WWE: 6 Superstars who played NFL or college football
While many wrestlers make their way into WWE through the independent circuit, a lot of them transition into the industry from football. These stars once played and had successful careers in the NFL and college football early in their lives as athletes. Given their athletic background, they were considered good fits for the wrestling industry, and some of them have proved this theory right by turning into the greatest superstars in the company's history.
Let's take a closer look at six WWE Superstars who played NFL or college football.
#6 Titus O'Neil
Titus O'Neil is a former Tag Team Champion and 24/7 Champion, having also hosted WrestleMania 36 and 37 as well. But before becoming a wrestler, Titus O'Neil had an incredibly decorated career in college football.
Most famously, Titus O'Neil played for the Florida Gators during his college football career. However, Titus O'Neil also played for numerous other american football sides such as the Utah Blaze, Tampa Bay Storm, Las Vegas Gladiators and Carolina Cobras.
During a recent interview, Titus O'Neil explained that the move from being a football player to becoming a WWE Superstar was the "toughest transition" he ever had to make both mentally and physically:
"It was the hardest transition I've ever had to make, both from a physical and mental standpoint because football, you go and you execute everything within that position that you play: whether you’re a quarterback, or another position. You have to be able to go with the punches, go with the flow, feed off the energy of the crowd, give the crowd some energy so that you can ultimately take them on a rollercoaster. And in football, American football, you take them on a roller coaster by scoring points. In wrestling you take them on a rollercoaster by storytelling."
Titus O'Neil is a pillar of the Florida community, supporting various outreach programs and championing a variety of charitable causes. The former Florida Gator may not feature prominently on television, but holds a very important position in WWE as the company's global ambassador.
#5 Mojo Rawley
Former WWE Superstar Mojo Rawley had stints with several major NFL franchises before he joined the wrestling industry. Rawley was signed by the Green Bay Packers in 2009, before going on to play defensive line for the Arizona Cardinals in 2010.
During a recent interview, Mojo Rawley was asked about the difference in training that he went through in the NFL compared to the training he's gone through with WWE. Rawley explained that he was very surprised by how different the training is in both the industries:
"I was surprised to see the extent of how different the training is. In football, I was a defensive lineman so my weight training was centered around achieving mass and power. I did mostly high weights and low reps. My cardio training primarily required me to operate at a high energy output for short bursts throughout a football game. Now, my cardio and weight training has to enable me to function nonstop throughout a match. I have to be able to function continuously throughout the entirety of a whole match. Quickness within a ring is more important than straight line speed on a football field. The structure of my training has changed completely but my training style has not. Intensity, conditioning, power and HYPE!"
Since becoming a WWE Superstar in 2012, Mojo Rawley has won the WWE 24/7 Championship on seven occasions and was the 2017 Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal winner. Rawley was released from his contract in April 2021.
#4 Brock Lesnar
Former WWE Champion Brock Lesnar is the odd one out on this list, being the only superstar to have pursued football after earning fame in wrestling. After his WrestleMania XX match against Goldberg in 2004, Brock Lesnar decided to put his WWE career on hold to pursue a career in the NFL.
The former Universal Champion performed excellently at the NFL Combine later that year. This led to several NFL teams expressing an interest in watching Brock Lesnar work out, with the possibility of signing The Beast Incarnate to a contract.
NFL team the Minnesota Vikings worked out Brock Lesnar on June 11, 2004. However, Lesnar was dealing with the after-effects of a motorcycle injury sustained in April which included a broken jaw, left hand, a pulled groin, and bruised pelvis.
Nevertheless, the Minnesota Vikings signed Brock Lesnar on July 27, with Lesnar playing defensive tackle in multiple pre-season matches for the side. Unfortunately, Lesnar was released by the Vikings at the end of August.
#3 Happy Corbin
Happy Corbin had a great run on Friday Night SmackDown on FOX. However, the former King of the Ring also has a vast history of NFL and college football before his days as a WWE Superstar. King Corbin attended Northwest Missouri State University, where he played offensive guard for the football team, becoming a starter in his junior year in 2007.
During his time playing offensive guard for Northwest Missouri State, King Corbin competed in the teams that went to four consecutive Division II National Championship matches.
After college, King Corbin went undrafted in the 2009 NFL Draft before eventually signing with the Indianapolis Colts. After being released by the Colts in September 2009, Corbin signed a futures contract with NFL side the Arizona Cardinals in January 2010.
King Corbin participated in numerous training camps before being signed to the Cardinals' practice squad in September. However, King Corbin was once again be signed to a futures contract before being released by the Arizona Cardinals in September 2011. Corbin is also a former United States Champion, Men's 2017 Money in the Bank winner and the 2019 King of the Ring winner.
#2 WWE Hall of Famer Goldberg
WWE Hall of Famer Goldberg has a well documented football career. The WCW legend played college football after earning a scholarship to play for the University of Georgia Bulldogs football side, serving as a defensive tackle on the team.
After much success in his college football career, Bill Goldberg was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1990 NFL draft in the 11th round as the 301st overall selection.
Having played for other football teams such as the Atlanta Falcons and Sacramento Gold Miners, Goldberg's NFL career ended in 1995 when he suffered a deliblitating abdomen injury. This began Goldberg's journey into becoming a professional wrestler, debuting on WCW's Monday Nitro in 1997, beginning his famous undefeated streak of 173-0 in World Championship Wrestling.
Goldberg's success also continued when he signed with WWE, becoming a former two-time Universal Champion and World Heavyweight Champion. Goldberg's place in history was sealed when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the class of 2018 during WrestleMania week.
#1 Roman Reigns
Current WWE Undisputed Universal Champion Roman Reigns is possibly the biggest superstar in wrestling history. However, the Head of the Table also has a vast history of college and NFL football experience. After playing football in high school, Roman Reigns attended the Georgia Institute of Technology where he became a defensive tackle on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team.
The former Big Dog experienced a huge amount of success with The Yellow Jackets. During his time as a defensive tackle for Georgia Tech, Roman Reigns was a three-year starter and was also a team captain in his senior year.
In 2007, Roman Reigns signed a contract with the Minnesota Vikings after he went undrafted in the 2007 NFL draft. However, Reigns was released by the Vikings later that month. The future WWE Universal Champion was then signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars in August before he was released prior to the 2007 NFL season.
Since becoming a WWE Superstar in 2010, Roman Reigns has become one of the most successful superstars of the modern era. The Undisputed Universal Champion has also held the Intercontinental Championship, United States Championship and WWE Tag Team Championship.