“Are you ready for some football?” –Hank Williams, Jr.
The fall season is here. The leaves will start to change color. The weather will start to get a little cooler. And, most importantly (said in my best Vince Vaughn “Wedding Crashers’ voice), IT’S FOOTBALL SEASON, MAN! Now someone call me a “sand-bagging son of a bitch!” Thanks, Owen Wilson.
That’s right, boys and girls. It is literally the start of the most wonderful time of the year, in my opinion. I am a total sports buff and love watching/following numerous sports. From football to baseball, basketball to hockey, and even NASCAR to golf, there is not one sport I have no clue about. Well, maybe except cricket. Who knows how the hell that game goes? But out of all of them, in my opinion, football reigns supreme. I love it so much that I also participate in the interactive hobby known as Fantasy Football. To those people who are not part of the craze, let me explain. Fantasy Football is relatively simple. You and a number of friends make a league and come up with creative team names. Before the season starts, you draft numerous NFL players on your team to play the positions of quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, kicker, and a whole team’s defensive. You start players at each position every weekend and the better stats your players achieve, the more points you get. And if you can score more points than the other team you are up against that weekend, your team wins. So simple and yet so much fun. It is a way for all football fanatics to immerse themselves even more into the sport. But wait a minute. This is Podswoggle, not NFL.com. You are probably asking where the wrestling in this article. Well, don’t worry, because it is right around the corner.
For every one football player that makes it into the NFL, there are literally thousands of others who fall short. In fact, according to the NCAA, college football players have less than a 2% chance of playing in the NFL. TWO PERCENT! Certainly an eye-opener, don’t you think? So imagine you are this tall, muscular college football player who put all their hopes on playing in the NFL and didn’t make it. You don’t really have the smarts to work a high-paying job. And flipping burgers at McDonald’s isn’t your thing. You want to stay active, in shape, be competitive, and make money. So what do you do? Well, there is always professional wrestling. Throughout the decades of professional wrestling, there have been numerous former college football players that make their way into the squared circle. In fact, there have even been reports of WWE looking for more former college football players to join the roster and create a new generation of top-notch wrestlers. They have the size, shape, and athleticism already. Why not have them use it?
Well, in an attempt to cross the worlds of things that I love, I decided to conduct a little experiment. I decided to draft another Fantasy Football team full of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers, and a defense. The only catch is that I will be drafting my team using nothing but present or former professional wrestlers who have played college football and/or NFL football. However, this list will not include football players that wrestled one special match. So don’t expect to see Lawrence Taylor or Reggie White on this list. The people that are drafted made their name in the ring primarily and on the football field secondary. So, without further ado, I am on the clock.
Quarterback: Tully Blanchard, West Texas University
You would imagine that looking at the size of current and former professional wrestlers, finding one that spent time as the main signal caller would be difficult. Actually, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. All I had to do was look towards one of the best stables, if not the best, ever in professional wrestling. And, in all truthfulness, out of all the members of the Four Horsemen, Blanchard looks like the only one who could perhaps play quarterback for a college or professional team. I wouldn’t trust Barry Windham to throw a roll of toilet paper at me let alone a football. Even though he was switched to defensive end soon after his start at West Texas, Blanchard still had success as a quarterback. Plus, if there was anyone who would be the quarterback that stole your girlfriend and made you cry about it, it would be Tully Blanchard. Interesting fact: Blanchard played football at West Texas with fellow future professional wrestlers Ted DiBiase, Sr. and Tito Santana. They’re probably the talk of all those reunions because who the hell else came out of West Texas?
Running Backs: Bronko Nagurski, Chicago Bears & Paul Orndorff, University of Tampa
Any die-hard fan of football and/or professional wrestling should know who Bronco Nagurski is. During his time playing college football at Minnesota, Nagurski gained the reputation of being the meanest, most hard-working, and scariest player there was. He played multiple positions, with most of them being on defense. In fact, his great play on defense is the reason why the best defensive player in college football is awarded the Bronco Nagurski Trophy. He also played with the Chicago Bears in the 1930s, won two NFL championships, and even has the largest recorded NFL championship ring. He certainly was a large, intimidating individual. This made his transition into professional wrestling this much easier. Wrestling from the late 1930s until his retirement in 1960, he was a main box office draw and won multiple NWA world titles, including the NWA world title multiple times by defeating great wrestlers like Lou Thesz. He was elected into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996 and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2011. The man was simply as big, strong, and frightening as they come.
