Greenwich Native Sullivan is Heading to the Super Bowl
By Paul Silverfarb and Richard Kaufman
If you’re not already a huge fan of the Patriots (you know who you are), then it is time to become a Rams fan, at least for one day, and root for Greenwich’s hometown son, John Sullivan.
Remembered at 13 by coaches for the Babe Ruth Baseball League, Sullivan was polite and “over six feet tall by the time he was 13.” Jim and Bill Boutelle coached him to the New England baseball championships that year.
Skip ahead to his 10th season in the National Football League when the former Greenwich High School standout and Notre Dame alum joined the Rams. Now, in his 11th season, he is headed to Super Bowl LIII.
After completing a long tenure with the Minnesota Vikings and one year with the Washington Redskins, the veteran NFL center left the cold winters to help the Los Angeles Rams solidify their offensive line.
3/16/18: Signed a 2-year deal with Rams
4/5/17: Signed by the Rams as a free agent
9/27/16: Signed by the Washington Redskins as a free agent
4/7/15: Released and then re-signed with Vikings
4/27/08: Entered the NFL as a sixth round (187th overall) draft pick by the Minnesota Vikings (4/27/08)
For Sullivan, signing with the Rams was an easy choice. His experience as a center would be a huge help for second-year quarterback Jared Goff. In addition, Sullivan was familiar with the Rams’ new head coach at the time, Sean McVay, who was an assistant coach for the Redskins when Sullivan played in Washington.
“As soon as I knew Sean got the job in L.A., I knew I wanted to come along with him,” Sullivan said. “There were some bumps along the way and some things that made it look like this wouldn’t happen, but this is where we find ourselves now. I’m just super excited to be back in this role and with this team.”
Although he started only one game under McVay in his year with Washington, McVay was impressed with Sullivan’s work in front of the quarterback.
“When he played for us last year,” McVay commented in 2017, “it was 130-or-so snaps, I thought he did an excellent job—handling the cadence, handling the calls up front—because it all starts with that spot. John was a guy that I was really impressed with. Being around him in Washington, you almost felt like you were talking to a coach. You talk about your quarterback wanting to be an extension of the coaching staff, the center position is very similar where he’s got to have a big-picture ownership of what we’re trying to get done, what we’re trying to accomplish up front. And John is certainly someone that’s shown he is capable of handling that.”
Sullivan filled the hole in the Rams offensive line left when Tim Barnes was released. At the time, there were concerns over Sullivan’s health stemming from the two back surgeries that had forced him to miss the entire 2015 season with the Vikings.
But a healthy Sullivan helped boost Los Angeles offensively. Before he arrived, the Rams finished 4-12. Quarterback Jared Goff played in seven games that season and didn’t get a lot of help from his offensive line: he was sacked 26 times.
Sullivan’s focus in 2017 was to, “get the offense up to speed, go out there and score some points…These teams turn it around quick. You put the right pieces in place, in terms of coaching staff and players, and you get rolling. There’s no reason to think that we can’t go out and have amazing success in 2017.”
And they did just that. In 2017, Sullivan and Goff both started all 15 games; Goff was sacked only 25 times and the Rams finished the season 11-5.
In March of 2018, the Rams signed Sullivan to a two-year deal worth up to $15 million. It was a huge pay raise for Sullivan, who made just $999,999 in 2017 on a one-year contract.
In the 2018 season Sullivan and Goff started all 16 games. The Rams record was 13-3. The familiarity with the head coach’s offensive style was crucial for Sullivan and his ability to communicate as the center was crucial for McVay.
COLLEGE: Started 43-of-47 games at Notre Dame…started in the Fiesta Bowl as a sophomore and the Sugar Bowl as a junior… served as a captain his senior year for the Fighting Irish.
PERSONAL: Named Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at Greenwich High School…played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl following his senior season in high school… won three state titles as a wrestler…graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in marketing…is married to Ariel and they have one son, John Harris (Harry) Sullivan.
To read the Sentinel’s exclusive interview with Sullivan and hear all about his preparation and ex ited for the Big Game, check out next week’s Greenwich Sentinel.