The World of football requires not just skill and diligence but also immense physical power and fitness. That is why a number of players have been noted to become professional wrestlers after playing football. Yes, it is true that many American football players, especially those who have played in the National Football League, have moved on to the field of pro wrestling, where they have been able to show off the power of their physique that they developed during their football years. Here we have arranged a list comprising of the NFL players who became pro wrestlers.
NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers
In fact, it is not an uncommon phenomenon in the world of football and wrestling at all. Don’t believe us? Well, here is a list of the top 20 NFL players who became pro wrestlers. Take a quick look to see it for yourself.
Mexican-American professional wrestler Merced Solis, famously known by his ring name Tito Santana, was an extremely popular wrestler from the late 1970s to the early 1990s.
Santana attended the Kansas City Chiefs during training camp after graduation and played a single season for the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League. Tito Santana is in the 20th position on our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
American football player and professional wrestler Alexander George “Alex” Karras, famously known by his ring name “The Mad Duck,” is noted for his role in the 1974 comedy film Blazing Saddles.
He was drafted in the first round of the 1958 NFL draft by the Detroit Lions and played 12 seasons with the team in two spells from 1958 to 1962 and again from 1964 to1970. Mad Duck is in the 19th position on our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers. Share your opinion of Alex Karras wrestling in the comment below.
Leati Joseph Anoa’i
American professional wrestler Leati Joseph “Joe” Anoa’i, famously known by his ring name Roman Reigns, was a prominent wrestler of modern times. He first became a member of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team during his college days.
Reigns were then signed by the Minnesota Vikings and later moved to the Jacksonville Jaguars and again in Edmonton Eskimos in 2008. He deserves the 18th position on our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
Retired American professional wrestler Laverne Clarence “Verne” Gagne was the former owner of the Minnesota-based American Wrestling Association. He was included in the All-Big Ten Team during his college days as a football player at the University of Minnesota.
He was drafted in the 16th round by the Chicago Bears in the 1947 NFL Draft. Gagne is in the 17th position on our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
American professional wrestler Brock Edward Lesnar is the current WWE World Heavyweight Champion in his fourth reign. He had a brief but spectacular season at the NFL Combine and eventually made the practice team for the Minnesota Vikings. Brock Lesnar played football for a short time, and it was not a successful career for him as compared to fighting.
He also later received an invitation to play for the Vikings as a representative in NFL Europa. Lesnar certainly deserves the 16th position on our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
Hall of Fame former American football player and Professional wrestler Lawrence Julius Taylor appeared as a wrestler in the main event of WrestleMania XI, defeating Bam Bam Bigelow.
He played his entire professional career for the New York Giants as a linebacker and is considered one of the greatest players in football history. Taylor made it to the 15th position on our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
American professional football player and wrestler Reginald Howard “Reggie” White was a 13-time Pro Bowl participant and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year twice in his career. And it is good news for Reggie white wrestling fans.
He appeared ringside in the match of Lawrence Taylor against Bam Bam Bigelow at WrestleMania XI and wrestled against Steve McMichael for WCW at Slamboree on May 18, 1997. Reggie is in the 14th position on our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
Do you know what football team did Goldberg play for? Former American footballer and wrestling star Kevin Darwin Greene played 15 seasons played in the National Football League. He debuted as a tag team partner of Steve McMichael in WCW.
He also made his comeback teaming with Bill Goldberg in mid-1998 but was forced to quit his wrestling career when NFL teams began requiring a “no wrestling” clause in the contract. Kevin deserves the 13th spot in our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
William Goldberg – American Pro Wrestler
Retired professional wrestler and former professional football player William Scott “Bill” Goldberg is noted for his appearances in WCW from 1997 to 2001 and in World Wrestling Entertainment from 2003 to 2004.
He played in the 1990 NFL season for the Los Angeles Rams and later moved to CFL Sacramento Gold Miners and the Atlanta Falcons. He joined the Carolina Panthers after being cut from the Falcons in 1994. Goldberg certainly deserves the 12th place in our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
Professional wrestler and American football player Brian William Pillman is noted for his appearances in WWF, WCW, and Extreme Championship Wrestling.
He joined the Cincinnati Bengals in 1984 as a free agent and was awarded the Ed Block Courage Trophy. He moved to the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League in 1986. Brian Pillman achieved the 11th spot in our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
American professional wrestler and professional football player Ernest “Ernie” Ladd, famously known by his nickname “The Big Cat,” was a prominent wrestler of his time.
He won four AFL championship games in five years for the Chargers and also had a brief spell with the Kansas City Chiefs and the Houston Oilers. He retired from football due to a knee injury and turned to full-time wrestling in 1969. Ernie deserves 10th place in our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became American pro wrestlers.
Steve ‘Mongo’ McMichael
Former American professional football player and wrestler Stephen Douglas “Steve” McMichael was a former wrestler for World Championship Wrestling and is currently serving with the Chicago Slaughter as the head coach.
