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Wade explains how Buffalo Bills have grown into Super Bowl contenders

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here is a renewed sense of expectation around the Buffalo Bills as they head into the NFL playoffs on the back of their best season in a generation. 

The last time Buffalo ended the campaign with a 13-3 record was in 1991, when they went all the way to the Super Bowl, part of a string of four successive appearances in American football’s biggest game. That was a run which, infamously, yielded four defeats. 

1991 was also the year that Christian Wade was born, and for much of his life the Bills were of little significance as he chased and fulfilled his dream of playing rugby union for England. 

However, after making the decision to switch sports and join the NFL’s International Player Pathway in 2019, Wade has spent the last two seasons as a member of the Bills’ practice squad, meaning he is fully integrated into the team’s day-to-day training and routine, though not eligible to feature in competitive matches. 

Few then, have had a better insight into the growth of the team under head coach Sean McDermott, who has already led the Bills to their first AFC East title since 1995 and now takes them into Saturday’s Super Wild Card Weekend tie against the Indianapolis Colts with genuine Super Bowl aspirations. 

“I know when coach came in, he wanted to create his own culture, create a new identity for the Bills,” Wade explains. “Obviously, historically, we’ve won the divisions and championships, but we’ve been dry for 25 years. 

“He’s been able to create a coaching environment that’s all about getting better. Every day we talk about playoff calibre and, once we make the playoffs, championship calibre.

“He’s worked with the GM and the owners to hand-pick every single person in the building. He says it’s the people that make the team rather than the talent or the ability.

“He is serious in terms of making sure that we excel as players, but first and foremost, he just wants us to excel as people.”

That said, McDermott is not shy of testing his players’ sporting prowess in ways they might not be expecting. 

“We have shoot-outs,” Wade explains. “We have a team meeting and [he’ll say]: ‘Right, who’s coming up? Who’s the best shooter?’

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Sean McDermott has become one of the most influential head coaches in the NFL

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“We’ll do free throws from the foul line and then if they get it in, he’ll knock five minutes off the meeting.

“Whenever I go up it’s like: ‘He doesn’t play basketball, they don’t play in England’. I went up and sunk my free throw!” 

Besides uncovering Wade’s aptitude for a third sport, one of McDermott’s finest achievements to date has been his work in developing quarterback Josh Allen, who was drafted in 2018 and this year earned his first Pro-Bowl selection after throwing for 37 touchdowns and more than 4,500 yards. 

“I think people keep forgetting that this is his third year in the league,” Wade says. “He’s still very young.

“He’s been working on himself and just getting better and better and really coming into his own and fulfilling his potential.

“I feel the difference between last year, this year, is just his decision-making. He’s definitely proven to the world that he can play this game at a high level.” 

As with his coach, Wade says there is a relaxed side to Allen that makes light of the pressure he might feel as the 24-year-old face of the franchise heading into the playoffs. 

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Former rugby union star Christian Wade remains a member of the Bills’ practice squad

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“Our fiancés are best friends and he’s a cool guy,” Wade explains. “If you didn’t know that he was like a hotshot, MVP nominee you wouldn’t know that he was who he is, because he’s just so down to earth. He’s a bit of a jokester. He’s always going around saying different jokes. 

“He is a bit like how I am, going around annoying people just for the sake of fun.

“He likes his his rude jokes so I can’t really say any of them!” 

The build-up to the start of the NFL postseason has been overshadowed in the US by the remarkable scenes in Washington D.C. earlier this week, when a mob of Donald Trump supporters stormed the nation’s Capitol building while congress was in the process of approving November’s election result.

Wade may be something of an outsider, but the historical significance of Wednesday’s events is not lost, with the entire season having played out against the backdrop of a tumultuous period of division in the US. 

“I don’t know when was the last time anything like that happened,” Wade adds. “You can imagine, everyone’s just shocked. It’s not good enough, for this stuff to be happening.

“We’ve spoken about other equality stuff throughout the season, you know, with the likes of what happened with George Floyd. 

“We’ve had our talks, speaking openly about how we feel about what’s been going on and what we’re going to do as a team moving forward. 

“Now we just need to figure out how we can make things better and get it to that stage where everyone is equal on all levels.”

Watch live NFL Playoff action this Saturday and Sunday on Sky Sports NFL and NFL GamePass from 6pm or catch the highlights on The NFL Show on BBC One and NFL Endzone on Channel 5


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