Titus O'Neil: WWE WrestleMania 37, Raymond James Stadium, And Preparations With American Football
"It was the hardest transition I've ever had to make, both from a physical and mental standpoint..."
Titus O'Neil has detailed how his experience playing American Football helped him to become a WWE superstar.
A number of WWE performers, including O'Neil, Brock Lesnar, Roman Reigns, and Goldberg, began their respective sports careers playing American Football. O'Neil played for a number of football teams, including the Florida Gators, Utah Blaze, Tampa Bay Storm, Las Vegas Gladiators and Carolina Cobras, before joining WWE in 2009 on a developmental deal.
Now 43 years-old, O'Neil says the transition between the two is the hardest thing he has ever had to do.
O'Neil said: "Playing American Football and being in WWE takes an extreme work ethic. There is a certain type of pageantry and charisma on the field. There are a lot of great personalities in football locker rooms, all across the country. And so that lends great to when it comes to transitioning to WWE because you're out to become a sports entertainer.
"Some of us were already sports entertainers. We just weren’t getting paid for it and not being shown in over 130 countries and translated into 25 different languages. We were just doing it on an American football field or in an American football locker room.
"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 the WWE you take them on a rollercoaster by storytelling. A good guy versus bad guy. Most of the time, good guy. They want the good guy to win it - unless you're a really good bad guy! Nobody does it better than us in WWE."
O'Neil is set to be the co-host of WrestleMania 37 next weekend, live from Raymond James Stadium, which recently played host to the NFL SuperBowl, and is home to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hailing from Tampa, and having played football in Tampa, O'Neil knows the significance of hosting WWE WrestleMania 37 from the iconic venue.
"Playing at the University of Florida was bigger than most crowds in the NFL anyway, playing in front of 90,000 people week in week out, whether it be home or away. Every time I go into a WrestleMania stadium, I feel like I'm going into a football game just because I spent so much time as a college and professional athlete going in and out of stadiums the same way, dressed the same way, headphones on, fully focused, ready to put on the best show, the best performance possible.
"I feel the same way going into Raymond James Stadium. I obviously have attended a lot of events there, whether it be college football, the National Championship, the Super Bowl. It's the biggest game on the biggest stage in all of sports and entertainment and all eyes are focused on the City of Tampa and Raymond James stadium. And I'm looking forward to being a part of that."
WWE WrestleMania 37 will be presented live from Raymond James Stadium on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 April. With thanks to WWE for quotes from Titus O'Neil and the images used in this article.