He played for the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears, and Green Bay Packers during his football career and was later hired by World Championship Wrestling in 1995. McMichael is on the 9th spot in our list of Top 20 NFL players who wrestled.
American retired professional wrestler Lawrence Wendell “Larry” Pfohl, famously known by his ring name Lex Luger, is currently working on the wellness policy of WWE.
He was voted the Most Popular Wrestler of the Year in 1993 by Wrestling Illustrated. Besides, he played in the Canadian Football League for the Montreal Alouettes. He later also signed with the Green Bay Packers of the National Football League. Larry certainly deserves the 8th place on our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
Professional American football player and wrestler Edward “Wahoo” McDaniel held the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship a record five times.
He played as a linebacker for the Houston Oilers and Denver Broncos in the American Football League. Edward was later traded to the New York Jets in 1964. He tackled 23 times in a single game against his former team, the Denver Broncos. Wahoo is in the 7th place in our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
Former American professional football player William Anthony Perry also made his name as a professional wrestler. Fans know him as “The Refrigerator” in reference to his large size.
He played ten seasons as a defensive lineman in the National Football League in the 80s and 90s. He played for the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL during his active American football career. “The Refrigerator” certainly deserves the 6th place on our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
Canadian-born American football player and wrestler Bronislau “Bronko” Nagurski was a world heavyweight champion several times in his days. He played for Minnesota in defense and fullback positions from 1927 to 1929. Nagurski then signed with the Chicago Bears and played professionally for the team from 1930 to 1937.
He led the Bears to win two NFL championships and several division titles. Nagurski is in the 5th place in our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
Retired American professional wrestler and football player Ronald “Ron” Simmons is noted for his appearance in the WCW and ECW. He also appeared in the World Wrestling Federation under his ring name Faarooq Asaad. Ron was drafted in the sixth round of the 1981 NFL Draft and played for the Cleveland Browns.
He also played for the Tampa Bay Bandits between 1983 and 1985. Simmons certainly made it to the 4th place in our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
American semi-retired professional wrestler and former football player Leon Allen White, famously known by his ring name Big Van Vader, is noted for appearing in All Japan Pro Wrestling besides his participation at the WCW and WWF. He played college football for the University of Colorado.
And he was later drafted by Los Angeles in the 3rd Round in the 1978 NFL Draft. Big Van Vader certainly deserves a podium finish on our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
Former linebacker and retired professional wrestler Monty Brown played five seasons with the Buffalo Bills. He represented the Bills in 1994 at the Super Bowl XXVIII.
Fans also know him by his ring name Marcus Cor Von. He then signed with the New England Patriots as a restricted free agent on April 17, 1996. Shortly after, he made 23 tackles in just two games. He retired from football due to an ankle injury and moved to the wrestling world. Brown achieved the runners-up position in our list of Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
Jim Duggan – NFL Wrestler
American professional wrestler and former football star James Edward “Jim” Duggan Jr., better known by his ring name “Hacksaw,” is currently signed in a Legends contract with World Wrestling Entertainment.
He played football at Southern Methodist University after graduating from high school. He eventually became the captain of the varsity team. For his fantastic accomplishment in both wrestling and football, Hacksaw deserves the top place of our Top 20 NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers.
Football is a game of great power, and the players, especially to shine through in the huge competition of the NFL, have to train themselves enough to not just be good at the game but also in being physically strong and imposing. It is all about the NFL players who wrestled.
That is why, when they retire from football, or sometimes even while in the game, they have been observed to develop a penchant for wrestling.
NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers | Infographics
Feel free to name more of the NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers in the comments section below.
FAQs Regarding NFL Players who became Pro Wrestlers
Q. What NFL player debuted as a professional wrestler?
Bill Goldberg was a National Football Player after he became a pro wrestler. After getting retirement in 2004 from professional wrestling, he started serving as a commentator for martial arts promotion EliteXC. Recently he signed with the WWE and performed on the RAW brand.
Q. Did Roman Reigns play in the NFL?
Yes, Roman Reigns played college football for Georgia Tech. He started his professional football career in 2007 with off-season stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League. Roman Reigns is the current WWE Universal Champion in his second reign. Roman reigns play football and are one of the best WWE football players.
Wrestling helps athletes in many ways; it boosts their flexibility, fastness, and balance. These are significant factors for football players (WWE NFL players). The wrestlers make awesome football players. Many NFL legends have wrestling backgrounds, such as Ray Lewis, Ronnie Lott, Willie Roaf, and Roddy White.
Q. What best NFL player also wrestled?
Ernie Ladd is well known NFL player who spent about a decade in the NFL and played for San Diego, Kansas City, and Houston. Throughout his career, he also won AFC Championship and many All-Star awards. Ladd joined the pro-wrestling after their football career and achieved many promotions there.
Last Updated On: January 2023