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JJ  Birden

JJ Birden

Former NFL Pro

Biography

To appreciate the Hero’s Journey that is JJ Birden’s life, you must first know a few important facts:

  • Less than 6% of high school seniors go on to play college football
  • Of the 150,000 draft-eligible college football players, only 253 (less than 1%) are selected in the NFL draft
  • The average NFL career is less than 2 years
  • The average NFL player is 6’2, 245 lbs.

The odds of making it to the NFL are staggering. The odds of staying in the NFL are even more amazing. The odds of doing both are the most astronomical of all when you’re undersized and play one of the sport’s most physical positions. Good thing JJ Birden never cared about the odds of success. Read More >

Despite being the #1 high school wide receiver in Oregon, JJ didn’t receive a single D1 scholarship offer. He was fast enough for sure, but at 5’9 and 133 lbs., JJ was just too small to play with the big boys. At least that’s what the naysayers thought; JJ knew he was good enough, and he set his mind to achieving the impossible. All he needed was an opportunity, no matter how small, even if it meant making his own.

After receiving a scholarship to the University of Oregon for track & field, JJ earned a walk-on spot with the football team his sophomore year. He was at the bottom of the depth chart and nowhere near seeing actual playing time on the field, but his coaches and teammates didn’t know how hard he was willing to work. It didn’t take long for them to find out: JJ became a starter the next season, his junior year.

But like all long-shot stories and underdog tales, JJ’s trials were just beginning. The remainder of his college career was plagued with injuries and unimpressive stats. Still, JJ’s speed and toughness were enough to earn him an invite to the NFL Combine, a yearly gathering of the top 300 college prospects in the nation. Unsurprising to his teammates, coaches, and fans, JJ dominated the Combine. His performance earned him the 216th pick in the 8th round of the 1988 NFL Draft. That’s when the going got really tough.

A series of injuries and failed physicals culminated in one of the darkest moments in JJ’s early career, and one of the hardest weeks imaginable for anyone: JJ was rejected by 4 NFL teams in 5 days. He could have walked away from the game and given up hope in spite of what seemed like insurmountable odds, but JJ didn’t even flinch. Instead, he did what he’s always done when faced with adversity—he found a way to win.

JJ would go on to play 9 seasons in the NFL (remember, the average career is less than a quarter of that) despite never being the biggest, strongest or most physical guy on the field. What kept JJ on the field for almost a decade wasn’t just how he played the game but rather how he approached every day like it was game day. JJ was willing to put in the work and do whatever it took to improve.

Now a motivational speaker and performance coach, JJ shares lessons from his life that help audiences of all ages, backgrounds, and professions realize the most important thing about success—it is never given, but always earned. JJ’s inspiring keynote presentations outline the principles and strategies that helped an undersized wide receiver overcome spectacular odds; the same principles and strategies that can help anyone perform at the highest levels in all walks of life.

JJ is a best-selling author, entrepreneur, motivational speaker, husband and father. He has been married to his college sweetheart, Raina, for 30 years and has 8 children (3 biological and 5 adopted nieces and nephews). He and his family reside in the Phoenix area.

JJ Birden is an engaging communicator, passionate presenter, and a leading authority on helping individuals seize their opportunities in life. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Sizzle Reel

Speech Topics

In Spite Of…

The key to success is seeing obstacles as opportunities. Read More >

Low productivity is a recurring issue for businesses and organizations of all sizes. Keeping employees motivated to give their best is a challenge even for the best leaders; however, it’s not always up to leaders to inspire their teams, and even if it was, it’s not always possible. Unbeknownst to supervisors, managers, directors, and other leaders, employees may be dealing with their own deficiencies which can prevent them from raising the bar themselves. They may feel they don’t have the skills, talent, or abilities to succeed, or they may be experiencing the lingering self-doubt that comes with failure. It’s called the “underdog mentality,” and it’s held many back from reaching their true potential.

The difference between the victims and the victors in life, between the underdogs and alpha dogs, is not a lack of adversity but rather how they approach adversity. No one knows this better than JJ Birden.

In this inspiring keynote presentation, JJ shares the winning principles and strategies that helped him achieve success in spite of unbelievable adversity, heartbreaking failure, and herculean obstacles. Audiences learn that no matter what they are dealing with, if they want to win badly enough, they too can succeed in spite of everything (and everyone) against them.

