BILL GOLDBERG (AKA GOLDBERG ) … ACTOR, THE JESSE VENTURA STORY, THE LONGEST YARD, READY TO RUMBLE … WWE AND WCW WORLD CHAMPION WRESTLER … DEFENSIVE LINEMAN, ATLANTA FALCONS, 1992 1994 Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there. JOHN W OODEN, legendary UCLA basketball coach 170 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME Ijumped into football in eighth grade. I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I didn’t start playing before that because there was a concern that I’d break something or somehow affect the growth process. Even though I did play some baseball and basketball, I never liked it as much as I did football. But even if I had, when you have two older brothers playing football, I was pretty much programmed to follow in their footsteps. Not only did I think it was possible for me to go pro, I actually thought it was probably because my brother was a college star.
Not to sound too cocky, but I always knew that’s what I’d do. SINGLE-MINDED FOCUS The breakout year for me came when I was a junior in high school. I started to get some interest from colleges, and when I was a senior I was recruited as a lineman by the University of Georgia. I became an All- American nose tackle and was good enough to get drafted by the NFL. My goals were coming true because I was obsessed with being a football player. You’ve heard of Todd Marinovich, the former number-one pick of the Raiders whose dad ruined him by forcing him to play football every day of his life. Well, I was my own Marinovich. I was like a cyborg. I didn’t want to drive my car across the finish line. I wanted to be the hood ornament. I was not always the best guy on the field, but I was the guy with potential who worked really hard to attain his goals.
HOW DID HE LEARN THAT HARD WORK PAID OFF? We had good, basic values. We knew what it meant to work hard, and I never expected to get anything for free. I credit my parents, because they always made me work for anything I got. When you do that, you get a degree of pride that’s hard to define. Still, having said that, I did not reach my goals in football even though I may have maxed out my ability. I wanted to have the impact of Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, and Dick Butkus, but it didn’t happen. In reality, I was the eleventh-round draft pick of the Rams, played five years, and then an injury shelved my game forever. BILL GOLDBERG (AK A GOLDBERG ) 171 I think being one of twelve hundred guys in the nation to play in the NFL is a huge success, but obviously Bill doesn’t think that way.
The problem with having just one goal is that you don’t have a second goal in the event that you don’t reach the first one. When I got hurt, perhaps it was the best thing that happened to me because it forced me to move on. I was under the belief that the next year, or the year after that, would be the year I broke out and went All Pro. But, of course, there was no next year. I retired and then just chilled out for about a year until it was time for Plan Bwrestling. The downside to having an unwavering belief is that more often than not there is no fallback plan. It took a year, but Bill got one, and in this case Plan B turned out to be better than Plan A. Maybe it was in the cards for me to be a wrestler. My college roommate, Kevin Greene (a linebacker with the Rams and Panthers), used to tell me that I would make a great professional wrestler. My brother roomed with a professional wrestler. Professional wrestlers owned the gym I worked out at, and they just pushed me to do it. I got a great start wrestling for the now-defunct WCW, which was a lot of fun.
It was a whirlwind experience and I was just in the right place at the right time with right look, and the whole thing just took off. When the money and the fame came, it was cool. Not that I wanted the acclaim. I just wanted the power to impact people’s lives. I also wanted to make my parents proud. But with the wrestling came the notoriety with the kids, and I loved having them look up to me. Before every match, I made it a point to visit the Make-A-Wish Foundation in every city, and those kids looked up to me like I still look up to Joe Montana. Today, I spend a lot of time meeting the troops and they seem to love it. For me, it’s a thrill, a gift that I cannot begin to describe. But I hope it never ends. And even though I’m now doing some acting and have a degree of fame from that, make no mistake about it, I owe wrestling for my high profile. ON BEING JEWISH My faith does not dominate my life, but every day, when I wake up, I am proud as hell to be Goldberg, proud as hell to be Jewish. 172 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME FOOTBALL PLAYER FIRST I may have had much more success as a wrestler, but in my mind I am a football player and I always will be. If I have to introduce myself to someone who does not know me, I always introduce myself as a football player and not a wrestler. Until I’m one hundred ten years old, I will still be a football player. MY WRAP For a guy to be this focused and this talented and still not reach his predetermined goals should only make us feel better if we should fall short. Bill’s work ethic in sports gave him a template to excel after sports, and he was determined enough to make the next dream work, even if the first one didn’t. BILL GOLDBERG (AKA GOLDBERG )
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