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Bills signing Olympic gold medalist wrestler Gable Steveson to rookie deal after WWE release

The Buffalo Bills have undergone more change this offseason than almost any team in the NFL. They parted ways with numerous stalwarts on both sides of the ball; and while the most notable of those was Stefon Diggs on the offensive side, the losses on defense were significant as the team parted ways with Tre’Davious White, Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Phillips, among others.

The Bills obviously made plenty of additions to augment those losses, and now they have made another. But it’s not one you’d expect: The Bills are signing former Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson to a three-year rookie contract, his agent told ESPN

Steveson wrestled at the University of Minnesota, where he was a two-time winner of the Dan Hodge Trophy — college wrestling’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. He won the gold in freestyle wrestling at the 2020 Summer Olympics, then returned to Minnesota, where he was named Big Ten Athlete of the Year in 2022 and won two national championships and three Big Ten titles during his career.

The 24-year-old, who also wrestled in WWE from 2021 through 2024 before his release earlier this year, will play on the defensive line in Buffalo, via ESPN. 

“I have been fortunate to compete at the highest level of competition in my sport but am looking forward to the challenge of seeing how my wrestling skills may translate to football,” Steveson said. “I am grateful to Coach (Sean) McDermott, (general manager) Brandon Beane and the Buffalo Bills organization for giving me this opportunity.”

Steveson is 6-1, 275 pounds. He is a bit undersized for an interior defensive lineman, height-wise, but we have seen shorter players excel there in the past if they are quick enough and have good enough technique. The technique aspect may take a while, though wrestling maneuvers do map somewhat well to the type of hand-fighting and other moves that defensive linemen have to use, and Steveson likely has the ability to use his legs and body to create leverage and move other people where he wants them to go.

If he can become even a rotational contributor, that’s a win for both him and the Bills. Even if it’s a long shot, there is little downside to taking a stab on a player with an interesting athletic background. 

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Author: Jared Dubin
May 31, 2024 | 3:30 pm

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