Ron Simmons was a pioneer in the professional wrestling world. Along with his legendary fighting ability and entertaining personality, Simmons paved the way for African Americans to compete for championships in the WWE. He mentored legends such as The Rock and Mark Henry, and his impact on the sport resonated beyond just his time in the ring.
Before Simmons was a wrestling star, however, he was a star in another sport — football. Simmons was so talented he even got drafted to the Cleveland Browns before he began his WWE career.
Ron Simmons was a college football star at Florida State
Simmons might be more popular for his professional wrestling career, but he was an exceptional college football player at Florida State University under Bobby Bowden. In fact, Simmons is widely regarded as one of the best defensive Seminoles to ever suit up in maroon and gold.
During his career at Florida State, Simmons recorded 383 tackles, 44 tackles for loss, 25 sacks, and 17 forced fumbles as a defensive lineman. He was named a consensus All-American in both 1979 and 1980.
Simmons was so dominant in 1979 that he even came in ninth in the final Heisman voting. He was elected to the Florida State Hall of Fame in 1986 and the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
Florida State eventually retired Simmons’ No. 50 jersey.
Simmons was drafted by the Browns in 1981 and had a brief pro football career
After his impressive college football career, Simmons was drafted by the Browns in the sixth round of the 1981 NFL draft. He only lasted two years with the team, but Simmons continued his professional career with the Ottawa Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League and the Tampa Bay Bandits in the United States Football League.
Once his professional football career came to an end, Simmons started training to become a pro wrestler. In 1986, he made his debut in the National Wrestling Alliance.
Simmons became the first African American world champion in sports entertainment history
Simmons’ professional football career didn’t last very long, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. His shortened career forced him to explore new avenues in sports, and that led him to find wrestling.
Simmons initially found success in the tag team arena, teaming up with Butch Reed to form the duo named Doom. Doom operated as masked wrestlers who were known by the names Doom #1 and Doom #2, and they went on to win the NWA World Tag Team Championship ion 1990 against the Steiner Brothers.
Eventually, Simmons went off on his own and challenged Big Van Vader for the world WCW World Heavyweight Championship. When he defeated Vader in 1992, Simmons became the first recognized African American world champion in sports entertainment history.