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How JJ Birden’s Perseverance Landed Him A 9-Year NFL Career

How JJ Birden’s Perseverance Landed Him A 9-Year NFL Career

The story of how JJ Birden ended up playing football in the NFL is one of dogged perseverance and self-belief. Birden was always an athlete, starting out as a track star and advancing to the Olympic trials. He also wanted to play college football; but there was a problem. At 5’10” and 150 pounds, he was considered too small.

Birden attended the University of Oregon on a track scholarship. His coach helped him realize his dream of playing football by taking him over to the football field, where he was  given a chance to “walk on” the team. That’s all the opportunity Birden needed. He got the chance to try out and grasped it with both hands, moving up to the number two position with the Oregon Ducks after only two weeks.

He would eventually be drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the eighth round of the 1988 NFL Draft (nowadays the draft has seven rounds). Soon after being drafted he suffered a knee injury that derailed his track career. As a result, he turned all his attention to his football career, trained hard, and studied the game.

Birden knew that because of his small size, he would always be under pressure to excel or face replacement. This only motivated him to work harder. He kept up training even in the offseason because he knew his position as a receiver was under threat. That’s the reason he made sure he was always prepared, a decision that helped him stay ahead of everyone else, helped him stay relevant.

His mental toughness and persistence paid off, remaining on top of his NFL game, playing for the Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Atlanta Falcons.

Find out how we celebrate champions of perseverance like JJ Birden by visiting the rest of our site.


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