The Link Between Football and Wrestling

While sports like bas­ket­ball, soc­cer, ice hock­ey and track can improve an athlete’s agili­ty and speed, no oth­er sport is as ben­e­fi­cial to foot­ball play­ers as wrestling.

Takedowns and Tackling are very similar to one another and while these two things are probably the most recognizable when it comes to football and wrestling. For Florida State University linebacker and leading tackler Reggie Northrup, it’s the art of the takedown that makes him a better tackler.

In this interview from last season, Northrup, his teammates and head coach Jimbo Fisher discuss how his wrestling background helps him be the defensive menace for the Seminole’s.

Some of the best every to take the gridiron, such as Falcon’s wide receiver Roddy White (2x South Carolina State Champ), former Raven’s linebacker Ray Lewis (Florida State Champ), former 3X Super Bowl Champion and 2X NCAA Wrestling Champion Stephen Neal, and former NFL fullback Lorenzo Neal (NCAA All-American), are just a few who used to mix it up on the mat before playing in front of thousands on Sunday’s.

Recently, ESPN analyst and three-time Super Bowl Champ Mark Schlereth spoke about how wrestling was “the most challenging sport (he’s) ever been involved with.” Schlereth was a state champ in Alaska when he was in high school and gives plenty of credit to the sport for making him the competitor he was in the NFL. Mark's article on how wrestling made him the football player that he turned into can be read below!

Wrestling Makes Great Football Players!

Wrestling Gives Football Players, the Following Tools:

1. Agility–The ability of one to change the position of his body efficiently and easily.

2. Quickness–The ability to make a series of movements in a very short period of time.

3. Balance–The maintenance of body equilibrium through muscular control.

4. Flexibility–The ability to make a wide range of muscular movements.

5. Coordination–The ability to put together a combination of movements in a flowing rhythm.

6. Endurance–The development of muscular and cardiovascular-respiratory stamina.

7. Muscular Power (explosiveness)–The ability to use strength and speed simultaneously.

8. Aggressiveness–The willingness to keep on trying or pushing your adversary at all times.

9. Discipline–The desire to make the sacrifices necessary to become a better athlete and person.

10. A Winning Attitude–The inner knowledge that you will do your best – win or lose.

What the coaches say:

“I would have all of my offensive linemen wrestle if I could.” –John Madden, Hall of Fame Football Coach and Broadcaster

"I'm a huge wrestling fan. Wrestlers have so many great qualities that athletes need to have." - Bob Stoops - Oklahoma Sooners Head Football Coach

“Wrestlers make coaching football easy, they have balance, coordination, and as a staff we know they are tough.” -Tom Osborne College Hall of Fame Coach for the University of Nebraska

“I draft wrestlers because they are tough, I’ve never had a problem with a wrestler.” –Joe Gibbs Hall of Fame Football Coach

It’s easy to understand why multi-sport athletes are sought after. Competing in a variety of roles shows dedication and well-rounded athletic ability. It’s also a really productive way to pass the time during your football off-season

And though many sports will improve overall athleticism, wrestling is teh BEST thing you could do during football off-season.

From 2X Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin to Miami Dolphins fullback Larry Czonka, the list of prominent football players with wrestling pedigrees is long.

Why? Four skills (among many others) translate directly from the wrestling mat to the football field.

1. Tackling Form

Low hips, straight back, eyes up — the per­fect stance for a take­down mir­rors great tack­ling form. Nobody in the world does this bet­ter than Olympic cham­pi­on Jordan Burroughs. (We think JB would have made an excel­lent strong safety.)

2. Hand-Fighting

Wrestlers are required to use their hands to fight for posi­tion, just like foot­ball play­ers. Think about a line­backer shed­ding a block, or a cor­ner jam­ming a receiver.

3. Leverage

At the line of scrim­mage, the low­er man is more like­ly to win the bat­tle. This same premise reigns on the wrestling mat, since no take­down is suc­cess­ful­ly exe­cut­ed with­out prop­er leverage.

4. Footwork

Throwing, blocking and tackling all require a focus on proper footwork and lower body agility. The unparalleled footwork that separates Pro-Bowl NFL Athletes is the same skill giving wrestlers Kyle Snyder and Kyle Dake a leg up on the competition.