Before Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns ran roughshod in the promotion, Leati Joseph Anoa’i was just another football player struggling to make a mark in the NFL. He had a rollercoaster of a career during his college days, one that ended tragically.
Similar to his cousin Dwayne Johnson, Leati played as a defensive tackle. He came from Georgia Tech University before making it to Frankford’s Yellow Jackets in his senior year. By 2006 Roman Reigns boasted a record of 40 tackles, two recovered fumbles, and 4.5 sacks, which earned him All-ACC first-team honors.
The following year, Anoa’i signed as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings. He never got the opportunity to showcase his capabilities, though, and was released in May. According to Roman Reigns, his medical condition played a big role in the Vikings’ drafting process, as he did not pass their physical examination.
“I was right there,” Roman Reigns said, “I was as close as you can imagine. It just slipped through the fingers. It wasn’t meant to be. I signed, [and] went to rookie camp. But I didn’t pass my physical. I had some medical things going on. I’m convinced I could have made the team.” [H/T YahooSports]
When Roman Reigns made his return to wrestling in 2018 after reaching remission from leukaemia, there was much debate about whether Reigns looked ‘sick enough’ to be a cancer survivor.
Our guest blogger Kris challenges this warped perspective…#SpotLeukaemia pic.twitter.com/4S0bG6rGPg
— Leukaemia Care (@LeukaemiaCareUK) September 6, 2022
After being let go by the Minnesota Vikings, Joe Anoa’i signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars but was released within a week. He ended up playing a full season with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League before announcing his retirement from football in 2008.
Roman Reigns always wanted to be a WWE Superstar if his NFL ambitions didn’t take shape
Reigns comes from the legendary Anoa’i wrestling family, which includes Rikishi, The Rock, and the Wild Samoans. His lineage, along with his experience in sports, were bonuses when it came to his wrestling career. The Tribal Chief immediately got a contract from World Wrestling Entertainment when he expressed his interest in 2010.
During a conversation with Carlos Pineda of SouthernPigskin, Roman Reigns disclosed that his plan B had always been professional wrestling.
“I always had that in the back of my mind and fully in my heart that I knew if football didn’t work out, wrestling would be something that I know I could enjoy. It’s something I could thrive in and become that star and be a difference maker in this world.”
The Head of the Table currently holds the record for being the longest-reigning Universal Champion. He holds both the Universal and WWE Championship and is slated to defend his titles at the upcoming Elimination Chamber event against Sami Zayn.