August 2, 2004
Lesnar tackles the NFLPerry Lefko says Brock Lesnar on uncommon path
By PERRY LEFKO - Toronto Sun
His name is Brock Lesnar, and if you've never heard of him, you probably are not a fan of professional wrestling. But if you follow football, you're about to read and hear a lot about him.
Lesnar is trying out with the Minnesota Vikings after abandoning a lucrative career in Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Entertainment. Lesnar seemed to have it all in wrestling: Size -- 6-foot-3, 286 pounds of sculpted muscle mass -- agility and athleticism. Signed by the WWE in 2000 after he graduated from the University of Minnesota as a National Collegiate Athletic Association heavyweight wrestling champion, he showed such tremendous promise in his development he was dubbed The Next Big Thing.
Within two years of signing with the WWE, he wrestled Dwayne Johnson (a.k.a. The Rock), for the heavyweight championship at SummerSlam, the second biggest pay-per-view event of the year next to WrestleMania.
The Rock, a University of Miami defensive lineman who had an unsuccessful tryout with the Calgary Stampeders at one point before turning to professional wrestling and following his father and grandfather, was developing a movie career. At age 24, Lesnar took the torch as the youngest heavyweight champion in history.
Lesnar's career in the ring rose dramatically, as did his salary. With his annual stipend, combined with earnings from pay-per-views, merchandise and assorted other financial benefits, he made a reported $9.5 million US a year.
He seemed to have it all, but Lesnar grew tired of the grind, specifically all the travel, working upwards of 24 days in a row. Wrestlers can work some 300 days a year, either in the ring, promotional duties or a myriad of other things that take a mental and physical toll on the performers. Lesnar wanted to spend more time with his young daughter and friends and told McMahon earlier this year he wanted out.
Lesnar, however, had a desire to tackle the world of professional football. When word first leaked out, it was considered nothing more than a fake angle to drum up a story line for this year's WrestleMania in March. Lesnar had not played football since his senior year in high school, an absence of some seven years, but he yearned for the gridiron, specifically to play for the hometown Vikings.
Lesnar earned a tryout with the team in April. He tested well enough that he received a second tryout. Last week, the Vikings signed him as a defensive lineman. If he makes the team -- training camp began on the weekend -- he will receive the NFL minimum of $230,000 a season, but he reportedly has bonus clauses to increase his earning potential. He has stated money is not his motivation.
A Vikings personnel official said Lesnar is a project with a capital P -- and he's not alone in that thought. Greg Mohns, the personnel director of the Toronto Argonauts, said Lesnar is an extreme long shot to make the team, but might be kept around as a prospect on the practice roster if he shows some potential. "He's got a long, uphill battle, no question about it," Mohns said.
Joe Peisich, a local wrestling authority, summed it up this way about Lesnar: "If he concentrates strictly on football, he'll be the next big thing, but if he lets wrestling distractions get to him, he'll be a bigger flop than the XFL."
One thing is for sure: Lesnar is attempting to do something different. It is not uncommon for former professional or collegiate football players to try wrestling. It's something else for wrestlers to try to make it as pro football players.
"That's a reversal. It's the first I've ever heard of it," retired football player/wrestler Angelo Mosca said. "I wish him good luck."