June 07, 2019

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

Before becoming a wrestling legend and an internationally known movie star, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson first turned his life around through football.  With the MTV Movie and TV Awards just around the corner, the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame takes a deeper look at global icon “The Rock”.

Football, a Game Changer

Although Johnson’s career has been a remarkable success, that was far from a guarantee early in life.  He spent much of his childhood shuffling between California and New Zealand, was arrested once by the age of 16, and although his father, Rocky, was a successful professional wrestler, his home life was unstable.  

Johnson could have headed down a destructive path if not for an unlikely event that changed his life.  At 16, he was a 6’4”, 225-pound high school sophomore with a chip on his shoulder. One day, he decided he would use the teacher’s restroom instead of the one for students. A teacher, Jody Cwik, immediately told him he needed to leave. Johnson shrugged Cwik off and said he would leave when he was done. It was clear the teacher was upset and that night, Johnson began to feel bad for the disrespect he had shown Cwik. The next day he found the teacher and apologized.

Cwik was impressed and encouraged Johnson to try out for the football team. Once he started playing football, he flourished both on the field and in the classroom. His grades improved and he began to receive scholarship offers from schools across the country including Penn State, Clemson, Florida State and UCLA, but in the end, it was all about “The U”.


Dwayne Johnson had beaten the odds and performed so well in high school that he received a full scholarship to the University of Miami in 1991. His coach, Hall of Famer Dennis Erickson describes him, “Back then, he was a broad-shouldered defensive lineman and his teammates called him “Dewey”. He was often spotted walking around campus in a lava-lava skirt singing country music.” That same season, Johnson and the Canes took home a national title. During his career at Miami, he appeared in 39 games, starting one, and had a total of 77 tackles and 4.25 sacks.

The Family Business

After a brief stint in the Canadian Football League following his college career, it surprised no one when he turned his sights to “the family business”. His father, Rocky Johnson, was a star professional wrestler in the 70s and 80s and his grandfather Peter Maivia, a native Samoan, also had a successful professional wrestling career in the 60s. Professional wrestling was definitely in Johnson’s blood.

Johnson made his official WWF debut in 1996 as “Rocky Maivia”, honoring both his father and grandfather, and officially found his calling. Interestingly, he squared off against the Brooklyn Brawler, the first opponent his father ever faced. Johnson eventually joined the “Nation of Domination” alongside wrestlers Faarooq, D’Lo Brown and Karma, where he embraced the role of heel – a wrestler who portrays a villain or a “bad guy”, acting as the antagonist – and the antihero “The Rock” was born.

The Rock went on to dominate wrestling storylines for nearly a decade, earning eight WWF/WWE championship belts. He was now ready for more and dreamed of being on the silver screen.

Hollywood Stardom

His breakthrough role was in the 2001 film, The Mummy Returns, as the Scorpion King.  The producers cast Johnson hoping to capitalize on his wrestling popularity, and the success of the movie jumpstarted The Rock’s lucrative film career. He has starred in more than 20 movies, including the Fast and Furious franchise, and credits range in genre from action and sports to comedy and family.

Johnson’s off-the-field success can be largely attributed to the game of football. Just one more reason why we love and celebrate the game.

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