The Undertaker, like a lot of good Texas boys, is a huge Texas Longhorns fan, so when head football coach Tom Herman invited him to come to practice and give a speech to the team, he couldn't say no.
Taker talked about how his days as a college athlete, how he got started in wrestling, and the serendipitous way he was booked in his first match.
You can watch the video of his speech and read a full transcript below.
"I finally made a Longhorn practice. I bleed burnt orange, and I tell you what, I talk more smack on you guys, I don't care what the records say, every year I'm laying it down on the Longhorns, no doubt. You guys are a special group of guys, you know what, you wouldn't be here if you weren't special,. But once you get here, you gotta realize the whole country is full of special players. So what separated one special player from another special player? … You have to want and put the work in to be great. I talked on the phone with coach Herman just last night. My wildest dreams and the goals that I set for myself, I never imagined the success that I've been blessed with, and believe me, I feel blessed …
"When I started out, I was a basketball player at Texas Wesleyan University. I was starting to get a little notice overseas about playing pro basketball overseas. I didn't quite have the skill set for the NBA, I'm OK with that, I knew that, but I was thinking you know what, maybe a couple years over there, it'll be fun. So they wanted me to put on a little weight, get a little bigger, a little stronger. So I started working out in the offseason … I just happened to run into this guy at the gym who was looking for a guy to go through a wrestling school with …
"It's a highly competitive scene, so I started thinking, and I was a big wrestling fan as a kid, so I started catching up with the product. I was looking around like you know there aren't a lot of guys that are 6-foot-8 and that can move around in a wrestling ring … I beat myself up, I tried to decide. Finally, I went to my oldest brother. My brother gave me this advice, he said, 'You gotta live your life for you because you're gonna be ultimately the only one you have to answer to for the decisions you make in life.' That was all it took. I left school (he paused here to tell the players to not do that), and I started my passion, my search, my desire to get trained in the wrestling world.
"For me, I didn't have anyone in the wrestling world … trying to get my foot in the door was virtually impossible. The fact that everybody told me that I was a fool for leaving and going my own thing, I wouldn't accept any help from anybody, I was stubborn that way, I was like, you know what, I'm gonna go out and do this my way, and if I fall, I'm gonna pick myself up and I'll figure it out. That's where living in my truck came … I was living in my truck, bouncing in bars — a 20-year-old kid trying to break up all these red neck fights. But hey, I did what I had to do to survive.
"It was a very slow process. I used to go down to the old Sportatorium … For eight months, every Wednesday, I went down there and sat at the office. I watched them walk right by me, didn't acknowledge me, didn't say hello to me, didn't tell me to get the hell in or get the hell out … One day, Fritz Von Erich walked in the door. Fritz Von Erich walked in, he looked at me, didn't say anything but still, he walked in another room and I heard him say, 'Who's the big red-headed kid?' … He says, 'Let's book him for Friday night.' He booked me because I looked like his son. I was just in the right place at the right time, and my perseverance paid off, and all the doors that got slammed in my face, I got my start because I looked like the older son that he had lost, and that set me on my course.
"But it's not easy. Just because you're at the finest university in the country doesn't mean it's gonna be easy to you guys either. What it boils down to is the passion and desire to be great, and you do it every day. Man, I bet my heart rate was 180 watching you guys going through that drill. It brought me back to when I was 18 or 19 and thought I could rule the world too. And that's what you guys gotta do every day. You gotta work like that, you gotta work in front of your coaches like that, and you gotta work like that when there ain't nobody watching. You wanna be great, you can be great. You have to separate yourself from everybody else.
"Don't say 'I can't,' say, 'I will.' Man, I tell you what, I feel it. I feel it. I haven't felt it in a while, but you guys, this is a special group, man, and I'm honored to be in front of you talking.
"If any of you guys watch wrestling, you know where my story ended up, and I want that for you guys. This is gonna be the greatest time of your life right now. You guys playing football for the greatest university in the country, you got a brand new start, a great head coach, great coaching staff. What are you gonna do with it? Dare to be great … That's what this place is built on: tradition, character and culture. I like what I see from coach Herman, I like what he's doing, I like where ya'll are headed."