It isn't exactly a secret that players in the National Football League are fans of the wrestling world, and vice versa.
Wrestling's connection with the NFL goes back several decades. "Big Cat" Ernie Ladd and Chief Wahoo McDaniel both took up wrestling in their football offseasons due to the lack of money they were making. They both started their wrestling careers in 1961, a full 56 years ago, but their wrestling journeys took place nearly 30 years after Bronko Nagurski did it. Nagurski was one of the best players in the NFL when he was introduced to wrestling, and he was a natural star in the ring, as well. Six years after his debut, he defeated Lou Thesz to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Since then, all kinds of football players have crossed over into the world of professional wrestling. Goldberg, Brian Pillman, Roman Reigns, Lex Luger, Ron Simmons, Droz, Bill Watts, Vader, Fritz Von Erich, Paul Orndorff, Baron Corbin, The Rock, Mojo Rawley, Jim Neidhart, Ahmed Johnson, Quinn "Moose" Ojinnaka, Steve McMichael, Adam "Pacman" Jones, JBL, Bob Sapp... the list goes on and on and on... all went from the NFL to the pro wrestling world in one way or another. Brock Lesnar went in the other direction, leaving wrestling in 2004 to try out for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings before injuries hampered his brief stint with the team.
WrestleMania 2 featured a Battle Royal that saw a handful of NFL players involved, including future WWE Hall Of Famer William "Refrigerator" Perry.
WrestleMania 11 was headlined by Bam Bam Bigelow taking on NFL legend Lawrence Taylor, who was accompanied to the ring by other NFL players like Steve McMichael, Reggie White and Chris Spielman.
This year's WrestleMania saw Rob Gronkowski get involved in the Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal, helping his buddy, Mojo Rawley, win.
When you would watch random episodes of Raw, Smackdown, Nitro, Thunder, etc, you would regularly see cameras cutting to the front row, where football players from that city's team would be sitting.
As you can see, there are several connections between the two sports, and I haven't even come close to naming them all.
If you've been a reader of my columns before Fightful, you might remember my pieces where I took random wrestlers and created a starting lineup of football players out of them. It's been a few years since I've done it, so I want to do it again. It's a fun change of pace from taking things so seriously all the time.
For you newcomers, there are ground rules that I try to follow. Well, one ground rule, mainly... I try to make things as "realistic" as possible, based on a wrestler's physical attributes. You're not going to see a Quarterback in the NFL that is the height and weight of, say, Big Show, so someone like Big Show isn't going to be listed as a QB here. Also, because this is only physical attributes, age isn't a factor. Therefore, I might list people that are in their 40's, even though NFL players don't play into their 40's, as long as those attributes match up.
A lot of these guys have played football before, whether it was in high school, college, the NFL, or some other professional league. Their positions here may not match the positions they played during their football careers. That just means I see a different fit for them. Perhaps their bodies have changed since then, gaining or losing weight, changing muscle mass, etc.
I'm creating a starting offense and a starting defense, not an entire roster, so I only have space for 22 names. It isn't a knock on anyone if they aren't included, and it doesn't mean my opinion of them is poor. It merely means that I felt other people were better suited for certain positions. My starting lineup is based on personal preferences, so my offense will feature a Quarterback, a Running Back, three Wide Receivers, a Tight End, and five Offensive Linemen. My defense will consist of four Defensive Linemen, three Linebackers, two Cornerbacks, and two Safeties. If you're up to this point in the column and still confused about things, fear not, as I will have positional explanations as I go along. Let's get things started on offense.