Wrestling And Football: Is There Any Connection?

Wrestling and Football: Are There Any Connections?

The thing is that there are a lot of football fans out there in the world and we are going to write here how America’s most popular sport is connected to wrestling. For starters, we’re going to quote the legendary NFL coach, John Madden, who once said: “he wished all of his offensive linemen had a wrestling background”. With him saying that there surely must be a connection between these two sports.

The connection between wrestling and football is that incorporating wrestling into your training can help you get better at football. Wrestling skills such as footwork, initial stance, hand fighting, and leverage overflow directly from wrestling to football.

Practicing Wrestling at a Younger Age

The first and most important thing is that practicing any sport at a younger age is good and will improve your overall athleticism later in whatever sport you choose. Later, during high school, kids often choose wrestling as their primary sport during the off-season and that is a perfect combination of training during the year. There are numerous benefits that wrestling brings to the table for kids and here we are going to highlight those which are best implements into the game of football as well.

Particularly interesting is the statistics that show that about 50% of students at US universities train in more than one sport, and this is good in that they increase motor skills and athleticism and get only the best of each sport.

The benefits of sports such as basketball and athletics that children practice at an earlier age are well known, and after that, they switch to football. But most children and adolescents make the most from wrestling training, which has proven to be the best base for practicing any other sport in the future.

Football players who start wrestling at an early age will benefit greatly from this in their further football careers. They will get better leg work, arm reactions, explosive speed, and more.

Given that you cannot practice football all year long, many coaches and doctors advise that young athletes engage in other sports outside the football season. The ideal choice for this is wrestling. Unfortunately, there are some in the sport who prohibit other sports and want young people to focus on just one, in this case, football, which is certainly a misconception.

Here is a complete breakdown of why wrestling is good for you and what benefits it brings you.

Skills that Directly Flow from Wrestling into Football


One of the primary and most important things first learned in wrestling training is leg work. Leg work is perhaps the most important aspect in all sports, including football.

It is not said for no reason that in basketball and football the defense firstly plays with their feet and only then their hands follow. All those throws, blocks, and pushes that are integral to football come from the wrestling world. Before anything else, the position of the legs and the agility of the lower body determine the success of these actions.

Hand combat

The second essential item is hand-to-hand combat, an action without which football is unimaginable. Literally, every action requires either the player in the line or the receiver to choose the best possible position in the duel with the rival player.

Every cornerback with great footwork must have superior handwork to give himself a chance to stop a successful pass to the wide receiver. All this can be practiced by wrestling where hand-wrestling is an indispensable part of the sport.

The initial stance

An initial stance to knock down your opponent on the ground is also one of the most important things in football that is taught in wrestling training. The low center of gravity that is crucial in this stance primarily means that your hips must be low, your back straight and your eyes pointing straight at your opponent.

Olympic wrestling winner Jordan Burroughs is most famous for that. It is thought he would be a great defensive player in football if he were to embark on that career in his life.


As is well known, it is not always the case that a larger and physically stronger man wins the match in any sport, including football.

In a face-to-face match with your opponent, good leverage is essential to gain an edge over your opponent. In this case, this means a lower stance, because the rule is that the lower your stance, the more chances you have to knock down your opponent.

This is also the situation on the line of separation in a football match, where all the liners stand extremely low at the start of the action, increasing the chances of a successful tackle against their opponent across the field or to takedown an upcoming rival player.

We have listed only the most important technical features that make it easier to practice football and come from wrestling, but of course, there are also the common ones such as the development of strength, endurance, speed and agility, and balance of the whole body.

10 Good Reasons why Football Players Should Wrestle

  1. Agility – the ability to change body position quickly and effectively
  2. Speed (Quickness) ​​- the ability to make a series of movements in a very short period
  3. Balance – maintain the balance with the help of muscle control
  4. Flexibility – the possibility of a wide range of muscle movements
  5. Coordination – the ability to combine movement combinations in a fluid rhythm
  6. Endurance – Developing muscular and cardiovascular endurance
  7. Muscular strength (explosiveness) – the ability to use strength and speed at the same time
  8. Aggressiveness – Willingness to pressure or push an opponent all the time
  9. Discipline – the desire to sacrifice everything else to become a better athlete
  10. Winning mentality – the inner knowledge that you will do your best

Famous Football Players who Had Wrestling Experience

According to Hudl, up to 6% of American football players who entered the Hall of Fame were engaged in wrestling in high school or college.

Some of the most famous NFL players who were wrestlers before starting their football careers are Ronnie Lott, Lincoln “Drew” Hodgdon, Mike Patterson, Ronde Barber, Tiki Barber, Jim Everett, Jonathan Ogden, Ray Lewis, Roddy White, Tedy Bruschi, Willie Roaf , Lorenzo Neal, Kelly Gregg, Stephen Neal, and Jeff Saturday.

