in his year-to-year improvement from his freshman year as a backup to his sophomore season as a starter.

“Everything is slowing down. My mind is not racing anymore. Everything is just slowing down. I feel at ease out there. I really do,” he said. “And that’s changed from last year to this year. Just through having those kinds of experiences, it’s putting me on that exponential growth track.”

As his world as the most famous kid on campus moves quicker, McCarthy somehow still slows down, taking each game week-to-week, not getting too high or low.

“Whatever happened last game, you have to put it in the past. It’s a new week, a new process, a new preparation,” said McCarthy. “Being able to accept what happened – whether it’s good or bad – and sometimes with those good games, you want to hold on to them throughout the week. But no, you can’t. You have to throw it in the ocean. Move on to the next week. That’s what we’re doing again this week.”

McCarthy will spend every day this week doing what he’s always done, meditating 40 minutes daily and starting each morning with a clear mind.

The sophomore’s 88 percent completion percentage speaks for itself.

If 10 minutes of pre-game meditation every Saturday is the X-Factor, it’s working.

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