Bills sign Olympic gold medalist wrestler with zero prior football experience

The Buffalo Bills are tapping deep into the free agent pool.

The organization on Friday signed Gable Steveson, an Olympic gold medal wrestler who has never played organized football.

Steveson won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in the 125 kg division. Now, he and the Bills want to see if his skills on the mat can translate to the gridiron.

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“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 in a statement released by his agent, Carter Chow. “I am grateful to Coach [Sean] McDermott, [general manager] Brandon Beane and the Buffalo Bills organization for giving me this opportunity.

Steveson, listed as a defensive lineman, joins a team with a head coach in McDermott, who was a two-time high school national wrestling champion growing up in Pennsylvania. And while McDermott went on to pursue football after high school, he credits wrestling for helping shape his life.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 266 pounds, Steveson, at 21, became the youngest freestyle wrestler to win gold as a super heavyweight at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. He then went on to win two college national titles at Minnesota in 2021 and ’22, and twice was named winner of the Dan Hodge Trophy as the nation’s best college wrestler.

Steveson becomes the second player without prior football experience that Buffalo has added to its roster this offseason. Last month, the Bills used their final pick to select former English rugby player Travis Clayton in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. 

The 23-year-old Clayton, listed at 6-foot-7 and 303 pounds, is projected to play offensive line after spending this past winter learning about American football in the NFL’s International Pathway Program.

Steveson is from Minnesota, and his mother named him Gable in honor of wrestler Don Gable, who won gold at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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