JJ Birden

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JJ Birden

Former NFL Pro & Motivational Keynote Speaker

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Tips, Strategies, and Insights That Move the Bottom Line

Inspire your team with JJ Birden, former NFL Pro and motivational speaker, through his journey from unlikely contender to professional athlete. His message of determination, resilience, perseverance, and positivity will inspire your team to success, and his tailored keynote presentations will give them tools and strategies to reach the highest levels in business and in life.

A Small Man in a Big Man’s Game

Like a fabled long-shot story and underdog tale, JJ Birden was The Small Man in the Big Man’s Game of Football.

After earning a scholarship to the University of Oregon for track and field (plus being the #1 high school wide receiver in Oregon), JJ also earned a walk-on spot with the football team his sophomore year. His trials were only just beginning though, and he was faced with many naysayers, followed by a cycle of injuries, and unimpressive stats.

JJ’s hard work, grit, speed, and resiliency were enough to eventually earn him the invite to the NFL Combine, where he dominated. His performance earned him an NFL draft pick, and he was on his way, or so he thought. Another series of injuries and failed physicals culminated in one of the darkest moments in JJ’s early career; 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.

Despite a height of only 5’10 and weighing in at 157 lbs (versus the typical 6’2 and 245 lbs of his peers) JJ would go on to play 9 seasons in the NFL, crushing the average player's career of less than 2 years. He is now an engaging and passionate keynote speaker, and a leading authority on helping individuals seize their opportunities in life. As a best-selling author, entrepreneur, speaker, husband and father he now 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 is a best-selling author (When Opportunity Knocks 8 Surefire Ways to Take Advantage), 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.


From the Field to the Boardroom: Building a Winning Team


Many organizations struggle with teamwork, causing role confusion and difficulty balancing individual and collective success. This leads to demotivation and disconnection from the bigger picture. Without a clear team strategy and commitment, organizations face communication breakdowns, trust issues, conflicting work styles, and lack of collaboration, leading to overall failure. Effective teamwork is crucial for success and progress.

In this keynote, JJ Birden leverages his contrasting NFL experiences to provide actionable insights and delivers powerful lessons on building successful teams. He compares the 1993 Kansas City Chiefs, who nearly reached the Super Bowl, with the 1989 Dallas Cowboys, who struggled through a 1-15 season. Through these experiences, he illustrates essential strategies for creating winning teams in any environment.

JJ aims to empower organizations to achieve their goals and cultivate a high-performance culture by translating the principles that made his teams great. This keynote inspires leaders and teams to embrace change, foster growth, and create environments where everyone can thrive.

Key Takeaways:

  • Growth: Audiences will learn strategies for personal and professional development through change, mentorship, and effective leadership. They will gain insights on how mentorship can transform team dynamics, inspired by NFL legend Joe Montana's experiences.
  • Retention: Attendees will understand how to create a winning culture that ensures long-term success. They will discover the importance of commitment and loyalty in fostering team cohesion and sustained performance, drawing parallels between professional sports and the corporate world.
  • Teamwork: Participants will know how to employ methods to foster a supportive team environment where dynamics are optimized for success. They will learn the significance of sharing and celebrating team achievements to ensure everyone feels valued and motivated.

Winning As An Underdog

Being an underdog gives you a STEALTH opportunity to win!

In today's fiercely competitive landscape, organizations often find themselves at a perceived disadvantage when pitted against industry giants with larger market shares, extensive budgets, and formidable resources. However, this perceived weakness can be transformed into a strategic advantage with the right guidance. Rather than limiting their growth potential, these organizations can harness their unique strengths to foster alignment, momentum, and ultimately, sustainable growth.

Drawing inspiration from his own journey as an underdog, JJ Birden, a former NFL player and successful business professional, shares invaluable insights in his compelling keynote, "Winning As An Underdog." Despite facing odds stacked against him—where the average NFL player towered over him by 43%—JJ mastered the "underdog mentality," leveraging his perceived shortcomings to fuel his success both on and off the field. Through over a decade of experience in the medical and fitness equipment industries, JJ continued to embody this mentality, defying expectations and achieving remarkable success.

In his captivating keynote, Winning As An Underdog, JJ empowers attendees to embrace their underdog status and capitalize on every opportunity. With a blend of undeniable truths, actionable strategies, and inspiring anecdotes, JJ guides participants through a collaborative experience, showcasing how underdogs can not only thrive but also revolutionize established business norms. Join JJ Birden as he reveals how underdogs are the true catalysts for innovation and change in the business world.

Key Takeaways:

  • Recognizing the strategic benefits of embracing underdog status.
  • Knowing how to cultivate a mindset that thrives on challenges and adversity.
  • Implementing JJ's proven framework for narrowing the underdog disadvantage.
  • Maintaining unwavering determination and resilience on the journey from underdog to industry leader.

