Rookie Wendling working on consistency for Bills D

Jay Skurski

A YouTube search for John Wendling is the easiest way to prove his athleticism.

As of Monday, video of the Buffalo Bills rookie safety jumping a 66-inch hurdle had been viewed 176,311 times. In the grainy, 10-second clip, Wendling takes just a few steps and leaps off both feet to clear the hurdle.

“He’s a freak athletically,” Bills scout Terry Wooden said in an interview with buffalobills.com after Wendling was drafted in April.

A look back at Wendling’s history proves that point. He was a state champion in the long jump in high school and also finished second in the triple jump. He led his high school football team to a state title and was named all-state at three positions (running back, defensive back and return specialist).

There were other qualities the Bills liked, though, when they decided to take Wendling with the 184th overall selection.

“He’s big and he wants to be physical,” defensive backs coach George Catavolos said.

Wendling’s combination of size and strength complements his football IQ. He scored a 32 on the Wonderlic test and had a 4.0 grade-point average in high school.

Still, the mental transition to the NFL can sometimes be just as challenging as the physical.

“He just has to be more consistent,” Catavolos said of Wendling. “He has to understand the system and what we’re asking of him in the defense. I think in the first week, he was feeling his way. In the second week, he was getting a little bit better. Hopefully, he’ll continue to do that.”

Wendling’s education is a bit more complex based on the position he plays. The Bills like safeties to have a familiarity with both positions.

“It’s not so much the pressure (of learning two spots) or anything like that, it’s more how you adapt to it,” Wendling said. “Getting the reps on the field is so important.”

Wendling actually has experience playing both spots, as he served as the free safety for his first three seasons at Wyoming and played strong safety as a senior.

“I was one of the stronger safeties, so they had me down in the box,” he said.

Despite the extra studying that comes with learning two positions, Wendling saw it as necessary.

“It’s one of those things where you have to know both spots,” he said. “When it comes down to game day, you never going to know where they’re going to need you.”

John Wendling

NUMBER: 29

POSITION: Safety

HEIGHT: 6-foot-1

WEIGHT: 222 pounds

COLLEGE: Wyoming

HOMETOWN: Cody, Wyo.

DRAFT: Sixth round, 184th overall