Sep 4, 2013
By BJ PICKARD
Morkeith Brown does not let opportunities pass him by.
“Do everything you can possibly do.”
That’s his philosophy.
It’s an attitude that’s already taken him on quite a journey.
Brown is an Army veteran, who joined the Service out of high school and was deployed to Afghanistan for 14 months from 2005-2007 before returning home to enroll at Temple in 2007. He joined the Owls’ football team in 2008 and was a team captain by 2009.
This past year, Brown made his professional football debut as a defensive lineman for the Philadelphia Soul in 2013. On display in 10 games as a rookie, Brown’s short bursts of power and explosive maneuvers, compounded with his cut-up physique and charismatic personality caught the attention of not just his opponents, but also the eyes of sports entertainment industry. Following ArenaBowl XXVI – an event that saw five former professional wrestling stars in attendance, including Kevin Nash, Tommy Dreamer, Ken Shamrock, Marc Mero and Dale Torborg – Brown was offered a developmental contract with World Wrestling Entertainment.
“It was a great opportunity,” Brown said. “I went to a couple matches in Philadelphia,” Brown said. “It gave me a nice adrenaline rush like I get on the field. They flew me down for a workout in Tampa and said they were interested in signing a developmental deal. After the championship game with the Soul, I came back down to Orlando.”
A fan since childhood, Brown officially began his professional wrestling career last week at the newly opened WWE Performance Center in Orlando. The state-of-the-art facility, which opened its doors in July, is intended to develop talent in every facet of the industry, from physicality to psychology.
“I’m learning the small things first – how to hit the ropes, how to fall, how to take a hit, how to hit people and how to tell a story in the ring,” Brown said.
Once Brown has mastered his technique between the ropes, the 6-foot-5, 255-pounder will work on developing his wrestling persona.
“I want to play more of an arrogant role,” Brown said. “As a football player, you have that mentality that no one can touch you.”
Not surprisingly, Brown is hardly the first former football player to make the switch from “sports” to “sports entertainment”.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson made the transition from the gridiron to the squared circle look easy in the mid-1990s. Before him, Ron Simmons, a former two-time All-American defensive tackle at Florida State, and Ernie “Big Cat” Ladd, a standout lineman with the San Diego Chargers, Houston Oilers and Kansas City Chiefs of the “other” AFL – the American Football League – made the leap, as have dozens more talented players over the years.
Of course, a post-playing career in pro wrestling is nothing new to Arena Football League talents either.
“It’s a totally different sport, but the high-paced game of Arena Football got me prepared as far as being in shape,” Brown said.
That statement held true as well for Rich Young, who was the first AFL standout to make a splash by trading in his helmet and turf shoes for spandex and ring boots. The former Colorado Crush fullback and linebacker joined the WWE as a developmental prospect in 2006 after five seasons in the AFL. Two years later, he made his television debut as “Ricky Ortiz” on the company’s ECW brand.
More recently, the artist formerly known as Thaddeus Bullard has come to achieve a good deal of success in the world of sports entertainment as the WWE’s “Titus O’Neil”. Bullard also played five seasons in the AFL as a defensive lineman for the Utah Blaze, Tampa Bay Storm, Las Vegas Gladiators and Carolina Cobras. Bullard signed his developmental deal in 2009 and debuted on WWE television as Titus O’Neil two years later.
As the WWE’s newest project, Brown figures to follow a similar timeline, but says he is excited to tackle the next challenge.
“Once you get older, you don’t always have time to do all the things you want to do,” Brown said. “While you’re young, you should take advantage of your opportunities.”
Bright lights in a ruckus arena… passionate fans cheering on their favorite stars… exciting action with a flair of showmanship… perhaps the worlds of Arena Football and professional wrestling aren’t too far apart after all.