Jordan Burroughs Interview
(Interview conducted on 10-18-12)
GHSH: I’m on the phone with Jordan Burroughs, and this is Shane from Get Hungry Stay Hungry. Jordan has been more than willing and has been real great with us because his time is really tight and he’s agreed to give us an interview, so we’re real happy to be with him on the phone today.
Jordan, how are you doing today?
JB: Good, how are you?
GHSH: Good. Again, thank you for your time.
JB: No problem at all.
Q: Ok, lets get going. For people who may not know, you’ve got a real pretty gold medal around your neck from the 2012 Olympics.
A: Yes sir.
Q: Share that experience with us – not only leading up to it, but after it was over. Was it real for you? Share it with us.
A: It was crazy. You know I had to train for a number of years to reach the peak – the pinnacle of success in the sport of wrestling – which is an Olympic gold medal. I think that was the biggest accomplishment thus far in my career, obviously. I had a lot of people put their time, work, and effort into helping me reach that goal. So it would be real selfish of me to say that I accomplished it on my own. I had great training partners, good coaches, great family and supporting cast. It was quite an experience being in London and knowing that I was the favorite going in. There was a lot of pressure but I knew that I could get it done - my family knew that I could get it done, so I just had to go out there and execute and get it done. It was a super cool experience. I got to go out there and be around the best athletes in the world and also to be labeled as one of the best athletes in the world. It was definitely awesome and I was happy to get that chance.
Q: I know that maybe some people threw some stones at you going into the Olympics – saying “this guy is arrogant”. You know I heard that a lot.
A: I heard that all the time.
Q: Well tell me, is it not confidence? Because it’s a mind game isn’t it?
A: Oh yeah, for sure. It’s a mind game in myself, despite my opponents. My opponents are from different countries so obviously they’re not reading what I’m tweeting or putting on Facebook or saying in interviews. So, it’s all about me building a wealth of confidence in myself and realizing that I’m the one that has put in all the work, all the time, energy, and effort – so why not as though I’m the best. I’ve done everything possible to make myself as complete and whole, and as technical and strong of a wrestler as possible. I feel as though I am the best wrestler in the world. I’ve shown it. I haven’t lost a match in three years. At the end of the day, like it or not, whether or not people think I’m cocky, arrogant, or whatever, the results speak for themselves. I’ve put in the work. It’s not like I’m just some arrogant guy going out there saying I’m the best wrestler but not working hard and losing matches. I’m putting in the work – I’m grinding – I’m making sacrifices and commitments, and I’m going out there and winning championships.
Q: Yeah, and like you pointed out earlier, this isn’t something that, “oh, I’ve been training hard for the last year for the Olympics”. This started 10 – 20 years ago.
A: No doubt. It’s been a long time coming. I’ve watched the Olympics since being a kid. It was a dream come true to actually compete in and win the Olympics. Yeah, so it’s not a culmination of last years work. It’s something that started from the first year I started wrestling and then everything leading up to that point.
Q: You bet. I know that you were decorated back in high school as a New Jersey state champ and a national champ if I recall weren’t you?
A: Yeah, I was a national champ my senior year.
Q: Yeah, and then you come to Lincoln, Nebraska and you were performing like a champion would be expected to perform. I know that you broke some records at the University of Nebraska. Tell us about that.
A: Well, I wasn’t very heavily recruited out of high school so when I got to Nebraska I kind of had a lot still yet to prove. I had a couple of lumps and bumps in the road early in my career but I continued to strive to be the best and continued to put the work in. I started to improve – I got bigger, stronger. I started to get more technical and more mat savvy. That’s when the most improvements came within my career and I started winning more and more. I started gaining a lot of confidence. I didn’t want to be, “among the best names in the history of Nebraska wrestling”, but I wanted to be THE best. Whenever I wrestle I want to separate myself from all the rest of the names. You know, it’s pretty cool to be in company with Bryan Snyder, Craig Brester, Brad Vering … all the great Nebraska wrestlers of previous years, but I kind of wanted to set my own standard and make my own company.
Q: I know in the 2009-2010 season there was kind of a bump in the road for you because you hurt your left knee. I know that was kind of a set back and when someone has some momentum going – when somebody is just so charged inside and they’ve got that momentum going – and all of a sudden they get the rug pulled out from under them, that’s kind of a different state of being at that point. Did you struggle mentally or physically?
A: Yes, for sure.
Q: What got you through that?
