BUFFALO (WTAJ) — The only sport Bills head coach Sean McDermott loves as much as football is wrestling. And his favorite is Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson.
“I have a ton of respect for Cael,” said McDermott.
In 2019, as Penn State prepared for nationals, Buffalo Bills head football coach Sean McDermott stood in the gym watching the Nittany Lions. He was asked about this practice on during a weekly media conference Monday as the team prepares for its AFC divisional playoff game against the Chiefs.
McDermott grew up outside Philadelphia as a wrestler himself and has admired Sanderson’s career as both a wrestler and coach.
“It was fascinating to watch the best of the best and how they do it,” McDermott said. “The habits they have, the environment around practice, the environment around the program.”
One thing in particular that surprised him, was how relaxed Sanderson’s practice was just ahead of nationals.
“This is the top program in America and they’re playing dodgeball the day or two before they leave for nationals.” he said. “And I think it’s just really how an elite coach prepares his team for all parts of getting his players, his wrestlers in this case, to perform at their best in mind, body and spirit, right? Not just the body, but also the physiological part of of the approach and what goes into it.”
McDermott wrestled at 171 lbs for La Salle College High School in the 1990s, and was a two-time national prep champion in the sport. McDermott was asked if he got a chance to grapple with the Nittany Lions he joking told reporters that that it was best he didn’t.
“I may not have made it out alive, to be honest with you,” he said. “Those guys are are awfully good there, so it was nice just to sit back and watch. The level of wrestling was at an all-time high.”
McDermott’s visit to Happy Valley was facilitated by Bills owner Terry Pegula, a Penn State alum who the Penn State hockey arena is named for. Days after McDermott’s visit, the Nittany Lions won their 9th NCAA wrestling championship.
The team returns to the mat Friday, facing third ranked Michigan.