Paul Orndorff, however, is a different story. His football career was not as successful as Nagurski’s. Even though he was a successful fullback at the University of Tampa, he never played a down in the NFL after failing to pass the physical for both the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs. After only one season in the World Football League, Orndorff turned to professional wrestling where he had much more success. Winning multiple titles with NWA and WCW, Orndorff’s heyday in the WWF came during the years of 1985-1986. His feud with Hulk Hogan garnered him multiple Pro Wrestling Illustrated honors including Feud of the Year, Most Hated Wrestler of the Year, and Match of the Year for participating in the main event of the inaugural WrestleMania. His feud with Hogan is still considered one of the most notable and profitable feuds ever in professional wrestling. However, after that, things never really looked up. He went from main-eventing WrestleMania to opening WrestleMania 2 by battling Don Muraco to a double count out. He wrestled for another ten years until injuries that he let go untreated caught up to him and forced him to retire. He is a Hall of Famer for WWE, NWA, and at the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was a main part in starting Hulkamania and WrestleMania, and he had no trouble playing the perfect heel. But, seriously, he failed two NFL physicals? How out of shape was “Mr. Wonderful?”
Wide Receivers: Ted DiBiase Jr., Mississippi College & John Stagikas, Assumption College
Well, as the saying goes, “Like father, like son.” And since father DiBiase played college ball, it would only make sense that son DiBiase did as well, right? Sort of. Even though DiBiase Jr. did play football at Mississippi College as a wide receiver, he left the team after his freshman season and finished out the rest of his college career playing soccer. Of course, after his time with college was done and graduated with two Bachelor’s degrees (if you read my “Wrestlers with College Degrees” article, you would have known that), DiBiase Jr. went right into training for professional wrestling. And since then, his evolution has gone from FCW to Legacy to Million Dollar Champion to DiBiase Posse. Even though DiBiase Jr. certainly has the genes and talent to become a great champion, numerous injuries have prevented this from happening. Who knows? Maybe if he would have played football all throughout college and taken the hits, he could have built up a resistance for those injuries. No offense to soccer or soccer players, but ask one of them to take a full-on hit from a football player. You kidding me? They fall on the ground hurt even when they don’t get hit by someone! As far as DiBiase, Jr. goes, let’s hope his career doesn’t fall as fast.
Now to answer the two questions that are burning in your mind which are, “Who is John Stagikas,” and, “Who in the BLUE HELL is John Stagikas?” Well, after graduating from Assumption College in Massachusetts, Stagikas became a professional wrestler and is still one today. He was trained by Killer Kowalski. He has bounced around from one promotion to another including Chaotic Wrestling, Eastern Wrestling Alliance, and even Ring of Honor for a couple of years in which he was a one-time Pure Champion. In fact, during the early years of his career between 2003-2004, Stagikas wrestled for the WWE. He spent that time working as a jobber and wrestling people like Hardcore Holly, Team Angle, Chris Masters, and even the Big Show on an episode of SmackDown preceding WrestleMania XX. He was there at WrestleMania XX, though, but as one of the Undertaker’s druids. Stagikas is also a two-time Big Time Wrestling champion where he has wrestled 2 Cold Scorpio, Diamond Dallas Page, Ric Flair, Jay Lethal, and Matt Hardy. Currently, Stagikas wrestles for Luche Libra USA as RJ Brewer and is part of an anti-Mexican, anti-illegal immigration stable called The Right that featured former WWE superstar Stevie Richards. Currently, Stagikas has also won the Luche Libra USA Champion. And now you know who John Stagikas is. You’re welcome.
