Before Roman Reigns was a three-time WWE World Heavyweight Champion, he was a standout football player by the name of Joe Anoa’i.
At Escambia High School in Pensacola, Florida, Anao’i was a three-star recruit at defensive end. As a senior, he made 120 tackles with 12 sacks, six forced fumbles and two interceptions en route to Defensive Player of the Year honors from the Pensacola News Journal. He earned offers from Georgia Tech, Louisville, South Carolina and South Florida. He eventually elected to become a Yellow Jacket, and he had a fantastic career at Georgia Tech. In his senior season, Anoa’i earned first-team All-ACC honors at defensive tackle after recording nine tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.
Anoa’i’s strong play and big frame grabbed the attention of NFL scouts, so he participated in Georgia Tech’s Pro Day. To say he was impressive is an understatement. Anoa’i absolutely obliterated the Combine drills. At 6-foot-2, 303 pounds, he ran a 4.91 40-Yard Dash with a 1.61 10-Yard split. That 10-Yard split is especially freaky. In comparison, Braxton Miller recorded an identical 10-Yard split at the 2016 NFL Combine weighing roughly 100 pounds less than Anao’i.
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How does Anao’i compare athletically with some of the best defensive tackles in the NFL? Let’s use a tool called Relative Athletic Score (RAS) to find out. Created by football writer Kent Lee Platte, RAS attempts to illustrate how an NFL prospect’s measurables compare historically with others in his position group. On a 1-to-10 scale, a grade of 5 indicates a prospect with “average” athleticism, and a grade of 10 indicates the most athletic prospect at the position.
According to RAS, Anao’i was a ridiculously athletic prospect:
Based in his RAS, Anao’i was a more athletic prospect coming out of college than guys like Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh and Dontari Poe. But obviously, Anao’i’s football skills weren’t up to par with the likes of those guys. After going undrafted in 2007, he spent some time with the Minnesota Vikings and the Jacksonville Jaguars. After a one-season stint with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, Anao’i turned his attention to professional wrestling.
You can check out some of Anao’i’s Georgia Tech highlights below (unfortunately, they don’t include any Superman Punches on opposing quarterbacks):
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