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Football to Wrestling: Contact to Contact & List of NFL Players that Wrestled

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I’m a long time wrestling coach that has moonlighted the last 4 years as a football coach for my son’s team. When I was young more than 70% of my football team wrestled. It was a no brainer for most boys that like contact and sports specialization was thought of as bunk (which it is). Today I’m experiencing a funny contradiction at the youth level football, I coach several boys that are afraid of contact. Many of them are very talented at football but they avoid contact as much as possible. Their parents want them to get over this fear but won’t let them wrestle or do other contact sports. Many people like basketball for a winter sport choice, but it does nothing to help you as a football player. If fact it probably makes things worse because of the lack physical and mental toughness required to play.

“The principles that you learn in wrestling, none of that changes. It carries over, and if you stick to those things, the low man always wins.” Ray Lewis

Many professional Football players and MMA fighters will gladly tell you that wrestling is the most physically demanding sport they have ever participated in and how wrestling helped them mentally and physically get to the professional level. Note to the reader: there are 8 wrestlers on my football team that I have coached and they are all very comfortable with contact.
I’ve heard the benefits of wrestling described many ways, one of my favorites is that wrestling is a baseline sport that will help you as any type of athlete. Wrestling’s focus on core coordination and strength are over the top and can help any football player be better and make the game safer for the player. That said I think that real benefit is mental strength and resilience. Wrestlers learn to overcome the obstacles of bumps, bruises, hard contact and cardio challenges and keep competing on an individual level. They learn body awareness like nobody else. They learn the best way to use their own strength, power and leverage; true performance optimization. While wrestling is a team sport during training it’s also an individual sport when competing. This duality makes them great football teammates. They are used to the personal accountability of their performance and usually never blame anyone else for their mistakes and generally share credit with teammates. They are generally the most aggressive guys out on the field. Why? Personality, confidence from the battle tested nature of wrestling and physical development all may play a part. In short they have the winner’s mindset, they understand hard work, are some of the best athletes and understand what giving 100% effort is all about. My own son came home from a game that he played well today (they even won) and was really upset that he didn’t give it his all. Did anyone else notice? Unlikely; he put a bunch of boys on their butts today. On top of that, a few weeks ago we lost our only game so far and my son? Pumped, because he gave 100%. He kept on saying “why do I feel like we won?” – because he did. Did I mention he’s a wrestler? Of his own choice. Swear. Wrestlers understand that they have no control over the opponent but if they walk off a mat (or a field), win or lose, having given 100% that’s about the best you can get. And it feels good in either case.
It’s about character, no one wrestles to become a professional athlete. Wrestling builds the things that matter most to humans, no one is perfect and there are plenty of exemptions to the rule but as a generalization wrestlers don’t just make better football players they make better people.
So if you are a football player or parent of a football player make their winter sport wrestling. You’ll be glad that you did.

Great Football players like Warren Sapp, Stephen Neal, Ray Lewis, Bo Jackson, Matt Millen, Ronnie Lott, Mark Schlereth, Roddy White, Bruce Smith, Tiki Barber, Lorenzo Neal, Ricky Williams and Randle McDaniel are just some of the guys that credit wrestling for a significant part of their success.
Wrestling’s impact on college level football is even more impressive than at the NFL level. After briefly going through a few B1G and SEC rosters it’s safe to say that hundreds of high school wrestlers are on D1 football rosters. If I had more time I’d look further in to CFL rosters but I’m relatively certain that wrestlers are well repented in Canadian football too.
A summary of Wrestler impact on the NFL:
15 NFL Hall of Fame Members wrestled
45+ Multiple Time Pro-Bowlers wrestled
60+ Individual State Wrestling Championships have been won by NFL players
13 NCAA Wrestling Championships have been won by NFL players
3 Heisman Trophy Winners Wrestled
And currently playing in the NFL are 60+ RB’s, 20+ LB’s, 2 QB’s, 60+ Linemen, 6 DB’s, 1 K, that all wrestled.

“I would have all my offensive linemen wrestle if I could.” -John Madden – Hall of Fame NFL Coach

“I’m a huge wrestling fan. Wrestlers have so many great qualities that athletes need to have.” – Bob Stoops – Oklahoma Sooners Head Football Coach

Arizona Cardinals
Mark McDonald, SS
Alex Stepanovich, C
Nick Leckey, C- TX State Champ

Atlanta Falcons
Bill Fralic, G
Tim Green, DE
Woody Thompson, RB – PA State Champ
Roddy White, WR- 2x SC State Champ

Baltimore Colts
Leo Wisniewski, NG- PA State Champ

Baltimore Ravens
Ray Lewis LB 2x Florida State Champ
Kelly Gregg, NT-3x KS State Champ
Jonathan Ogden,T
Tony Siragusa, DT– NJ State Champ
Alex Lewis, DL

Buffalo Bills
Damien Covington, LB
Fred Smerlas – MA State Champ
Bruce Smith, DE
Coy Wire, LB– PA State Runner-Up
Aaron Maybin, DE – 4th State
Art Baker, RB
Tai Tupai
Damien Covington- NJ State Champion
Tim Anderson
Tim Euhus
Art Baker, RB

Carolina Panthers
Mike Trgovac, Line,– OH State Champ
Adam Seward, LB- NV State Champ
Sean Tufts, LB-C) State Finalsit

Chicago Bears
Tom Covert, OT
Jay Hilgenberg, C– IA State Runner-Up
Bob Pickens, G/T
Mike Pyle, C– IA State Champ
Matt Suhey, RB
Antonio Garay, DL – State Champ
Josh Minkins – District Runner-up