Key Takeaways from In Spite Of…

  • How to master your thoughts and avoid the underdog mindset
  • Overcoming F.A.S.C.O. (Failures, Adversity, Setbacks, Challenges, and Obstacles)
  • Dealing with dream stealers, haters, naysayers, and adversaries
  • Determination and self-discipline in the face of failure
  • Doing more with less (“the 42% dilemma”)
  • Doing whatever it takes to turn a “no” into a “yes”
  • How to approach each day and every opportunity like an NFL Pro

In Spite Of… is an empowering message that helps audiences develop the habit of conquering the “setback” moments in their lives and seeing them for what they truly are: opportunities for growth. Read Less ^

Seize Your Opportunities

Success is not going to be given to you--you have to go get it! Read More >

Businesses have always aimed to get more out of their people, but it is becoming increasingly hard to provide resources, instruction, and encouragement that actually motivate employees to show up and give their best. To truly succeed in today’s extremely competitive business world, organizations need employees who are genuinely motivated to give their best, improve each day, and do whatever it takes to win. Unfortunately, not everyone has this capacity; JJ Birden does, and he can help anyone develop it, too.

Seize Your Opportunities focuses on the individual and what one must do for success as part of a larger group—no matter the odds, and no matter how much hard work it requires.

As a former NFL wide receiver, JJ knows what it takes to reach the highest level of performance and have the capacity to maintain it. Many of the success principles he learned as a professional athlete have helped him thrive in the business world as an entrepreneur and professional speaker. In this presentation, JJ shares his winning principles and strategies and teaches audiences how to maximize and seize the opportunities in their lives.

Success is not going to be given to you. You have to achieve success; and once you have it, you can't stay at that same level. You have to continue to work to fight mediocrity and complacency. JJ will show you how.

Key Takeaways from Seize Your Opportunity: Read Less ^

  • Finding, defining, and defending your Why
  • How discipline and self-motivation lead to success
  • Achieving your breakthrough through adversity
  • Developing championship focus and resolve
  • How complacency can destroy momentum
  • Avoiding complacency by continuous self-improvement
  • The Joe Montana Effect - what JJ learned playing with one of the greatest athletes of all time

There BETTER Be an “I” in Team

Before you can lead others, you must have the ability to lead yourself. Read More >

Leadership is a popular term and hot-topic in the business world, and rightfully so. Leaders have a direct impact on how successful an organization is; unfortunately, not all leaders naturally have the skills to set the pace, set the bar, and drive a group’s collective efforts towards accomplishing the most important goals. As impactful as good leadership is, poor leadership can be equally impactful, albeit in the opposite direction. Leaders who fail to recognize the role they play or the impact they have on others can leave employees feeling lost, unmotivated, and paralyzed to step outside their comfort zones. The results? Decreased revenue, low morale, and poor performance overall.

In There Better Be An “I” In Team, JJ Birden explains the principles of leadership and team dynamics he learned playing at the highest level in the NCAA and NFL. The heart of his message is clear: “To lead a team, it’s imperative you can lead yourself first. The team’s success is dependent on your success!”

This dynamic, engaging keynote presentation will help develop and strengthen the leaders within your organization.

Key Takeaways: Read Less ^

  • Defining your personal leadership style and communicating it to your team
  • Clearly stating your expectations as a leader
  • Creating a championship environment
  • Identifying “star players” on your team and elevating their game
  • Empowering and inspiring your team to do whatever it takes to win

Every Day is Game Day

To get the future you want, you must bring your best EVERY day. Read More >

The economy is changing fast. The jobs of the future mostly don’t exist yet, which means the people who are most likely to thrive are the ones who are prepared to improvise, adapt, overcome, and continually grow. Unfortunately, the youth of today may not have the resiliency skills to get the futures they want--but they can develop what it takes to get there. The key is developing a set of core life skills to manage school, work, and outside interests while being responsible, dependable, and accountable adults. Those are the skills that helped JJ Birden overcome astronomical odds to reach the NFL, and they are the same skills that can help the youth of today become the leaders and high-achievers of tomorrow.

In this captivating and empowering keynote presentation for students and athletes, JJ helps his audience understand the importance of giving their best every day so that when the going gets tough and all eyes are on them, they will have the capacity to succeed and breakthrough to bigger and better things. In Every Day is Game Day, JJ shares actionable tips and strategies that help young people approach every day like an NFL Pro. Some key takeaways include: Read Less ^

  • Mastering your thoughts and overcoming the underdog mindset
  • Avoiding the entitlement trap
  • Benefits of creating the right “positive” social media trail
  • How you to react to F.A.S.C.O. (Failures, Adversity, Setbacks, Challenges, and Obstacles) can lead to either a breakthrough or a breakdown
  • Why having a mentor is the ultimate shortcut to anything you want in life
  • Even though you may be winning now, complacency can cause you to lose