Ronnie Lott – one of the best of all-time at the safety position in NFL history, and he was a wrestler for Eisenhower High School in California

Lincoln “Drew” Hodgdon – he wrestled in Palo Alto High School in addition to the football

Mike Patterson – he wrestled during his sophomore year of high school, while he was still an offensive lineman

Ronde Barber – he was a wrestler for Cave Spring High School of Roanoke, Virginia

Tiki Barber – like his twin brother above, he was a wrestler for Cave Spring High School of Roanoke, Virginia

Stephen Neal – maybe the most successful wrestler turned footballer. He was fourth in the California State Wrestling Championships for San Diego High-school, winner of Junior National freestyle titles, two-time NCAA champion, three-time NCAA finalist and four-time NCAA All-American. Tedy Bruschi – he wrestled at Roseville high school

Tedy Bruschi – he wrestled at Roseville high school

“Wrestling is still one of the reasons why I swivel my hips; it’s been everything for me,”

“The principles that you learn in wrestling, none of those changes (in football). It carries over, and if you stick to those things, the low man always wins. [Wrestling] teaches you what most people want to do, which is to make your hips and butt work for you…You always want to go low; you never want to walk up to an opponent standing up. Everything has to be engaged. You have to be locked and loaded. That is what makes you shift so easily. Football is that natural shoot and tackle.” 

– Ray Lewis told Penn Live in 2010.

Football Coaches Perspective

Football coaches also love drafting wrestlers, they love that they are tough, hardworking, and have discipline. Here are some quotes from football coaches about wrestlers

“I draft wrestlers because they are tough, I have never had a problem with a wrestler.”

– Joe Gibbs, Hall of fame Football Coach

“I would have all of my Offensive Lineman wrestle if I could.”

– John Madden, Hall of Fame Football Coach

“I love wrestlers, they are tough and they make great football players.”

– Mike Stoops, National Championship Football Coach – University of Oklahoma.

“Wrestlers make coaching football easy, they have balance, coordination, and as a coaching staff we know they’re tough.”

– Tom Osborne – College Hall of Fame Football Coach – University of Nebraska

“I think you learn more from wrestling than any other sport. You find out so much more about yourself and about competition. When it gets down to it, it’s you and the guy across from you. When I was wrestling, for the six minutes that you’re out there, it is one of the toughest, most demanding sports that I’ve ever been around. I think guys that can go through that and compete with all the different things going on, it really defines who you are.”

– Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told USA Wrestling.

All Football Players Should Wrestle

All footballers should wrestler for at least one season, even if football is your primary sport. You will gain much in that one year and have an advantage over other players. You will be tougher, better at positioning, build your strength, speed, and condition, more balanced, and very aggressive towards your opponent. Wrestling can benefit all positions, but lineman, linebackers, defensive backs, and running backs profit the most from crosstraining football with wrestling.

Wrestling Is Tough, Probably even Tougher than Football

I don’t want to disrespect football that I really think is a tough and hard sport, but wrestling is just another level. You have to work and train like hell, you can’t stand after it, and can’t lift your hands, you are hungry and thirsty, and you get to check your weight, after hard training in the hope you have burned enough calories, and you find out that you are still over the weight you need! Then, hungry and thirsty, you can’t eat, you can’t drink, but you have to come home and then train some more, to burn even more calories, so you can maybe drink something before you go to sleep.

What about holidays? Forget about them. What about cakes? what cakes!? Fast food in the middle of the night? What is that?! So, not only is wrestling training tough, football is as well, but you have to sacrifice much more to be really good and professional in wrestling.

Football is extremely tough as well, they have hard workouts, hard cardio as well, but they can go and eat and drink as much as they want after it, you get replenished, you get energy, you get another reason to get out of the bed tomorrow morning.

To illustrate is some more, extremely tough training are a must for every wrestler, but sparring sessions and fights are even harder. You might, and I say might get 5-15 seconds of rest – everything else is explosive power between you and your rival. Of course, before that, you haven’t eaten or drank for days to be able to get your weight in order. You work out, then you hit saunas without eating or drinking anything, you sleep with your clothes on, or with a few layers of clothes just too sweet as much as you can, because, every pound counts.

So yes, wrestling is tough, probably even tougher than football, but as a football player, you should definitely consider wrestling training whenever you can in your career, and even better if you can do it at your young age.


Overall, wrestling will make a better football player out you. It builds specific physical strength, one that is extremely useful in football, and that is the ability to remove your opponent from its position with your strength and technique and escape from the opponent that wants to disable you in any way possible.

There are also many smaller abilities that you get from wrestling and that will benefit you as a football player, like quickness, flexibility, leverage, technique raw power, and balance.

“The principles that you learn in wrestling, none of those changes (in football). It carries over, and if you stick to those things, the low man always wins. [Wrestling] teaches you what most people want to do, which is to make your hips and butt work for you…You always want to go low; you never want to walk up to an opponent standing up. Everything has to be engaged. You have to be locked and loaded. That is what makes you shift so easily. Football is that natural shoot and tackle.” 

– Ray Lewis.

Gianluca Martucci, Gianluca Martucci is a personal trainer and an athletic trainer.
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Gianluca Martucci

Gianluca Martucci is a personal trainer and an athletic trainer. Since he was a kid, he has been a big fan of Martial Arts and Combat Sports: from Wrestling and now MMA to Karate and Kung Fu, for this reason he specialized in workouts for martial artistis. Our testing and reviewing method.
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