10 Professional Wrestlers who played in the NFL

Image Credit: (Owen Churchill/Sportskeeda)

Professional wrestlers are some of the most athletic athletes I have ever seen. There are some athletes that actually played in the National Football League before they started in professional wrestling. So I decided to write a list of 10 wrestlers who played in the NFL.

10. Baron Corbin

Ok before we start, yes I know his ring name is Happy Corbin now, but that name is super cringe and I hate his current gimmick. So, I am calling him by his original name, Baron Corbin (Please change his gimmick back as the Lone Wolf, as that was his best gimmick during his time in NXT). But, did you know that Baron Corbin actually played in the NFL?

Yes it is true as Tom Pestock (Baron Corbin’s real name) actually played with the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals. He was an offensive lineman for both teams, but was mainly a practice squad player. His most notable moment in the NFL was that he got into a fight in training camp with LB Mark Washington in 2010. So yeah, It makes sense why Corbin decided to become a pro wrestler.

9. Commander Azeez

Babatunde Aiyegbusi has been wrestling for the WWE since 2016 and he has been through multiple name changes. It started with him using his real name, until Vince McMahon decided to shorten his name in NXT. Then wrestled as Dabba-Kato, remember Raw Undergound, if so that is where you will recognize him. In fact, Dabba-Kato was heavily pushed during those segments, until it was abandoned due to poor ratings. Now his current gimmick is as Commander Azeez, a bodyguard for wrestler Apollo Crews during his Nigerian Royalty gimmick.

Babatunde actually has played multiple years of football as an offensive tackle. He Mainly in the Polish American Football League (PFAL). He played with the Giant Wroclaw, Warsaw Eagles, and The Crew Wroclaw. Along with a brief tenure with the German Football League’s Dresden Monarchs, Babatunde had a strong Football Career. He would even join the Minnesota Vikings in 2015, mainly playing preseason games for them.

8. Steve “Mongo” McMichael.

This is a cool, one as Steve McMichael actually went into professional wrestling after a successful career in the NFL. He is most known for his time with the Chicago Bears from 1981-1993. McMichael was on the Bears when they won Superbowl XX (20) and was a big part of the 85′ Bears defense. That defense is often regarded as one of the greatest defenses of all time in the NFL. McMichael even spent time with the New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers before he retired.

When McMichael decided to become a professional wrestler, many don’t know that WCW and WWF were in a bidding war for his services. It looked like WWF was going to sign him, after he was a part of the Lawrence Taylor vs Bam Bam Bigelow Match at WrestleMania XI. But WWF and McMichael could not agree to a deal, resulting in McMichael signing with WCW. He was with the company until 1999 where he did not do much after that, excluding a brief tenure with TNA in 2006.

7. Lex Luger

Lex Luger is a wrestler that was mainly known in WWE for his American Gimmick and feuding with Yokozuna. The most memorable thing was that Lex traveled around the country in a bus called the Lex Express. Vince McMahon at one point saw him as they guy that would take over when Hulk Hogan departed the WWF. Unfortunately, it just never worked out as Bret Hart became the guy in the mid 90’s for WWF. Luger left WWF in 1995 where he went and wrestled in WCW until the company got sold in 2001.

Lex Luger also had a career in football as well. Lawrence Pfohl (Luger’s real name) played as an offensive lineman with the Green Bay Packers in 1982-1983. It did not pan out and Luger said himself that if his career with the Packers was a success, he would not even go into a wrestling career. He also performed in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes (1979-1981), USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits (1984), USFL’s Memphis Showboats (1984-1985), and USFL’s Jacksonville Bulls (1985). In fact in Luger was teammates at one point with wrestler Ron Simmons in the USFL. Speaking of which…

6. Ron Simmons

Ron Simmons is one of the best African American wrestlers that ever performed in the wrestling ring. Simmons made history being recognized by WWE as the first African American world champion where he defeated Vader in 1992 in WCW. He would stay in WCW until 1994, where he would wrestle for NJPW and ECW. Simmons would join WWF as the leader of the Nation of Domination group as Faarooq. He would also tag with Bradshaw (aka JBL) in the tag team called APA.

