PITTSFORD - He's only 5-foot-7 and 163 pounds but could probably run through a brick wall. Jordan Burroughs didn't stand out in stature on his visit to Buffalo Bills training camp, but his resume might even top LeSean McCoy's for most decorated on the field Monday.
Burroughs won a wrestling gold medal at the 2012 Olympics and has three world championships to his name. His friend, Bills alumni manager Jeremy Kelley, invited him to practice since Burroughs' wife, Lauren, is a Buffalo native and converted him from a Broncos fan when they met five years ago. Their two young children, son Beacon and daughter Ora, wore Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy jerseys while crawling on the sideline. Lauren's uncle also happens to be Bills legend Thurman Thomas.
Burroughs spoke to the team after practice and hung around to talk with whichever players wanted to. Reserve offensive lineman Jordan Mudge chatted for 10 minutes about his own fledgling wrestling career. Safety Bacarri Rambo thanked Burroughs for his speech and how the message he imparted will stick with him.
"I just wanted to tell those guys to stay focused. Embrace the journey," Burroughs said. "Trust the process and enjoy the true essence of the sport and why we all started this."
Burroughs began wrestling at the age of 5 and imagines most Bills started playing football then, too. While the financial benefits of wrestling and football may be different, Burroughs strived to strike a chord with a message that strayed away from the material aspect of a professional athletic career.
"We did this for years and years and years for free, right?" he said. "And we always just wanted to be the best. Just simply getting a pat on the back, getting smacked on the butt, tapped on the helmet was why we wanted to be the best at what we did. It wasn’t for the contracts. It wasn’t for the stardom or the fame. And so if you can get back to the essence of that consistently, you’ll be a legend in this sport."
Burroughs carried around a Bills football that he got signed by as many players as possible. He lists off the "studs" who lent their signature: Tyrod Taylor, Watkins, McCoy. He even highlights fellow former Nebraska Cornhusker Brandon Reilly, a Bills undrafted rookie.
Sean McDermott boasts his own wrestling exploits, as the Bills first-year head coach is a two-time prep champion. Burroughs had never met McDermott before Monday, but the head coach invited him to speak to the team since "my resume speaks for itself."
"I think he understands the parallels of the sport. He told me secretly, I don’t know If I’m supposed to relay this, but that wrestling is the toughest sport in the world and the greatest sport in the world," Burroughs said with a big smile. "It’s cool to see what Sean’s done and how he can kind of give some of that knowledge that he’s learned as a former wrestler onto these guys."
Burroughs' ears are mangled and scars dot his body from the rigors of wrestling. He willingly points them out and uses the word "grind" to describe his profession while a NFL career is "a little more glitz, a little more glamour." He repeatedly emphasizes the path to stardom rather than stardom itself, leaning on one quote that he shared with the team.
"'One thing cooler than being the richest guy in the room is being the toughest guy in the room,'” he recites. "I think that they’ll understand that everyone makes money. Everyone earns a living, but not everyone makes history. They get the opportunity to do that."