Adam Coon at the Last Chance Qualifier (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Earlier this month, news broke that the Tennessee Titans had signed World silver medalist Adam Coon as an offensive lineman. In some ways, it was an interesting signing considering Coon had not played football since high school and chose to focus on wrestling while in college at Michigan and Greco Roman wrestling following the exhaustion of his eligibility.
While there is a limited track record of success for this type of transition, Coon certainly faces a tough road to make the final squad. The following looks at some of the toughest aspects of the transition, and checks in on Coon's status.
At 6'5" and roughly 280 pounds, Coon was one of the bigger heavyweights during his collegiate wrestling days. He had a similar size advantage during his days in the Olympic styles as well. That will likely not be the case on the football field.
There was not a combine prior to the 2021 NFL Draft due to the pandemic. However, height and weight were collected for most of the top prospects. The average height for an offensive lineman was 6'5," and the average weight was 312lbs. On the following chart, you can see how Coon compares to the 2021 prospects.
Stephen Neal, who famously moved to the NFL after a successful college wrestling career, continually added size. Per reports, he spent most of his playing career at around 305 pounds. While size is not everything, it will certainly help Coon against the top defensive linemen.
Dominic Santoli both wrestled and played football at Bergen Catholic (NJ) in high school before moving on to Delaware to continue his college career. He currently coaches at his alma mater. When asked about Coon's transition to football, he was quick to respond.
"There is a physical power and violence that comes with having a helmet and pads," Santoli said. "The NFL's defensive linemen are the apex predators of humanity. I wish him nothing but luck. But there is no setting up moves later on in the match. It happens in a flash. These guys like Ndamukong Suh, Aaron Donald, and Jadeveon Clowney are so fast off the ball, so violent, so strong."
All in all, the spots along the offensive line are considered to be some of the most scrutinized positions in the NFL. Per former player and analyst Ross Tucker, "the best linemen average an 89 percent to 93 percent success rate." This means that players are expected to make the right decision and play on the vast majority of snaps.
Despite these obstacles, Coon appears to be making a good impression on his position coach. He spoke to the media following last week's set of practices.
"He's athletic. He's tougher than crap," offensive line coach Keith Carter said. "He works his butt off. He's smart. All those things. He's got all those really outstanding characteristics. Well, let's go see how far we can take him from a technique standpoint and understanding standpoint, really."
Veteran guard Rodger Saffold also appeared to like what he saw.
"The fact that he's out here shows that he wants to be here," Saffold said. "I see him working on drills off to the side, just constantly trying to learn. He seems to have a good attitude. Very critical of himself, which are good qualities to have as an offensive lineman."
Perhaps the most important words of all came from head coach Mike Vrabel. During his playing days, Vrabel was teammates with Neal, which may have played a factor in his decision to sign Coon.
"Wrestlers, especially at that elite level, have unbelievable balance, core strength, things that I think would translate well into being an offensive lineman," Vrabel said. "But having not played the game, there's a lot of development that has to go on pretty quickly for him to compete. But he's got a great attitude. He shows up. He competes. He goes hard. He just might not know what to do all the time. I think we just have to continue to coach him, develop him and see what we can get out of him and how he develops."