Winning Strategy: John Wolford Keeps Finding Ways to Move the Chains
No matter the down or distance, quarterback John Wolford has always found a way to keep moving the chains. A year after playing a pivotal role in the Los Angeles Rams Super Bowl-winning season, Wolford is now lining up for his latest two-minute drill—signing with an NFL team in time for training camp.
As he’s done throughout his college and three-year professional career, Wolford continues working on not only becoming a top-level QB, but also a valuable all-around offensive asset. He hopes again that the results of consistently grinding not only catches the eyes of NFL GMs, but will also serve as a work-ethic blueprint for young quarterbacks.
Wolford has utilized every possible environment—from the field to the filmroom to the weightroom, sauna, to even in his car in the middle of a Los Angeles rush hour—as a learning base in order to improve his gameday repertoire, which led him to start three games last season for the Rams. In addition to an NFL-caliber arm, Wolford has brought gameday managing ability to being able to adapt and adjust to any situation—it’s what’s helped keep his rollercoaster football journey moving. And at only age 27, a fully healthy John Wolford is working to ensure doesn’t end anytime soon.
“I feel great. This is the best I’ve felt in my career in terms of the way i’m throwing the ball,” says Wolford, who says he’s fully recovered from a neck injury that nagged him toward the end of last season. “You can kind of see the results. I’m finally really starting to understand my body in my career from where I’m going the ball right now. I’m feeling better, and I’m really excited about ending up someplace and keep working.”
So far, John Wolford’s road to the NFL has gone from four-year starting quarterback in college to going undrafted as a rookie in 2018. Wolford even taking a finance job before being signed—then quickly cut—by the New York Jets. He rebounded by landing in the short-lived AAF, twice earning Player of the Week honors with the Arizona Hotshots before the startup folded just eight games into its inaugural season.
However the Los Angeles Rams saw enough of Wolford’s skills in that brief season to sign him in 2020 to back up then-starter Jared Goff. He made history in his first start, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 200 yards and rush for 50 more in his very first career start—in leading the Rams to a playoff berth in the season finale. A year later, John Wolford, as backup to Matthew Stafford earned his Super Bowl ring when the Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 23-20 in Super Bowl LVI.
Today, after a 2022 season in which he started three games for the injured Stafford, John Wolford finds himself again having to prove himself as the Rams decided not to extend the QB a qualifying offer or contract tender, making him an unrestricted free agent, and on the open market. He could dwell, but Wolford just continues working. He feel sharper, healthier ,and ready for his next opportunity.
“If I looked at myself in high school, college, the NFL, I feel different from year to year,” Wolford says.”I think I’ve made strides year to year—I’m throwing it way better than I was just two years ago.”
John Wolford Is Putting in the Work to Get Back on the Field
If you’ve watched his social media, you’ll see him slinging the deep ball as he did as a four-year starter at Wake Forest, where he led the Demon Deacons to a pair of bowl appearances. His senior season, he threw for over 3.000 yards and 29 touchdowns. His most notable victory was after throwing for 461 yards and six TD (including one rushing) in outdueling Heisman Trophy winner (and future NFL MVP) Lamar Jackson and Louisville.
To replicate those high-level efforts, John Wolford has been using this offseason program to elevate his QB mechanics. Throughout his six-day split routine, Wolford rotates four days of weights along with a pair of field work—including sprints—used to build up his aerobic capacity while getting his body re-accustomed to plenty of volume work, which will decrease as it gets closer to a potential training camp.
However, under the watch of noted sports performance coach Tom Gormely, Wolford’s biggest priorities this offseason have been dialing in his throwing mechanics—from the ground up. The two have been deep diving into perfecting mechanics—drilling on everything footwork and foot placement, to hip work, to even working on throwing mechanics to reduce ball spin. In order to do so, Wolford has been incorporating plenty of plyometric and isometric activity into his workouts, including utilizing weighted ball tosses. So far, Wolford is seeing the results.
“It’s basically making me a more efficient thrower,” he says. “The arm is stronger, I have more accuracy, and hopefully will result in less arm fatigue as you get through a season. So this all translating into becoming a better quarterback.”
Besides the consistency in the training program, John Wolford also wants to share his Winning Strategy as a pro quarterback to help high school QBs elevate their game. Wolford and Gormely have also been working on an app, kinetex.co, which dives into the methodology and work ethic ball young signal callers should adhere to. Besides becoming a better thrower, Wolford explains the necessity to keep evolving in order to provide value, working to avoid those fixable errors, and most of all, enjoy grind in order to enjoy the inevitable success that comes with it.
“Quarterbacks are a different breed,” Wolford says. “You have much more unique demands than, say, a linebacker, I would tell young quarterbacks to constantly be reflective on how you’re training, And keep pushing yourself. It’s kind of like what David Goggins preaches: Keep grinding and learn to enjoy the work itself. And you’ll find that the outcomes aren’t always as important as the work you put in.”
John Wolford’s Winning Strategy
1. Excel At Your Role
I don’t know if people realize that as a backup quarterback, we don’t take any reps during the week. We’re running the scout team versus the one defense. But those aren’t our plays. I don’t know if there’s a misconception that we are taking some reps in preparation, so you really have to focus on the mental side of it so you can be ready to go out there and perform and run all the plays that we run.
