The Runner Sports

Embrace The Grind

What’s the secret ingredient to make a champion? More importantly, what’s the most common trait of the champions who have had repeated success? This is a topic I research a lot, and while most great champions have their own quirks that make them great, there is almost always one common theme that every one of them credits their success to. Go watch post game interviews of Nick Saban head football coach of Alabama, or Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and see if you catch onto the common theme. The undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather and multiple weight UFC champ Connor McGregor both talk about it constantly. Olympic, World and NCAA wrestling champion Kyle Snyder of Ohio State talks about it almost daily. Go follow World Cup Soccer Champion Carli Lloyd on social media, and see that most of her posts are about this one theme. They all embrace the grind.

What is the grind? It is the day-to-day practices. It’s the little things, the basics, the monotonous exercises that must be done in order to become the best. The grind is the part of life that most people shy or run away from. It’s the hard part. You know the guy at your gym with the huge chest and arms, but has skinny chicken legs? He doesn’t embrace the grind, because leg days suck, so he skips those days. Tim Grover wrote in his book “Relentless” that he once went to the gym to work with Kobe Bryant at 5 am, and he saw him repeatedly doing drills taught to middle schoolers who are just learning the game. When he asked Kobe why he was doing those drills, Kobe replied that to be the best you have to master the basics. Kobe was already a multiple time NBA champ and MVP, yet he was still practicing the basics at 5 am. That’s the grind.

Through the first 4 weeks of the NFL season, the Buffalo Bills are 3-1 and sit solely in first place in the AFC East. They have wins over the 3-1 Denver Broncos and previously unbeaten Atlanta Falcons. In their only loss they surrendered just 9 points and were one or two better offensive drives away from winning that game as well. Now the Bills are not champions, yet. However, when you listen to their players and coach talk about what has led to their early season success, they all say the same thing.

QB Tyrod Taylor after the Falcons win on Sunday; “One thing we talk about is trusting the process and taking the same process each and every week. We will continue to keep practicing hard and preparing hard.”

Rookie CB Tre’Davious White was asked why he didn’t stop on the forced fumble, when most people thought the play was dead. “That’s what we are coached to do every play. That’s what we do every day at practice.”

11 year veteran Richie Incognito echoed these sentiments about this year’s team; “We keep the focus on us. Throughout the week it’s just focus on getting better, focus on the process.”

Captain Kyle Williams was blunt when asked how they pulled off this upset. “We won this game during the week last week with our preparation, with our attention to detail.”

Coach Sean McDermott had this to say about the key defensive stop on the Falcon’s final drive; “Defensive Coordinator, Leslie Frazer, put them in defenses that obviously worked out for us and credit to the entire defensive staff and the players. Really this all started back on Monday with the work that they put in.”

Attitude reflects leadership, and the Bills appear to be buying into first time coach McDermott’s message and philosophy. Coach McDermott has been grinding most of his life. In high school, he was a 2 time national champ in wrestling and had scholarship offers to wrestle in college, but he wanted to play football. He walked on at William and Mary and quickly went from the practice squad to starting safety. In his first start he recorded 19 tackles and recovered a fumble. Rumor has it that after he graduated he went and sat at the Philadelphia Eagles doorstep and wouldn’t leave till they offered him a job. In 1998 he was hired as a scouting administrative coordinator. He kept grinding away and learning and bettering himself and after a decade he was named the defensive coordinator of those Eagles. In 2012, he served as the defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, where he ran a top ten defense for 3 consecutive seasons. His defense in 2015 helped lead the Panthers to the Superbowl. This season the Bills are giving him his first chance as head coach. Day in and day out Coach McDermott has always worked and studied the game of football to become better. He preaches this philosophy and practices what he preaches. It appears to be rubbing off on his team, the community and former players.

Hall of Fame and renowned Buffalo Bill RB Thurman Thomas was on the John Murphy Show recently and was asked how much time he spends on the sidelines during games this year. In past seasons he frequently was on the sidelines during games to help motivate the team. Thomas said he hasn’t been on the field yet, because they didn’t need him. He proclaimed that the aura around this year’s team is different. He accredited Coach McDermott for this change.

Embrace the grind. Trust the process. Get better every day. Winning starts with the preparation. These are phrases being echoed from New Era Field. These are the mantras that are getting the fan base excited again. In the big picture the Buffalo Bills haven’t won anything yet, but McDermott’s Bills appear to be building a solid foundation of success!


John Mion

I've been living in Buffalo for 23 years. I love everything Western New York, especially their sports teams. I am an avid jock who started playing sports within minutes of showing up in this world. I have been a player and coach at many levels, which allows me to bring a unique perspective in my writing. Follow me on Twitter and I look forward to discussing sports with you!

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