Cincinnati Bengals
Mike Goff, G
Archie Griffin, RB
Tim Krumrie, DL– WI State Champ
Mike Reid,
Brad St. Louis, TE
Andrew Crummy
Eric Ghiaciuc, C – MI State Champ
David Pollack

Cleveland Browns
Tom Cousineau, LB 3rd states
William George – 2x PA State Champ
John Gilmore, TE
Bob Golic, DT– OH State Champ
Ronald Moore, RB
Alex Mack
Eric Rhett, RB – FL State Champ

Dallas Cowboys
Bob Bruerig LB
Jonathan Condo, LS
La’Roi Glover, DE
Chad Hennings, DL – IA State Champ
Randy White, DT

Detroit Lions
Kevin Glover, C
Ed Flanagan, C
Alex Karras, L
Rocky Rasley, G
Cory Schlesinger, LB- NE State Champ
Claude Harriott

Denver Broncos
Darien Gordon, CB, KR
Benjamin Claxton – GA State Finalist

Green Bay Packers
Rob Davis, T
Henry Jordan, DT
Dave Joyner, OL
Dave Porter, T
Scott Wells, C- TN State Champ
Kenny Clark, DL
Mike Daniels Jr., Dl

Houston
Patrick Flannery, G/T
Jess Lewis, LB
Steve Martin, DT
Lincoln Hodgdon, C- CA State Champ
Fred Weary, C- AL State Champ

Indianapolis Colts
James Mungro, RB
Chris Laskowski, LB
Brian Save, DT

Kansas City Chiefs
Curley Culp, DL – NCAA Champ
Charlie Getty, G– 2x NCAA All-American
Ernie Ladd, DL
Dave Szott– NJ State Champ
Kevin Sampson

Los Angeles Rams
Doug France, T – OH State Runner-Up
Greg Meisner, DL
Irv Pankey, WR – 2x MD State Champ
Charles White, RB

Miami Dolphins
Larry Czonka, RB
Morlon Greenwood, LB
Ricky Williams, RB
Matt Roth, DL- IL Champ
Ronnie Brown, RB

Minnesota Vikings
Scottie Graham, RB
Kirk Lowdermilk, OL
Randle McDaniel, G
Bryant McKinnie, T

New York Jets
Eric Bateman, OL
John Ward, O Line– NCAA All-American
Trevor Johnson

NY Giants
Tiki Barber RB
Brad Benson-PA State Champ
Nick Griesen, LB
Dahanie Jones, LB
Mike Malczyk, LS
Scott Peters, G
Jim Thorpe, RB
Cory Widmer, LB
Gregory Walker, T- State Finalist
Andrew Tidwell-Neal, C-MN State Champ
Morgan Pears


New England Patriots
Teddy Bruschi LB
John Hannah, G
Mario Johnson, DT
Jim Nance, RB – NCAA Champ
Stephen Neal, C– NCAA Champ
David Patten, WR
Adam Vinatieri, K

New Orleans Saint
Jim Everett, QB
Willie Roaf, OT
Rodney Leisle, DL

Philadelphia Eagles
Phil Bryant 2 X National Prep Champ
Mike Golic, DE
Steve Sefter, DT- 2x PA State Champ & NCAA All-American
Mike Patterson, DT

Pittsburg Steelers
Randy Grossman, TE
Carlton Haselrig, DL-3x NCAA Champ
Chuck Noll – PA State Champ

Raiders
Steve Wisniewski OL CA State Champ
Greg Boone, RB
Corey Hulsy, G
Bo Jackson, RB
Mickey Marvin, RG
Napolean McCallum, RB
Matt Millen, LB
Jim Plunkett, QB
Jonathan Condo, LS

San Diego
Lorenzo Neal NCAA Champ
Donnie Edwards, LB
Carl Edwards – 3x MD State Champ
Terrell Fletcher, RB
Shane Olivea DT
Luis Castillo, DT
Nick Hardwick, C
Kevin Breedlove – SC State Finalist
Marques Harris – CO State Champ
Tony Pape
Antoineo Harris

San Francisco
Roger Craig, RB
Ronnie Lott, CB & S
Jeremy Newberry, C
Leo Nomellini, T– Big 10 Champ
Tommy Vardell, RB

Seattle Seahawks
Rob Essink NCAA DII Champ
Ron Heller, TE
Orlando Huff, LB
Joel Mackavicka, RB
Chris McIntosh, T

St. Louis Cardinals
Dan Dierdorff, T
St. Louis Rams
DeMarco Farr

St. Louis Rams
Frank Garcia, C– 2 x AZ State Champ
Kyle Turley, T
Fred Weary, DB
Greg Wojochowski, Line
Larry Turner

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Rhonde Barber SS
Sean Mahan, G
Warren Sapp, DT- FL State Champ

Tennessee Titans
Lorenzo Neal,RB- NCAA Champ

Washington Redskins
Walter Barnes, DL, SEC Champ
Jeff Bostic C
Chris Cooley, WR
Mark Schlereth, OL – Alaska State Champ
Bill Szott, OL– NJ State Champ

Looking these guys up and trying to confirm them is no easy task. Please leave additions and corrections in the comments section.

2 Comments

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  1. Hey! i made the list! Awesome. Thanks for including this. i refer young wrestlers to this list often. Can you update my mention to include CO – State Finalist.

    Thanks,

    Sean Tufts

    1. Done Sean.
      Thanks for the info update.
      Mike

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