Top NFL Players Turned Wrestlers: Pat McAfee, Brock Lesnar Highlight the Biggest Names

With WrestleMania this weekend, there has been a long relationship between the WWE and the NFL, as athletes have participated in both sports.

For WWE fans, Wrestlemania is as big of an event as there is — it’s their version of the Super Bowl. This year, Wrestlemania will be at Lincoln Financial Field, which is the home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

There have been many athletes who have played in the NFL and then went on to have successful careers in the WWE. Here is a look at some of the top guys who have taken the leap.

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Pat McAfee

Pat McAfee, who is now with ESPN, has become one of the most popular personalities in sports media as a part of The Pat McAfee Show.

During his time as a punter, McAfee was one of the best in the NFL as a member of the Indianapolis Colts from 2009-2016. He received two Pro Bowl nods and was a first-team All-Pro in 2014.

After retiring, he started his media career with Barstool Sports, but he went on his own in 2018 and has exploded in popularity, That same year, he started working with WWE subsidiary NXT as a pre-show analyst and continued to build his professional wrestling profile off of that.

In April 2021, he became the color commentator for one of WWE’s flagship programs, Smackdown, alongside Michael Cole. He even won a match at WrestleMania 38 against Austin Theory. For the last two Royal Rumbles, he has come back as a color commentator, and he was recently paired with Cole again for a broadcast of Monday Night Raw.

Brock Lesnar

Brock Lesnar has quite the resume. He is both a former WWE and UFC world heavyweight champion.

In 2002, at age 25, he became the youngest WWE champion in the history of the company. However, two years later, he departed from the WWE to try his hand at playing in the NFL.

In 2004, he signed with the Minnesota Vikings but was cut from the team in the preseason.

After Lesnar was released, he was offered the opportunity to play in NFL Europe, but he declined.

Bill Goldberg

Bill Goldberg was more involved with football than Lesnar. Goldberg was first-team All-SEC during the 1989 season at Georgia and then was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 11th round of the 1990 NFL Draft.

He ended up spending time with the Rams, Atlanta Falcons, and Carolina Panthers during his NFL career. He played in 14 regular season games and finished his career with 11 tackles.

Goldberg became a superstar during his time in WCW, where he went on to win 173 consecutive matches before losing to Kevin Nash.

Ron Simmons

Ron Simmons, who was known as Farooq during his days as a wrestler, had a special football career, especially in college. He played at Florida State under legendary coach Bobby Bowden from 1977-1980. The Seminoles went 39-8 during that time, and Simmons was named a consensus All-American in his final two seasons.

He had his jersey retired at Florida State and was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round of the 1980 NFL Draft. He went on to play for the USFL’s Tampa Bay Bandits in 1982 before moving on to wrestling.

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After starting his professional wrestling career in Championship Wrestling From Florida, Simmons went on to make history during his time with WCW, defeating Big Van Vader on Aug. 2, 1992, in Baltimore to become the company’s first African-American world heavyweight champion.

During his time in the WWE, he was a member of the Acolytes Protection Agency with Bradshaw, forming one of the most iconic duos in the WWF/WWE history.

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