Ron Simmons performed around the wrestling industry. He played football for the CFL’s Ottawa Rough Riders, USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits, and in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns as a Defensive Tackle. The Cleveland Browns drafted him in the sixth round in 1981. Ron Simmons did’t last long in the NFL, but he did get inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.

5. Brian Pillman

Before the Loose Cannon stepped into the wrestling ring, he was a football player. In 1983 Pillman was the MAC Defensive player of the year during his time at Miami (OH) University.

Want to know something crazy about Brian Pillman. Did you know in college he was roomates with current head coach of the Baltimore Ravens John Harbaugh. I mean that is crazy.

Brian Pillman played football at the linebacker position. He played for the Cinncinati Bengals in 1984 and for the Buffalo Bills in 1985. That is not all as he even had a short tenure in the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders, until he suffered an ankle injury.

In the Dark Side of the Ring Documentary, he had a close relationship with coach Kim Wood, who would recommend him to go for it at professional wrestling. Especially when he went up to Calgary and trained in the famous Hart Dungeon. Now the Hart Dungeon is a wrestling school that was in the basement of Stu Hart. Many famous wrestlers trained there including Bret Hart, Owen Hart, Jim Neidhart, British Bulldogs (Dynamite Kid and Davey Boy Smith), Jake Roberts, Chris Benoit, Chris Jericho, Natalya, Brian Pillman, and many more. There would not be a Brian Pillman as a professional wrestler without NFL coach Kim Wood that is for sure.

Pillman is one of the biggest what-if’s in professional wrestling as he passed away way too soon in 1997 at the age of 35. But his legacy lives on as his son Brian Pillman Jr. currently wrestles with AEW in a tag team called the Varsity Blondes.

4. Bruiser Brody

Bruiser Brody is one of the most brutal wrestlers during the 1970’s and 80’s. His gimmick was that he was a wild man. Bruiser Brody is known for the wild hair, big bushy beard, bulging eyes, and his style of wrestling. A lot of wrestlers would copy his look and style of wrestling.

Brody’s real name is Frank Goodish and he played football at the University of Iowa and West Texas State. He then played in the NFL for the Washington Redskins in 1968 and was cut during his second season in the league.

It is a shame how his career and life ended as he was murdered in Puerto Rico by Jose Gonzalez who wrestled under the name of Invader 1. I would strongly watch Vice’s Documentary Dark Side of the Ring where you will learn a lot more about this incident and trust me it is a hard watch.

3. Vader

Vader is one of the toughest wrestlers that ever performed inside a wrestling ring. Heck the guy wrestled the match with his eye out of his socket,  pushing it back in, and finished the match. If that does not show how tough he is then I don’t know what does.

Leon White (Vader’s real name) played in the NFL with the Los Angeles Rams for two seasons. He played as an offensive lineman and was actually a 3rd round draft pick in the 1978 NFL Draft. His career was short due to his chronic knee issues. White showcased his toughness as he constantly played with multiple injuries. Including when he ruptured his patella tendon, which would unfortunately be the injury that ended his career in the NFL.

2. Roman Reigns

Before Roman Reigns can follow the family in going into the wrestling industry, he actually tried to make a career in the NFL. He played football at Georgia Tech as a defensive tackle. I actually went back to watch film on him and I got to say he was solid in Georgia Tech. Unfortunately, he went un-drafted in the 2007 NFL Draft. He signed with both the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007, but did not manage to make the active roster. He gave the CFL a shot signing with the Edmonton Eskimos in 2008, but he did not last long. I can say one thing, I proved my part for Roman Reigns as I did acknowledge him in his football career.

1. Goldberg

When you think of former NFL player turned professional wrestler, I immediately think of Goldberg. He played as a defensive tackle in football. Goldberg was drafted in the 1990 NFL Draft in the 11th round (301st overall) by the Los Angeles Rams, where he played a few seasons with them. Goldberg then made his move playing in the CFL Sacramento from 1992-1993. He also during that time played with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL. Goldberg ended his football career with the Carolina Panthers and he was actually a picked in there expansion draft. He ultimately did not last long due to an injury, but let’s just say It turned out very will with him joining WCW in 1996.

Fun Fact: Bill Goldberg was actually the first player that was cut from the Carolina Panthers.

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