Brennan Williams reached his goal of being in the NFL, but a bevy of knee injuries didn’t allow him to fulfill that goal. Realizing that teams will be wary of signing him, Williams found the perfect opportunity to trade in his helmet and shoulder pads for trunks, boots, an alter-ego, and a chance to chase his dream of being a professional wrestler.
The 24-year-old offensive tackle was supposed to be in the midst of a successful football career, following in the footsteps of his father Brent Williams – who played in the NFL for 11 seasons from 1986-1996 for the New England Patriots, Indianapolis Colts, and New York Jets. But no matter what he does, Williams lives by the rule his family instilled in him from a young age.
“We have a rule in the family that we, no matter what [it is], you should do something competitive,” said Williams. “Whether it’s football or chess, you need that competitive streak to make it in the real world.”
From high school, college, and the pros, football was a way of life for the North Easton, Massachusetts, native. A third round pick out of the University of North Carolina by the Houston Texans in 2012, Williams’ size, athleticism, and ability figured to make him at least, a serviceable player. If not for an injury in his senior year, the former honorable mention on the 2012 All-ACC team believes he would’ve been drafted at a higher slot.
“I felt like I could [contribute] up until last week, honestly” Williams admitted. “I don’t think I started feeling like myself until maybe around last year. Microfracture is a really slow injury, you spend about six months on crutches, a lot of that on machines and you get a lot of atrophy.”
Thanks to hard work and helpful core of people, Williams was able to rehab all the way and got another shot, signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars. But another knee injury, a less serious one ended up cutting his Jaguars stint short.
Williams’ last chance came with the New England Patriots, who signed him on Oct. 20 of this year. Ironically enough, Williams got the call from the Patriots to come take a physical just just after Monday Night RAW ended. But Williams was waived two days later, ending his career without having played in an regular season NFL game
So just over a week later, Williams is taking himself, his family, and his dreams to Houston, Texas.
Switching from helmet-colliding world of football into the show business oriented universe of bodyslams and verbal jousts known as pro wrestling can be a daunting task. But it’s not one numerous people haven’t successfully pulled off in the past.
Bill Goldberg, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Roman Reigns, Ron Simmons, and JBL are just some of the names who made the successful transition from the gridiron to the squared circle. But Williams believes he can offer something unique in the pro wrestling industry.
“First and foremost, I don’t want to be perceived as so much a football player that’s transitioned, even though that’s exactly what I am,” Williams explained. “Before any of that I’m a fan and somebody who has a deep respect for the business.”
“I know there could be a stigma for guys who come in like ‘oh, I’m done with football, let’s try wrestling and get a paycheck.’ There’s a stigma about that and certain people have trouble with that. That’s not me at all, this is a passion of mine. Everybody who’s contacted me since I said I was done with football said to me, ‘this is what you should be doing, I’m surprised it took you so long.'”
The move may be rushed in nature, but one that Williams was willing to make to pursue his second dream, a dream that began as a youngster playing WWF No Mercy, enjoying superstars such as Goldust and The Rock, wondering if becoming a wrestler was even a real thing.
“Before I was even watching the show, I was playing the games,” Williams recalls. “I was like ‘wait, this thing is real? It’s on TV?’. I started watching then and I don’t think I’ve missed a Monday Night RAW yet.”
Williams will head down to the Reality of Wrestling promotion, run by WWE Hall of Famer Booker T in Houston. A lifetime fan of Booker T, Williams is excited to learn from the former six-time World Heavyweight champion. But Booker T echoed Williams’ aforementioned comments in a TMZ report, saying that he believes the 6’6′, 314 pound former offensive tackle’s fandom will help him in the ring.
“My original thought was to train with Booker for a couple of months and get my feet wet. That’s exactly what he recommended. I’m a guy who doesn’t like going into situations blind and like I said, I don’t claim to know anything about pro wrestling, yet. But I plan on knowing a lot in a couple months.”
With his physical stature, Williams could easily pass for either a football player or a professional wrestler. Yet, being an avid fan of kung-fu movies, anime, and a black belt in taekwondo, Williams has many outlets in which he expresses his creativity. Sports Illustrated profiled Williams‘ love of anime in July, mentioning his Tumblr description, in which he says that he has the, “heart of a Japanese school girl.”
Which is why he’s already began thinking of ideas for a potential character, including one based off an kung-fu movie.
“I want to be, [a character] from a really obscure movie, you may have to look it up, it’s the main bad guy from The Last Dragon, an old, black kung-fu movie, he was called Sho’nuff, the Shogun of Harlem. I think that sounds really cool and the ‘Shogun of NXT’ would sound really good.”
Prior to anything, one of Williams’ many goals is to slim down and get to about 280 pounds. Due to his aforementioned knee issues, he does not want to carry any excess weight around. Also, Williams’ goal is to train for a couple of months and attempt to impress WWE officials in a tryout this coming January.
Williams was invited to a WWE tryout after being cut from the Jaguars, but hopes to be much more prepared this time around. But if WWE, which is Williams’ prefer destination, is not in the cards at the time, he’s prepared to go elsewhere to better himself.
“I’ve spoken with Moose [Ojinnaka] on a couple of occasions, he actually tweeted me a few minutes ago, wishing me luck on this journey,” Williams said. “I think Ring of Honor has a great thing going, you set your goals high but if that opportunity presents itself, I’d love to get into that.”
In a perfect world, Williams will be grappling with some of his favorite NXT stars, including Finn Balor, Enzo Amore, and Colin Cassidy, soon. Then, in a fantasy world, he’ll be standing across from 15-time WWE champion John Cena or former NFL wannabe and current beast Brock Lesnar. Williams actually admitted to being “terrified” of “The Beast Incarnate.”
No matter where this journey toward Williams’ dream job leads him, he wants fans to understand that he’s in this for the love of wrestling and nothing else.
“What separates me is that I’m a fan first, and an athlete second.”
For audio of the interview, you can listen to it here.
[Images by (Joe Robbins, Ronald Martinez, Prince Williams)/Getty Images]