Tight End: Tito Santana, West Texas University
And as I mentioned before, what the hell else came out of West Texas? Santana was certainly a good enough tight end in college to be invited to the Kansas City Chiefs training camp. Even though he was cut, he still played one season of professional football in the Canadian Football League. Thankfully, Santana had more success in the WWF than he did in football. He was an integral part in bridging 1980’s wrestling to the “New Generation” era of wrestling in the 1990’s. His accolades include being a two time Intercontinental champion, two time Tag Team champion (most notably with Rick Martel as “Strike Force”), and the 1989 King of the Ring. He even won the first WrestleMania match ever and, along with Hulk Hogan, is one of only two wrestlers to wrestle in the first nine WrestleManias. However, Santana’s 2-7 record is less stellar than Hogan’s. And even though Santana is 59 years old and is a teacher/coach at a middle school, he still wrestles close to a dozen matches per year. Certainly, it seems that “El Matador” is not losing steam or the love for wrestling anytime soon. And these are the wrestlers that we certainly love to admire. Ones that may not experience a lot of success but still love wrestling and have no problem devoting their lives to it no matter how old they get. Santana is an example of one of these men that do it right. Ric Flair, on the other hand…Oh boy.
Kicker: Chief Wahoo McDaniel, Oklahoma University
Right now, you’re probably saying, “Wait a minute. You were able to find a wrestler who was a KICKER?” You bet your ass I did! And better yet, he is arguably one of the greatest, most well-known wrestlers of all time! McDaniel saw much playing time at Oklahoma University while playing as an offensive guard, defensive linebacker, and yes, a kicker. In fact, it has been said that during one game, he punted a ball 91 yards. 91 YARDS! After college, McDaniel went on to play for four different teams in the American Football League as a defensive lineman, including being a crowd favorite with the New York Jets and a major player for the Miami Dolphins when they were first established in 1966. McDaniel started his wrestling career in the off-season while he was still a football player which was a common practice for many players due to their low salaries. When he retired from football in 1968, McDaniel started wrestling full time. During his wrestling career that has spanned close to 30 years. McDaniel wrestled for WWWF, NWA, AWA, WCW, and other regional promotions. He has also feuded with a Hall of Fame lineup of wrestlers during that time including Dory Funk, “Superstar” Billy Graham, Johnny Valentine, Harley Race, Roddy Piper, Nick Bockwinkel, Sgt. Slaughter, Ric Flair, and numerous others. In fact, he feud with Ric Flair in 1976 for the NWA Mid-Atlantic Heavyweight Championship made him Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s Most Popular Wrestler of that year. He’s also mainly known for holding the NWA United States Heavyweight Championship a record-tying five times. He was one of the men that paved for way for other Native Americans to achieve fame in professional wrestling and one of the men that helped establish the popularity of professional wrestling. Truly one of the greats. And he was a KICKER! Still scratching my head on that one.
Well, here’s where it gets interesting. You see, usually in Fantasy Football, you draft a whole team’s defense. But, there are some leagues that require you to draft Independent Defensive Players (IDP). By drafting these players, you receive points for sacks, interceptions, tackles, and other defensive stats. Well, since so many professional wrestlers have played a defensive position (and I can’t stress “so many” enough), I decided to form a Top 10 List of IDP that I would want on my Fantasy Football team. This includes any linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. They say that defensive wins championships, and there are definitely a lot of championships featured here with this list.
10. Titus O’ Neil, Defensive End, University of Florida
9. “Alpha Male” Monty Brown, Linebacker, Multiple NFL Teams
8. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Linebacker, Southern Methodist University
7. Bill Goldberg, Defensive Tackle, Atlanta Falcons
6. Blackjack Mulligan, Defensive Tackle, New York Jets
5. Big Cat Ernie Ladd, Defensive Tackle, Multiple AFL Teams
4. Bruiser Brody, Linebacker, Washington Redskins
3. Stone Cold Steve Austin, Defensive End, University of North Texas
2. The Rock, Defensive Tackle, University of Miami
1. Ron Simmons, Nose Tackle, Florida State University
Now that’s a Fantasy Football team that I can be proud of. All I have to think of is a great name for this team. It has to be a name that sets the tone and lets everyone know that my team is going to dominate. And I have just the perfect one. The Real Man’s Men. Because that’s what these men were. In fact, all this talking about football and wrestling is making me feel like a man, too. I’m going to go grow a beard, smoke a cigar, and chop down a tree. Because I’m a real man’s man!