Saturday, August 24, 2013

Temple's Brown takes shot at wrestling stardom

Morkeith Brown
By John McMullen
jmcmullen@phanaticmag.com

PHILADELPHIA (The Phan) - Former Temple star Morkeith Brown turned down another shot at the NFL in favor of trying his hand at professional wrestling.

The tight end turned defensive end on North Broad Street said no to a training camp invite from the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers to sign a developmental deal with World Wrestling Entertainment.

The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Brown has always carved his own path. He joined the Army out of high school and was deployed to Afghanistan for 14 months in 2005-2006 before enrolling at Temple in 2007.

Brown, 28, started all 13 games at defensive end during his senior year with the Owls and was a team captain. Since leaving college Brown has attended training camp with the Bucs and played one season for the Philadelphia Soul of the AFL.

Brown will start his new career at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, a 26,000 square-foot training center modeled after a high-level NFL training facility.

Professional wrestling has a long history of plucking stars from the world of football dating back to the 1930s when Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski was recognized as world heavyweight champion.

Ernie "The Big Cat" Ladd was a huge AFL star for the Chargers, Chiefs and Oilers, and was an even bigger name in wrestling, often headlining against Andre "The Giant" Roussimoff.

Andre once won a battle royal at Wrestlemania II in 1986 which featured NFL stars like Jimbo Covert, Bill Fralic, Ernie Holmes, Harvey Martin, William "The Refrigerator" Perry and Russ Francis, the former All-Pro tight end with the New England Patriots who was a grappling star in his home state of Hawaii where his dad Ed was a promoter.

The two iconic defensive stars of the 1980s and early '90s, Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White, also dipped their toes into the world of "sports entertainment." L.T. was in the main event of WrestleMania XI against Scott "Bam Bam" Bigelow, and White wrestled one match against former Chicago Bears standout Steve McMichael.

Others football players found far more success in wrestling after flaming out in football. Ed "Wahoo" McDaniel was a fan favorite with the New York Jets in the 1960s before becoming a main-eventer in pro wrestling. Bill Goldberg had a short stint with the Falcons before turning into World Championship Wrestling's top star during their war with WWE.

Jim Duggan, Larry "Lex Luger" Pfohl, Paul Orndorff, Ron Simmons and Leon "Vader" White also tried the professional ranks in football before turning to wrestling and becoming main event-caliber stars.

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who has headlined the two biggest grossing shows in pro wrestling history and is perhaps Hollywood's biggest box office draw right now, was a defensive tackle at the University of Miami and had a brief stint north of the border with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League before turning into the "most electrifying man in sports entertainment."

Other current WWE superstars with backgrounds in football include Johnson's main foil, former WWE champion John Cena, who was a first-team Division III All- American center at Springfield College in 1998, and tag team kingpin Joe "Roman Reigns" Anoi'a, who was a first-team All-ACC defensive tackle at Georgia Tech before being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Minnesota Vikings in 2007.

A football backgroud doesn't guarantee sucess, however. Despite glowing reviews from some, Nick McNeil, a three-time All-Southern Conference selection at Western Carolina who had a cup of coffee with the Redskins in 2005 and was wrestling under the name Percy Watson, was released by WWE back in May.
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