Two UNA football players desire wrestling career

Juniors Brian Puckett (left) and Sheldon Lewis stare each other down with titles over each one’s shoulder. Both are UNA football players desiring a career in wrestling after football is over.

For many football players, their dream is to go to “the next level,” possibly meaning the National Football League. For two UNA football players, their dream is wrestling.

Junior defensive linemen Brian Puckett and Sheldon Lewis spend countless hours on the field and in the classroom, but their free time is devoted to the art of professional wrestling.

“Wrestling is something I grew up watching and it’s been a childhood dream of mine to be a wrestler,” Puckett said. “I have a personality that’s out there, so wrestling is one way to let that shine. Plus, as a big guy, I can show how athletic I can be.”

Before starting their professional wrestling career, many superstars played Division II football. Joshua Bredl, this year’s WWE Tough Enough reality show winner, played for last year’s national champion, Colorado State-Pueblo.

Other former D-II players with professional wrestling backgrounds include Jonathan and Joshua Fatu (The Usos), who played at West Alabama, John Layfield (JBL), who was an All-American at Abilene Christian and Thomas Pestock (Baron Corbin), an NXT superstar who played for Northwest Missouri State.

“I feel like it is a gateway for us,” Puckett said. “I think some of us are overlooked in Division II, so I think this is a way for us to stand out and show our athleticism. But you truly have to want to do it and be passionate about it.”

Puckett said he would take the opportunity to be a wrestler over the chance to play football at the next level, which did not surprise his teammates at UNA.

“I would love to get in the ring and try it,” he said. “I’m anxious to see what it would be like. I’m the guy my teammates expect to bring the energy. Charisma is a big part of it.”

Lewis said on road trips with the team he rooms with Puckett and watches wrestling DVDs the day before a game.

“We’ve been watching wrestling for years and on away games, we wrestle,” Lewis said. “When you watch something repetitively, you get to know it and memorize the moves and the catchphrases. Honestly, I watch it in-depth so I can see how they fall and how to fall the right way.”

Lewis said his dream is to perform moves from the “high-rent district” in the wrestling ring.

“I used to get in trouble when I was little because I would watch wrestling, and, during commercials, (I would) take pillows off the couch and do Swanton Bombs off the porch,” he said. “I want to be a high-flyer and I could see myself doing it for real after football.”

UNA defensive line coach Gabe Poe said he loves the energy Puckett and Lewis bring to the field.

“We all pretty much watched wrestling as a kid so it can bring back memories,” Poe said. “I wouldn’t say I encourage it, but I love the energy it brings and it gets us going. I want my players to play relaxed and not uptight, so if it gets them loose, by all means.”

Poe said he thinks both men can become wrestlers one day if they decide to attempt it.

“I could see them both doing it if they focus on it and pursue it,” Poe said. “Puckett is always in character and he flies with it like he’s really there. Football certainly helps build character and being in front of a crowd all the time certainly helps.”