Roman Reigns is like any other WWE wrestler when it comes to playing somewhat of a scripted role in the ring, but that anger and toughness that emanates from Reigns is real. That foreboding feeling that people tend to feel in his presence has been with Reigns for a very long time, according to someone who watched it fester for years.
Giving off that vibe that conjures up fear in people didn’t start in the WWE ring for Reigns. It started on the football field years ago at Pensacola Catholic High School, and his football coach Greg Seibert remembers those days very well.
There is one incident that Siebert particularly recalls because it was the moment that he told Reigns, whose real name is Joe Anoa’i, “Whoa, you’re just a little bit different from everyone else.” Seibert told Reigns this because he came into summer training camp with the letter “L” burned into his bicep.
Seibert did the most obvious thing when first spotting that burn on his arm, which was to ask Reigns how he seared his skin. The high school defensive tackle told his coach that he did it with a “heated coat hanger.” That’s when Seibert offered up his game plan for Reigns, “I’m going to put you in a position to hurt people because you’re mad. You burned your own arm.”
— Handy #RomansRules (@HandyRed) November 13, 2016
If you take a close look at Reign’s right bicep in the picture above you will see that faint burn in a shape of an “L,” which was teenager Joe Anoa’i’s way of branding himself with his given name, Leati. Reign’s full name is Leati Joseph Anoa’i. As he got older that branding became part of his elaborate body art. It is still visible through his tattooed sleeve.
As a teenager Reigns, or Joe, had an odd effect on people, recalls Seibert. More often that not people would back away from Reigns when it was time to line up for any type of one-on-one situation during practice. Joe Anoa’i the football player “immediately instilled fear in those he faced,” suggests the Bleacher Report.
Check out the video from Monday Night Raw on June 26. Braun Strowman stuffs Reigns into an ambulance during quite the array of showmanship, but it is what happens before Reigns is in the ambulance that seems to indicate he has a high tolerance for pain. This is when Reigns is airborne and slams against the ambulance, falling to the ground.
Whether that move was staged or not, it had to hurt when he hit the vehicle and then took that hard fall to the floor. Seibert talks about how Reigns is now up against wrestlers instead of football players, and he’s feeling the pain in the ring.
This high school coach recalls how he would see Reigns’ father sitting in the bleachers watching Joe on the field in the games and at practice. It finally dawned on him one day that he was looking at one of the famous Wild Samoans. He knew then where Joe got his fury from.
“The fire had been passed down from his father Sika, half of the Wild Samoans,” said Seibert.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 26, 2017
Reigns went on to play college football, and there was talk he had what it takes to go pro. He had a few short-lived camp stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars. He did a year with the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL. He retired from football with “nine tackles, no sacks, and no fumble recoveries,” according to the Bleacher Report.
Years later when Seibert got wind of Reigns wrestling with the WWE, he turned on his TV one Monday night and there he was. Seibert, who is now an assistant coach at the University of Cincinnati, saw Joe, and the day that he burned that “L” into his bicep was one of the first things to come to mind.
“Now, my man is diving over the top rope over people and getting hit with a chair and all of that. That can’t be that much worse than burning a big letter in your arm.”
[Featured Image by Manish Swarup/AP Images]