When your NFL career is over, try pro wrestling

This is another glamorous constituent!!

8:00 AM ETNick WagonerESPN Staff Writer Close Covered Rams for nine years for stlouisrams.com
Previously covered University of Missouri football
Member of Pro Football Writers of AmericaORLANDO, Fla. — Sabby Piscitelli’s football career ended like a striking knife edge chop to the chest.The 2007 second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had started the final game of the 2011 season at safety for the Kansas City Chiefs, putting a bow on his sixth year with a victory against the Denver Broncos.Piscitelli became a free agent following that season believing he was entering the prime of his football career.And then … nothing. His phone never rang. But the NFL doesn’t offer explanations when it’s done with you. It just moves on.”It was a very dark part of my life,” said Piscitelli, 35.Then, when Piscitelli was training with UFC fighter Rashad Evans in Boca Raton, Florida, his photo made its way into the hands of Canyon Ceman, the senior director of talent development for World Wrestling Entertainment.Ceman was in the market for professional athletes going through a transitional period and was instantly drawn to Piscitelli, who had the look the WWE covets in its superstars.Tired of waiting for the NFL and with images of football players-turned-WWE superstars like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Bill Goldberg and Ron “Faarooq” Simmons in his head, Piscitelli decided to make the big change. He attended a WWE tryout in Orlando and signed soon after. He was assigned to NXT, the company’s developmental territory, and took the ring name Tino Sabbatelli.”WWE kind of gave me a second chance, a second hope, that second opportunity to still be able to be a professional athlete, and still be an entertainer,” Piscitelli said.As it turns out, the WWE and the world of professional wrestling has become an increasingly common outlet for football players when their time on the field is done.In this corner …It’s not as easy as it sounds. Even a person as athletic as an NFL player doesn’t just put on an outfit, get a cool ring name and persona, and then wrestle in events like this weekend’s SummerSlam.Moving to the WWE means starting from the bottom, a sobering reality for high-level athletes who have rarely experienced what it’s like to fail.”You come from a sport where you were part of the best of the best, and you were on top of the mountain and then go to another industry and start from the bottom,” Piscitelli said. “You suck. You do. It’s just the truth. So that’s a hard pill to swallow when you’re competing and you’re around other colleagues and you’re not good.”Dean Muhtadi, a former unrestricted free agent who went to training camp with the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals, got his start in pro wrestling through Gordon Gronkowski, the Gronk family patriarch.Gronkowski was college roommates with Mike Rotunda, a longtime WWE performer and now a behind-the-scenes producer. A simple phone call put Muhtadi on track to chase a long-held dream of his to get in the ring.For football players like Muhtadi, known professionally as Mojo Rawley, and Piscitelli, professional wrestling comes with plenty of challenges. Their job is now part athlete, part stunt man and part stage actor. It meant changing their bodies and embracing their personalities.In his NFL life, Muhtadi would eat every two hours and use weight-gain supplements to get as big as 330 pounds so he could play nose tackle. Now, Muhtadi is listed at 265 pounds and his workout routine has shifted from low reps and heavy weights to lower weights with high reps and plenty of conditioning. After leaving football, Muhtadi said he shed 60 pounds in seven weeks.In Piscitelli’s case, the change of skill sets was the more difficult transition. On a football field, Piscitelli could drop his hips and cover in the secondary, but those movements become far less natural when it involves running the ropes and changing direction in a wrestling ring.Upon signing with WWE, Piscitelli and Muhtadi immediately realized they were going to be playing catch-up to more experienced wrest

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