Seize Your Opportunities

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

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:

  • 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


"I've been to 25 to 30 National Sales Meetings in my career, I've heard lots of motivational speakers and JJ Birden was by far the best National Sales Meeting speaker that I've ever seen."
- Director of Global Government Sales, Hershey

"I just had the wonderful opportunity to hear JJ's message at our company's recent National Sales Meeting. And wow, what an outstanding message it was! In fact, it was the most inspiring story I've heard during my 38 years here. His presentation captivated everyone, and he has an amazing way of connecting and it's like he's talking to everyone, one on one. JJ's message and tactics for success are simple and rooted in powerful concepts, his message will give you all the inspiration necessary to succeed both personally and professionally."
- Vice President & General Manager, Hershey Small Format Sales Division

"On behalf of the HFMA Greater Heartland Chapter, I want to extend our deepest appreciation to the phenomenal keynote speaker – JJ Birden! His presentation at our “Game On” fall conference was an absolute touchdown! His insights and strategies have empowered us to kick off our journey towards financial management success with renewed determination and enthusiasm. JJ – Thank you for sharing your expertise and motivating us to seize every opportunity that comes our way. We are truly grateful for your contribution to our chapter’s growth and success."
- Connie Warnat, President, HFMA Greater Heartland Chapter

"JJ was incredible! As a company with many different layers and complexities, JJ was the perfect speaker to bridge the gap between our diverse workforce and their needs. With his tenacity, vivacious attitude, and uplifting message, JJ left everyone feeling empowered and less shackled by their own individual challenges or shortcomings. We appreciate JJ and his gift for translating a growth mindset into action that creates results and challenges others to live life to their fullest potential! Thank you, JJ for all that you do!"
- Dayrise Residential

"In these times of uncertainty, many associates are feeling a sense of chaos and stress with the unknown. Your messaging around what they can personally do everyday was uplifting and will be referenced internally for years to come, and the connection you had our associates was outstanding. Thank you for being a part of the Virtual Summer Speaker Series; you were all and more than we had hoped for to encourage, inspire and motivate the team deeply affected by COVID-19 in the hospital labs."
- Senior Director, Talent Management - Sysmex America, Inc.

"JJ spoke virtually for our Sysmex Speaker Series, he is the best motivational speaker I have heard and believed. Thank you!"
- ‎Health Systems Account Manager, Sysmex

"Every time he got onto the field he took advantage of the opportunity to do something special. He was meticulous in his preparation and never let his lack of NFL size stop him from finding a way to be successful. He has taken the same attention to detail, attitude and hard work that allowed him to be successful in the NFL into life after the game and is sharing the lessons that helped him succeed."
- Kent Pulliam, Kansas City Star Reporter who covered the Chiefs/NFL

“JJ Birden was the keynote speaker at our client appreciation event; his presentation was outstanding. His message was well received by our very diverse group, which included clients and their guests from a wide age spectrum. His presentation was both energetic and entertaining. The feedback we received from our clients on his presentation was extremely positive. I would highly recommend JJ as a keynote speaker and presenter.”
- Michael A. Murphy, CFP & Private Wealth Advisor, TruCourse Wealth Advisors - Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc.

"JJ delivered a fast-paced, stimulating, informative and yes, motivational message to my group of community bank executives in Phoenix this past fall. The participants and their spouses were totally engaged as each one was focused on the front of the room until JJ wrapped up his session.
Birden provided amazing energy, excellence, fun and most impressionable of all was how he incorporated his football experiences and related the game’s strategy to business expansion and personal development. This is a tough group when it comes to motivational speakers, but they walked away smiling with ideas and tools that they could bring back to their communities and their banks.
I highly recommend JJ for your next event and I look forward to engaging him for another time in the future."

- Lisa Livingstone, Program Executive and Meeting Planner, Western States Director Education Foundation

"JJ took the time to understand our industry and personalities of the group and speak directly to our group. His energy kicked off our conference perfectly. He was the talk of the conference!"

"I worked with JJ to coordinate speaking on Leadership and High Performance at the IIA Phoenix Chapter meeting. He worked to prepare for our specific audience and brought an energy and focus to the room that was captivating for the duration of his message. JJ commands a great stage presence that allowed the attendees to learn and relate to his message. The sale and signing of his book, When Opportunity Knocks, 8 Surefire Ways to Take Advantage!, after was a great opportunity for folks to interact with him and gave everyone a take away to read and be inspired."

"JJ was very easy to work with, and completely understood our ultimate objective. He connected so well with our audience he had a line for over an hour of people waiting to purchase his book, and thank him. What I appreciated the most was that he was so gracious with each attendee that came to the table to speak him."