Mudge­moves from­milk­ing goats to Bills

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Sports - By JohnWawrow

OR­CHARD PARK, N. Y. » Jor­dan Mudge isn’t sure what he would be do­ing had the Buf­falo Bills not called out of the blue in March to in­vite the of­fen­sive line­man in for a try­out.

Maybe he’d be play­ing a fifth sea­son in some arena league. Per­haps Mudge would be back work­ing a side job in con­struc­tion to help­make ends meet for his wife and three girls.

More than likely, you’d find him milk­ing goats on his farm in Arizona.

Much to Mudge’s sur­prise, he’s do­ing none of the above.

The 28- year- old rookie has in­stead­made it through his first NFL train­ing camp still in con­tention to win a ros­ter spot or, at the very least, land on the Bills prac­tice squad. The last chance to prove him­self comes in Buf­falo’s pre­sea­son fi­nale against Detroit on Thurs­day, two days be­fore teams make their fi­nal cuts.

“I didn’t even think this op­por­tu­nity was ever go­ing to come,” Mudge said.

“See­ing guys come and go even through ( spring) and ev­ery­thing, shoot, like I was sup­posed to be the first one to go,” he added. “I was only the ‘ brought in for a work­out’ guy.”

He’s still stand­ing and con­sid­ered some­what of a cu­rios­ity be­cause of his age. Since 1988, only 55 play­ers have made their NFL de­buts at 28 or older, ac­cord­ing to Pro Foot­ball Ref­er­ence.

“Well, what else was I go­ing to do? I love foot­ball. I love it. I love it,” he said. “My wife al­ways laughs be­cause she’s like, ‘ You’re not built to do a 9 to 5.”’

The 6- foot- 4, 300- pound player also stands out for his abil­ity, some­thing of­fen­sive line coach Juan Castillo im­me­di­ately no­ticed dur­ing his try­out in April.

Call­ing him a “le­git­i­mate guy,” Castillo said Mudge has pro­gressed to the point where he for­gets the player is still a rookie. He re­called the time he apol­o­gized to Mudge for get­ting mad at him dur­ing prac­tice.

“I said, ‘ You know what, I’m jump­ing your butt like you were a starter,”’ Castillo said.

“I think that’s a com­pli­ment to where he’s at,” he added of the player who’s been work­ing at both guard and cen­ter. “In­stead of look­ing at him as, ‘ Ah, well, he’s go­ing to give us a good camp,’ I’m like, ‘ This guy might have to help us one day.”’

Mudge has taken the scenic route to Buf­falo.

FromDe­sertHot Springs, Cal­i­for­nia, he played ju­nior col­lege be­fore land­ing a spot at Ne­vada. Then there was a brief stint with the Cana­dian Foot­ball League B. C. Lions, be­fore he was cut dur­ing train­ing camp.

What fol­lowed was an up­hill climb through the arena foot­ball league ranks, start­ing with the Iowa Barn­storm­ers in 2013. Play­ing for the Arizona Rat­tlers last sea­son, he was the Arena Foot­ball League’s of­fen­sive line­man of the year.

With the Rat­tlers step­ping down to the In­door Foot­ball League, Mudge wasn’t sure what he was go­ing to do un­til the Bills called.

Not hav­ing an agent, Mudge didn’t know how Buf­falo got his num­ber and was un­sure who even con­tacted him, be­cause the Bills’ scout­ing staff un­der­went a purge af­ter gen­eral manager DougWha­ley was fired in April.

Mudge’s age and per­se­ver­ance have made him a team fa­vorite. So have his quirks, such as the time Mudge sent Castillo a video of him milk­ing goats .

“He’s dif­fer­ent, man. But it’s a good dif­fer­ent,” line­man Michael Ola said. “Ev­ery NFL team needs a Jor­danMudge on their ros­ter.”

In the Bills me­dia guide, Mudge lists his hid­den tal­ent as mak­ing bal­loon an­i­mals. He’s pic­tured wear­ing an over­sized bal­loon cre­ation of Yoshi, the Su­perMario Bros. video game char­ac­ter — red tongue in­cluded.

Then there’s the goats, as well as pigs, chick­ens, tur­keys, sheep, bun­nies and a tor­toise Mudge has on his farm.

“I want to do the crunchy stuff,” he said. “I want to make soap and do the goat milk and cheese and ev­ery­thing.”

Mudge got the idea to raise goats a year ago from a for­mer team­mate. His ob­jec­tive is to be­come so self­suf­fi­cient that he’ll never have to go to the gro­cery store again.

Those plans are on hold for now.

Mudge is driven by the op­por­tu­nity of pro­vid­ing for his fam­ily, some­thing Castillo re­minds him of dur­ing prac­tice.

“Juan’s al­ways yelling, ‘ Think about your girls!”’ he said. “I’m try­ing to get vested. That’s what I’m look­ing at. I mean, I don’t get vested be­ing on the prac­tice squad.”

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