A: It was extremely tough. That was definitely the lowest point of my career and a low point in my life period. But I had a great training staff that kept me going and kept me humble. For being the undefeated national champ the previous year I kind of got complacent on where I was in my career. I thought things would come easily to me and I felt like I had accomplished everything that I really needed to accomplish in the sport, when that was completely false. Oh yeah, like now that I was the national champ - guys would just be falling down. Instead, they were giving me harder matches and really coming after me more. I didn’t realize that at the time. I just needed to continue to strive to be the best. It was kind of a blessing in disguise. After being hurt and coming back, and getting my hunger back for the sport – it made me hungry again. It made me want to prove to everyone that doubted me, to everyone that thought I wouldn’t come back as good or as strong and fast as I was before – to prove them wrong. So I had a lot to accomplish and to prove. God blessed me and I was able to do what I loved again. You know, it was scary, but I always looked at the big picture. I always wanted to continue to develop as a wrestler and I was able to come back my senior year and have one of the most awesome years of my career.
Q: And you receive the Hodge Trophy that year.
A: I received the Hodge which was sweet. That was definitely the coolest part of the year. The one thing I always try to do is to do as well as possible within the things that I can control. So the only thing I could control is to win the Big 12 Championship and make sure I won the NCAA championship. The Hodge trophy is a judgmental award as you know. It’s kind of scary when you get into a position like that because you just don’t know. A lot of people had a lot of wins throughout the season, a lot of pins. It was kind of nerve racking wondering if I was going to win it. Once I actually found out I won it I was super stoked.
Q: At that point you were just rolling. You had momentum going and you jumped right into the international scene and you really didn’t take a break at all did you?
A: Oh no, no. This is actually the first break I’ve had since my injury. Right after the collegiate season was over I rolled right into the US Open. The US Open was actually like two weeks after the NCAA Championships. So I knew I had a lot of work to do. I came back and took about four days off with my family and then I had to get right back to work. For the first time in my career I was going to be going up against some of the best guys in the world. It was kind of a crash course in freestyle wrestling. The coaches here at Nebraska tried to teach me as much as possible in that short period of time. But, I already had the ball rolling because I was great on my feet and a take down is a take down no matter which type of wrestling you’re in. It was definitely good for me.
Q: Obviously, as an elite athlete such as yourself, once in awhile you’re going to have a loss or a set back. For yourself and for anybody else who may hear your interview, what is your advice to yourself or for someone else - to get through that?
A: I would say don’t look at it as though you have something to lose. Always step out and approach any type of event as if you have something to gain. When I stepped into the Olympic Games or the World Championships I didn’t worry about my winning streak. I didn’t worry about any money involved. I didn’t worry about what other people thought of me. The only thing on my mind was, “I have this opportunity – I’m good and I’m strong – and I’m as technical as I’ve ever been in my career – and I don’t want to waste it”. I want to go out there and seize the moment and take advantage of it because I may never make the World Team again. I may never make the Olympic team again. Basically I treat it as an opportunity to excel and to prove to everyone how hard I had to work in wrestling and in the weight room. Just go out there and basically impose my will on the other person.
Q: I know that it’s just been a whirlwind. You’ve been traveling all over the world and talking to everybody. You’ve been on t.v. programs everywhere and now you’re coming back after that storm. Is it nice to have a rest? Are you getting re-energized for the next step of your journey? What’s going on?
A: Oh yeah, it’s definitely good to finally be able to relax. I’m just a normal guy and this has been a storm pounding. It’s been ridiculously crazy – it’s not a lifestyle that wrestlers usually live. If you’re going into the NFL or NBA – or if you win the Heisman Trophy in college, you know that your life is about to turn into a whirlwind. But for me, I’ve always been a normal kid. I grew up in a small town back in South Jersey. Wrestlers usually don’t get a lot of recognition or publicity. So it’s all been new to me. You know, I’m just a normal guy. I want to sit at home and play video games and eat pizza and relax with some friends. But it’s been good. Right now I’m in the process of finishing out this whirlwind of tours and interviews. A lot of media appearances and clinics and things like that. I’m just going to re-energize myself and re-focus. Try to get back into the grind of competing and making myself as whole and complete of a wrestler as I can so I can keep rattling off gold medals and world championships.
Q: Talking about going forward, I know that you kind of have an interest in MMA and I’m sure that you have something else in your crosshairs – the Olympics. Give us a little hint. What are we going to see in the future of Jordan Burroughs.
