When the New England Patriots take the field to face the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl, they will face Rams center John Sullivan, a three-time State Open champion from Greenwich High.
Sullivan, a 6-foot-4 lineman, won State Open titles for the Cardinal at 275 pounds in 2001, 2002 and 2003. As a senior, he was a National High School Coaches Association All-American.
He told Brian Jerzak of The Guillotine.com in 2016 that he was intrigued about wrestling after seeing the Cardinals face off against Danbury as a freshman at Greenwich High. And he was looking to get better in football.
Sullivan had a good football career in football at Greenwich, where he was a Parade All-American and won the Gatorade Player of the Year award as a senior. As a center, he was named the offensive MVP by the Connecticut Post in 2002.
He helped Greenwich (12-1-1) go to the Class LL championship game in 2002 before falling to West Haven. He played at Notre Dame and was drafted in the sixth round of the NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings in 2008.
Sullivan became a starter at center for the Vikings in 2009 and played in front of Hall of Fame QB Brett Favre. Minnesota went to the NFC championship game that season before falling to the New Orleans Saints in overtime.
In 2012, Sullivan anchored the offensive line in front of Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 2,097 yards, just eight yards short of Eric Dickerson’s NFL single-season record. Sullivan was named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-Pro team after the season.
Sullivan, 33, proved remarkably durable, playing in 93 games at center for the Vikings over six years. After missing the 2015 season due to injury, he was released by Minnesota just before the start of the 2016 season.
Sullivan signed with the Redskins in 2016 and then signed with Los Angeles in 2017. In the past two years, Sullivan has played and started in 31 games for the Rams, who beat the Saints in overtime in the NFC championship game. This will be Sullivan’s first Super Bowl appearance.
Wrestling was part of the journey for Sullivan, who was 138-6 in high school career with Greenwich.
“It is a totally different type of burn from the conditioning football requires. I saw it as a challenge. I bought into that challenge and bought into getting better. I figured it would help me with football,” he told Brian Jerzak of The Guillotine.com.
Sullivan told Jerzak that wrestling helped him to become a better football player – especially with his balance.
He told Jerzak that he seeks out teammates that wrestled in high school. “People who have never done it will never understand,” Sullivan told Jerzak. “Wrestling is the most brutal sport possible. It is not going to lead to the most brutal injuries – that goes to football – but wrestling is more difficult in terms of cardio and the training – the grind.”
Sullivan highly encourages athletes to play multiple sports. Read his thoughts in Jerzak’s 2016 story at The Guillotine.com.