So the way most important structure is the backup can get reps against defense, and practice and play throw against defense. Even though we’re not running our own plays. Just that process of playing against a good defense will then in turn translate to the D being a little more ready to play on Sundays. And then you got to do your own homework on our game plan.
For this, I have an earpiece in my helmet. You’ll see me walking back and forth on the sideline. I’d like to be behind the quarterback if I can. So if we’re on the 20, then I’m usually back here on this part of the segment. And I’m hearing the play calls and I’m calling the plays to myself. So it’s like, if I was in the huddle right now what I do and then ball snap, and then I’m standing behind them like, alright, we would can display or we would look here, here’s what I would do and just the best I can mentally take the rep while Matt is out there playing. So that’s that’s my process and I feel like it keeps me in the game mentally.
2. John Wolford Finds Ways To Provide Value
My agent told me based on his experiences for undrafted free agents, there’s always a healthy dose of paranoia about your job security. I don’t know if that’s the greatest advice or if I would advise that to other people, but it is something that I am acutely aware of. You’re always proving yourself, you’re always competing, and you never know what moves they’re going to make in the front office. So how do you provide value was kind of my takeaway from that conversation. And, that’s something that I think about. I’m not playing a lot right now. How can I help the offensive coordinator? How can I help the team in any capacity that I can? So there’s that healthy dose of paranoia. So I’m still an unproven commodity—I played a few games. I played well in those games, but it’s such a small sample size, the jury’s still out. So just for me and my long term career, providing value is something that I’m looking for.
There’s so many things that go into it. Honestly, I would tell other to push yourself, work hard. Have an open mind, and always try and find new ways to get better. And when you get tired and you don’t feel like doing something, just have the discipline to keep to your schedule to keep at it. Keep making incremental gains every day. If you do that you won’t have any regrets. And you did the best you could.
3. Find Your Margin For Error And Eliminate It
There’s so many variables in this sport. You would like to think I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice, trying to force a ball in a window. But when you’re making a decision in two seconds, sometimes it’s easier said than done.
I turned the ball over pretty early in my football days, including my first couple years in college. It’s just an understanding of winning football is winning the turnover margin, right? It’s the second biggest differentiator between winning and losing games , behind points, obviously. And that’s that holds true NFL and college. So just understanding of that it’s like, the bigger takeaway is to still be aggressive, but there’s a fine line. Everyone always talks about it, but like, we need to win the turnover margin and more times than not, we’re gonna win game.
So as a quarterback, be aggressive, but don’t be too aggressive. And so I’m always aware of that.
John Wolford Is Always Preparing For A Starting Role
I wouldn’t go so far as calling the backup quarterback the most unique position, but it is one of the more unique positions just in terms of the requirements. You need to know the entire offense like the back of your hand, including the game plan. And with the absence of reps, that can be tough.
The first-team offense is running all the plays that that week—the backups won’t get any reps. So you have to do the best you can to take mental reps and do extra work on the side—just from a mental standpoint, to prepare.
Then on the field, it’s very interesting because it’s not like being in a bullpen, like a relief pitcher.
For us, it’s, get on the field—there’s not much of a warmup. So, like, the game is fast. And in those situations in which you’re not getting the full week of prep, and you’re just caught on a moment’s notice it is one of the more unique roles for sure.
From a backup quarterback’s perspective, I just try and get as many extra reps as I can in my head. Obviously, after practice, I’ll throw a little extra work on some masking the receivers.
One of the things I do that’s pretty unique is I’ll take these voice memos. I’ll record our call sheet, which is pretty extensive, and write all the plays. And then on all my car rides—it’s about 25 minute ride—I’ll basically have this voice memo recording. So basically it’s like hearing the play in the huddle. So I call the play, like [if I was] hearing Sean [McVay] tell me in the huddle. Then I think through what play are we running here, because we usually call multiple plays every snap so I can kill the play or plays. So it’s what defensive looks to anticipate, what’s my read where I’m trying to get the ball, and call it like I’m in the huddle—south, right clamp three, jet, yada, yada, yada—and just basically go through that process. So for me, it’s what I do is just steal reps as many ways as I can.
Share Your Winning Moments
Winning the Super Bowl was amazing. We had a great team, I have a ton of respect for everyone in our organization. And working with Matthew every day, seeing what he went through in Detroit all the injuries, and to win that Super Bowls first year. I Just a ton of respect for him and was really excited for him.
It’s an incredible experience. I had my family down, snuck them and my best friends on the field afterward. I have only like, one or two field pass per player, so I was begging security guards to let them on the field. It was just a surreal experience. I hugged my brother, and I’ll never forget this because we had played football in our living room when I was 5. Ans then you go on from that to the Super Bowl and we’re both on the field, it’s pretty cool.
You just think about all the steps that got me there—all the hard work and all the people that have helped me along the way.
There’s a brevity to life. We only have so many years, nothing’s guaranteed. We don’t know what comes after or with certainty. And so I remind myself this. Something I write down, it’s like, OK, enjoy these moments, enjoy the grind, the struggle, enjoy your job.
But then what matters most to me. It’s like relationships, right? The people that I care about the most family friends, right? All the people that are most important to me. So when I’m in those moments, and when I am relaxing, worried about football, whatever, whatever, just enjoy that moment. And that’s something that I try and live by.