A: Definitely – the Olympics is in my future. It’s a big time event you know. It’s the biggest event in the world and after having so much fun doing it the first time around I definitely want to have that experience again. I know it’s going to be tough four years from now. I’ll be a little bit older, but I feel as if I’ll be a little bit wiser, stronger, and smarter as a wrestler. You can definitely look for me in Rio in 2016 and maybe in some MMA afterwards. You know the MMA thing is on the back burner right now. I’m thinking about it, but obviously the most important thing for me is to continue to wrestle. Once 2016 gets here I’ll re-evaluate my goals or re-evaluate where I want to be in my career. Maybe try some MMA – if not, maybe settle down, maybe even go to 2020. I don’t know at this point of my career but I do know that 2016 is the most important thing.
Q: Is there any mentors, quotes, or any type of motivation that comes to mind for you?
A: Actually, I tweeted yesterday, and I don’t know where I got this from but I saw it somewhere. It’s, “don’t confuse impossible with really hard to do”. A lot of people feel as though something is impossible. You might say, “I’m not going to give up any points this entire year,” or, “I’m going to go another four years without losing a match”. People say that’s impossible! Coaches and former athletes in the sport say “you have to be prepared to lose because you’re going to lose sometime in your career”. But I just say, “but, I’m not”. And people say, “Cael Sanderson lost, John Smith lost”. Well, I don’t base what I can do on what other people couldn’t do. No disrespect to the greats or the legends of the sport, but I feel as though I’m on my way to being the greatest ever. I’m going to continue to put the work in and hopefully go undefeated. My goal is to go out there and execute my game plan every match. I know there are a lot of up and coming guys that want to beat me and knock me off … and that keeps me more hungry. It keeps me on my toes and keeps me training as hard as possible. You know, it’s all good stuff and I just want to go out there and continue to win and keep the streak going.
Q: Anybody that competes for the University of Nebraska, they’re already a rock star, but then you go on to the next level or to the Olympics … and it’s just crazy. You’ve got such a wide fan base. I don’t think that people realize just how many people you have supporting you and I’m pretty sure you get messages from people all over the world, but your fan base in Nebraska alone has just got to be overwhelming, isn’t it?
A: Oh yeah, it’s just crazy. I love it though. It’s awesome. Even though I’m from New Jersey I feel as if Nebraska is my home now. Nebraska fans and Nebraska residents have really embraced me as a Nebraskan myself. It’s been really cool to be part of the Husker Nation as well as Nebraska in general. You know, I go downtown on weekends and I’m taking pictures with everyone. Everyone knows me because they’ve seen me on t.v. or in the newspaper, so it’s flattering, it’s just awesome. I represent my state and my university with the utmost respect, hard work, and domination. It’s just something that’s incredible. So when I come back here I feel as it’s home. When I brought the gold medal with me I feel as if it’s for everyone to celebrate and cheer about.
Q: You’re still involved with some wrestling in the Lincoln area right?
A: I’m actually an assistant coach here at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, so if I’m not traveling you can always catch me here wrestling with the guys, coaching them and getting them going.
Q: I’m sure they appreciate that because who better than to get some training time with than an Olympic gold medal winner huh?
A: Yeah, no doubt about it.
Q: Well, to close up because I know your time is tight, our message is Get Hungry – Stay Hungry, what does that mean to Jordan Burroughs - not only the athlete, but Jordan Burroughs the man. Your spiritual relationship, a relationship with a young lady or your family, or whatever. What does it mean to you?
A: Oh, I think it’s huge. I think the biggest motivator comes from within. You have to be able to motivate yourself. You’re not always going to have coaches around you or you’re not always going to have family around you telling you that you have to lift this much weight or take this many shots during practice. Get Hungry – definitely comes from within and it’s extremely huge in respect to being able to motivate yourself. Stay Hungry – that’s obviously more important than getting hungry because once you get hungry you have to be able to stay hungry and stay motivated throughout the whole process. You’re not always going to feel good every day. You’re not always going to feel up to practicing or up to training hard every day. But it’s those days that you don’t feel your best that you go out there and work hard and put the time in – that’s what makes a champion. Championships aren’t won on the podium. The gold medal in London wasn’t won on the podium. Championships are won on Thursday afternoons or Friday afternoons when no one is watching. It’s when you’re getting the grind in and you’re waking up at 6:00AM to run and when you’re skipping meals. Those are the most important times. Get Hungry – Stay Hungry is definitely an important philosophy in athletics or any part of life.
Q: Jordan, I want to thank you for your time because I know your time is spread real thin with all of your traveling and other commitments – so we want to thank you for the interview. We hope than maybe some young wrestlers who look up to you, or anybody else for that matter, can use some of these words that you’ve shared with us.
A: For sure. You’re welcome.
By, Shane Fleharty, gethungrystayhungry.com