What Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s Former Football Coach Says About Why He Was Cut 20 Years Ago

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson opened up about his battle with depression during a recent episode of Master Class on the OWN network, shedding light on a personal struggle faced by many. As Complex reported Wednesday, Johnson reached a low point after first failing to make it to the National Football League and then after he was cut by the Canadian Football League.

He said depression made him feel alone, in a bubble, but what started off as a difficult period in his life eventually led him to a successful career as a wrestler and actor. But even though his football career ended back in 1995, the memory apparently still lingers for the movie star. Back in April 2012, during a telecast of WWE Raw, The Rock made some disparaging remarks about the CFL, saying one has to really “suck” to be cut from the Canadian league.

Reporting on the incident when it happened, The Vancouver Sun spoke with Wally Buono, Johnson’s former coach who cut him from the Calgary Stampeders. Buono explained he had a specific reason for cutting the man who would eventually become The Rock, and it wasn’t all about his ability to play football. Johnson’s wrestling heritage — his father was a wrestler — came in to play in a surprising way.

“He was okay as a football player. His agent phoned me from Miami because he had a wrestling opportunity [because of Johnson’s wrestling heritage] and asked me to do him a favour by cutting him. I knew he was from a wrestling family. Let’s put it this way: I didn’t have any problem letting him go.”

The Rock spoke about his depression in a 2014 Hollywood Reporter cover story that included details about his injury-plagued career as a college football player at the University of Miami. His hopes of making the NFL were dashed when he failed to make the draft. But his wrestling roots would eventually come back to offer an alternative career.

Johnson has often recognized his father on his social media accounts, particularly on Father’s Day. Rocky “Soulman” Johnson was born in Nova Scotia and moved to Toronto at age 16 to embark on a wrestling career. He later became a boxer and traded punches with the greats, including Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.

After some initial reluctance to support Johnson’s wrestling career over a return to football, Rocky Johnson trained his son in the ring.

Any fears that Buono and Johnson may have an ongoing tiff, or that Johnson harbors any distaste for the CFL, may have been assuaged by a Twitter conversation the two men shared in 2014. It was prompted by the Stampeders post of a throwback picture of Johnson during his time with the Calgary team.

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Wally Buono has had a successful CFL career, 22 years as coach of the Stampeders and the British Columbia Lions. Buono retired from coaching in 2011 but currently acts as the general manager and vice president of football operations for the Lions, according to his official CFL profile.

Johnson, 43, recently announced he’s expecting his first child with girlfriend Lauren Hashian, 31. E! Online reported that Johnson and Hashian have dated for nine years. He shares a daughter, Simone, 14, with his first wife Dany Garcia.

[Main photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images Entertainment]