Dwayne Johnson first gained fame in the WWE as the popular wrestler The Rock, then translated his popularity into a successful movie career. Things may have turned out differently for Johnson, though, if he stuck with football and pursued a professional career on the gridiron.
He was a highly touted football prospect in high school and got a full scholarship to play for the Hurricanes at the University of Miami. Did his success from high school translate to the college game? Here’s a look at how good Johnson was at football.
Dwayne Johnson was good enough to play college football
ESPN recaps Johnson’s collegiate career, writing that he joined Miami in 1991, the year the team won the national championship. Ed Orgeron, Miami’s defensive line coach at the time, recruited Johnson to the school, and he recalled that they “were excited to have him” because “he was developed and was extremely quick. He was a hard worker and a humble young man.” (Per the ESPN article)
Orgeron shares that Johnson was “easily coachable” and “played a lot as a freshman.” In four seasons with the Hurricanes, the defensive lineman — who was 6’5″ and 290 pounds — appeared in 39 games, but started just once. He recorded 77 tackles and 4.25 sacks.
Did Dwayne Johnson leave football because of Warren Sapp?
Johnson had potential on the football field, but unfortunately for him, he seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Undefeated reports that former Miami teammate Kevin Patrick feels that Johnson had the talent he needed to succeed, but “just happened to play on star-studded teams throughout his tenure” with the Hurricanes.
Patrick praises Johnson by saying he “was a hell of a football player,” even going so far as to say “he was probably as good as anyone in the country at the time.” Johnson had bad luck, though, because teammate — and future Pro Football Hall of Famer — Warren Sapp was playing at the same spot and kept Johnson out of the starting lineup.
After he graduated, Johnson tried to play in the CFL. The Calgary Stampeders signed him, but he was only on the team’s practice roster and was cut two months into the 1995 season.
Johnson cites Sapp as being the reason he didn’t make it to the NFL. Sapp, who is one of nine of Johnson’s teammates who made it to the NFL, says “there was no competition” between the two. He says he loves Johnson, but the future WWE superstar “couldn’t play” with Sapp. “If he’d tell you anything else he’d be lying to you.” (per an interview with DJ Vlad)
Buying the XFL
Despite not making it as far as he might have liked in football, Dwayne Johnson still loves the sport, which he showed in 2020 when he was part of an ownership group that purchased the XFL after Vince McMahon’s second try at succeeding with the league failed.
Sportico reports Johnson teamed up with business partner and ex-wife Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital to buy the league for $15 million, just hours before it was set to be auctioned off.
XFL president Jeffrey Pollack said he “could not imagine a better outcome for the XFL” than being sold to the ownership group, citing “their collective track-record of success in entertainment, sports and media” as being “stellar.”
After the deal was announced, Johnson took to Instagram to post his thoughts about it. “My dreams of playing professional football never came true, however – this passion venture allows me to create opportunities for other players to showcase their talents. Now, my partners and I go to work – for the love of football.”
If Johnson can have the same success with the XFL that he had in the WWE and in Hollywood, the league’s third try will work out better than the first two.