The WWE’s biggest event of the summer is coming up this weekend – Summerslam. In preparation for Summerslam, many wrestlers have sports experience before they got into WWE. Many started out as football players, some even had a cup of coffee in the NFL, while others failed trying and pursued the WWE. This includes the two men wrestling for the world title on Sunday plus some other famous, recognizable names.
Let’s look back at how some of these wrestlers got started playing football.
THE ROCK (real name Dwayne Johnson)
College: Miami University
Pro Career: brief stint in CFL
The 7 time wrestling world champion, one of the highest grossest movie stars, and a man with over 12 million twitter followers got his start playing college football at the University of Miami. In 4 years at Miami (1991-1994), Dwayne Johnson played 39 games, starting just one. He record 78 total tackles (29 unassisted) and had 4 sacks. Johnson spent most of his career as a backup defensive tackle, rotating behind well known NFL star Warren Sapp. Before getting into wrestling, Johnson tried to make it in football and after receiving no NFL interest, attempted a career in the CFL. In 1995, he was cut after 2 months with the Calgary Stampeders. Injuries played a large role in his lack of success post college. I think most people would be thankful that Johnson took the career path he did as “The Rock” is one of the most famous and popular men on the planet. He is the sole reason I even remotely cared about wrestling as a child and his movies are all awesome.
ROMAN REIGNS (real name Joe Anoa’i)
College: Georgia Tech
Pro Career: Training camp with Vikings and Jaguars, CFL for 1 year
Anoa’i was a 3 year starter at Georgia Tech as a defensive tackle. Anoa’i is best known as Roman Reigns in the WWE and is also The Rock’s cousin. At Georgia Tech, Anoa’i was named team captain his senior season. He was first team All-ACC that season, recording 4.5 sacks and contributing 40 tackles. At Georgia Tech, he played with well-known Lions WR Calvin Johnson. After graduating in 2006, he was undrafted but got a training camp contract with the Vikings. He was quickly released and signed with the Jaguars, but again was quickly released. In 2008, he played 5 fames for the Edmonton Eskimos, but was released/retired in November to pursue a career in wrestling. That wrestling career has served him well as Anoa’i aka Reigns had a highly successful run with a trio called The Shield. He is a 3-time World Champion in WWE and has a chance to win again as he faces another football-player turned wrestler Brock Lesnar this Sunday at Summerslam.
College: University of Minnesota
Pro Career: Training camp with Vikings
Brock Lesnar attended University of Minnesota but did not play on the football team. He played in high school but was a wrestler in college. Straight out of college he signed a contract with the WWE, where he was from 2000-2004. During that time Lesnar won multiple World Championships, but in 2004, following a match with another member on this list Goldberg, he left WWE to pursue a career in football. Lesnar took an unconventional approach, but NFL teams were still interested in him. Unfortunately, a motor cycle accident prevented him from reaching his true potential due to the injuries suffered. He signed with the Vikings and played several pre-season games before being released. That was the extent of his football career. Lesnar has had a highly successful career as an amateur wrestling champion, UFC champion, and WWE champion. His biggest moment in wrestling came in 2014 when Lesnar beat the Undertaker at Wrestlemania, ending his famous undefeated streak. As mentioned above, Lesnar is currently WWE champion and faces Roman Reigns this weekend.
College: University of Georgia
Pro Career: Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, CFL
Goldberg played defensive tackle for Georgia. His stats are underwhelming but he did have 2 interceptions, which is always impressive for a defensive linemen. Goldberg was the 301st overall pick in the 1990 NFL draft (11th round) to the Los Angeles Rams, where he spent the 1990 season. Following that year, Goldberg spent a year in the CFL and then joined his hometown Atlanta Falcons, where he spent three seasons (1992-1994). He played in just 13 games and recorded only 11 tackles. In 1995 he chosen by the Carolina Panthers in the expansion draft but never suited up for the team and has the distinct honor of being the first player the franchise ever cut. Goldberg went on to have a long and successful run in WCW and WWE. He is best known for beating Hulk Hogan in 1998 in the Georgia Dome, to claim his first World title. This moment is famous because of Hogan’s dominant run as part of the NWO. He has also had some famous matches with Brock Lesnar, above, including last year at Wrestlemania for the world title.
Other famous wrestlers who played football:
STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN (real name Steven Anderson)
Stone Cold is best known for his role in the WWE along with the Rock in the mid-to-late 90s. Before that, he played defensive end for North Texas, where he had a minimal impact. He did not pursue a pro career following college.
LEX LUGER (real name Lawrence Pfohl)
Attended Penn State, before transferring to Miami. He played both defensive end and linebacker. At Miami, he was teammates with Mark Richt (current Miami coach) and Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly, amongst others. His pro football career included a trip to the CFL championship game in 1979. He tried out with the Packers, but was never an official member of their active roster.
JBL (real name John Layfield)
JBL has a highly successful career in the WWE as a tag team specialist, World Champion, and announcer. He is also a highly successful businessman and can be seen on several tv shows and has written multiple books. Before all of that, JBL played college football for Abilene Christian University. He was a two year started along the offensive line and was even named to the All-Lone Star Conference team. Layfield went undrafted and signed with the Los Angeles Raiders but was released before the 1990 season. He did play 1 year in a league known as the World League of American Football, starting all 10 games at right tackle. His QB was current Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett.