The allure of playing in the NFL is too hard to resist, even for WWE Superstars. At the end of the day, football is America's national pastime and so you get a chance to endear yourself to a bigger audience if things go well.
Then, there's the money. The NFL is one of the highest paying sports leagues in the world but don't just take my word for it. The fact that Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes signed a 10-year extension worth more than $500 million proves the point.
In WWE history, we've had several Superstars changing career trajectories after failing to cut it in the NFL. Some have gone on to win Super Bowls but decided that professional wrestling was their calling. One name, in particular, left WWE in his heyday to pursue a career in football.
Thus, without further ado let's look at these 15 gentlemen who both donned the jersey of an NFL team and also squared it out in the middle of a WWE ring.
#13 Brock Lesnar
Let's get started with the most recognizable name in WWE today to have an NFL background. Back in the early 2000s, Brock Lesnar was WWE's next big thing. He was the youngest WWE Champion in company history and a main event regular.
That's when he decided to put his pro wrestling career on a back burner to make a career in NFL. After wrestling the infamous match against Goldberg at WrestleMania XX, Lesnar took part in the NFL Combine that year where he had a great showing.
Eventually, a road accident would prevent The Beast from being at his best during workouts with teams. However, he was still picked up by the Minnesota Vikings and played a few preseason games with them too.
Eventually, Lesnar's luck ran out as the Vikings cut him before the start of the season and he returned to pro wrestling through NJPW.
#12 Titus O'Neil
Titus O'Neil has been with WWE for over 10 years now, but before he made the switch to pro wrestling, he was plying his trade in the sport of football. Having represented the Florida Gators for four seasons. from 1997 to 2000.
O'Neil even tried out for the Jacksonville Jaguars after graduating from college but a knee injury during training camp prevented him from taking the next step. He subsequently participated in the Arena League Football before joining WWE.
#11 "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan
Did you know that the winner of the first-ever Royal Rumble, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan was also an NFL player once? Duggan is best known for his feuds with the likes of Harley Race and Ted DiBiase. The latter inducted Duggan in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2011.
Jim Duggan was signed by the Atlanta Falcons but he was another case of a career ruined by injuries. As knee issues continued to pile on, Duggan was released by the Falcons and he eventually forayed into pro-wrestling.
Before rising to stardom in pro wrestling through WCW and eventually WWE, Bill Goldberg was a through and through football guy. He played college football for the Georgia Bulldogs before being drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 1990 NFL Draft.
Goldberg was cut by the Rams before the start of the season but finally found his calling with the Atlanta Falcons, whom he represented from 1992 to 1994 and played as a defensive tackle.
#9 Brian Pillman
Known for his notorious antics as a pro wrestler, Brian Pillman is best remembered for his time in the WWE because of the "Pillman's got a gun" angle that involved him going against Stone Cold Steve Austin.
A Miami University alumni, Pillman went undrafted in the 1984 NFL Draft but signed for the Cincinnati Bengals that year, his only full season in the league. He would also sign for the Buffalo Bills next season but didn't make it to the final season squad. Injuries impacted Pillman's career both in the NFL and WWE.
#8 Marcus Cor Von
Marcus Cor Von is a WWE Superstar to have actually played in the NFL Super Bowl. He played professionally for four years as a linebacker and reached the championship game with the Buffalo Bills in 1994. His last season as a footballer was in 1996 where he represented the New England Patriots.
Cor Von is known more for his time with TNA/Impact Wrestling and spent only a year or so in the WWE from 2006 to 2007 under the ECW brand.
#7 Baron Corbin
King Corbin, as he is known today in WWE, was once trying to make a name for himself in the NFL. He went undrafted in the NFL Draft 2009 but was still signed by the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts would later release him and he would sign with the Arizona Cardinals. His involvement in a team scuffle eventually resulted in him being released by the franchise in 2011.
Corbin then joined NXT in 2012 and the rest, as we say, is history. He's gone on to win the Money in the Bank briefcase, the King of the Ring tournament, and the United States Championship.
#6 Ron Simmons
Ron Simmons is best known for his time in the WWE as the leader of the Nation of Domination. He won multiple tag team championships with JBL and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2012.
Coming to his footballing roots, Simmons is a College Football Hall of Famer as well for his achievements with the Florida State University. He was picked by the Cleveland Browns in the 1981 NFL Draft and represented them for two years.
Next up is Simmons' tag team partner in the WWE, John Bradshaw Layfield. Known for entering the arena in limos, JBL is the 10th Grand Slam Champion under the old format.
Before making a living for himself in pro wrestling though, JBL did try his hand at football. He was drafted by the then Los Angeles Raiders in 1980 but was dropped from the squad before the season commenced. JBL was slated to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame this year but the ceremony has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
#4 Mojo Rawley
One of the active WWE Superstars who has spent his entire pro wrestling career with the company, Mojo Rawley came very close to realizing the dream of playing in the NFL. He was signed by the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2009 but was cut by them despite decent performances in preseason games.
He was then signed by the Arizona Cardinals in 2010 but a training camp injury killed his potential NFL career. Rawley won the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 33 with the help of his friend Rob Gronkowski and is also a multi-time 24/7 Champion, his only title achievement in WWE.
#3 Lex Luger
Lex Luger has made a name for himself throughout the world of pro wrestling, let alone the WWE, especially as one of the members of Ric Flair's Four Horsemen stable. The co-winner of the 1994 Royal Rumble though had his eyes set on a football career initially.
Luger was signed by the Green Bay Packers in 1982 but a groin injury resulted in him being placed on the Injury Reserve list for the entire season. He joined training camp next year as well but was let go by the Packers before the start of the season.
#2 Roman Reigns
Back in 2007, Roman Reigns looked set to embark on a football career in NFL after he was picked up by the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted agent. However, he was diagnosed with leukemia and subsequently dropped from the roster. The Jacksonville Jaguars came calling but they too cut him prior to the start of the season as The Big Dog eventually moved into pro wrestling with WWE.
The decision turned out to be a critical one for Reigns as he has gone on to become one of the greatest Superstars in WWE history and achieved almost everything he can during his almost decade-long association with the company.
#1 Rob Gronkowski
A full-blown NFL Superstar before he decided to retire in 2019 and eventually join WWE earlier this year, Rob Gronkowski is a three-time NFL Champion with the New England Patriots and heralded by many as the greatest tight end ever in the history of the league.
Gronk had a three-month run with WWE starting March 2020. He hosted WrestleMania 36 and claimed the 24/7 Championship at the PPV. Having been traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in April itself, Gronk dropped the title to R-Truth last month and parted ways with WWE.