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Before they became Superstars and Divas, many of WWE’s fiercest competitors made their mark in other sports. Relive their pre-canvas conquests in their own words, courtesy of the August issue of “WWE Magazine,” on newsstands now!

ALEX RILEY
Sport: Football
Team: Oklahoma University Sooners; Norman, OK

Playing Days
“I started as a quarterback and played behind Tim Hasselbeck, who spent some time in the NFL. He’s the brother of Matt Hasselbeck. I was also on special teams, and it’s there that I learned to love defense. My father was an outside linebacker in the NFL. So when I moved to linebacker after my sophomore year, it felt right.”

Most Memorable Moment
“The first time they ever put me in as a linebacker was against the University of Pittsburgh. It was really late in the game, too; we were at home, and the Panthers were just rushing us. I could feel the pressure coming down on me. It was third-and-one on the goal line and their back tried to jump over the pile and I met him in mid-air and he fell back. It was my first play and first tackle. I’ll never forget that.”

Football vs. WWE
“People watch WWE or football on television, and they think it doesn’t take much brains to play. It’s the opposite: You need poise to pull off the things we do on television. You need to be a structured and smart individual to do what we do.”

ALBERTO DEL RIO
Sport: Mixed Martial Arts
Organizations: DEEP; Pride Fighting Championships

Fighting Days
“I started in Mexico with amateur wrestling, and I was part of the national team down there. Then I became a wrestler, of course. I was touring in Japan with a wrestling company and I met the owner of DEEP, which was a Mixed Martial Arts company. He asked me, ‘Do you know that amateur wrestlers are competing in MMA right now?’ They made me a really good offer, which I took. I was there for about five years.”

Most Memorable Moment
“When I made the move to Mixed Martial Arts, my first fight was against a Japanese champion at the time named Kengo Watanabe. Now that I look back and think about it, those Japanese promoters brought me there to be destroyed by this guy. I gave them a big surprise by beating up and destroying their fighter and becoming the champion. I broke his arm in three places.”

Best Advice From Coach
“Marco Ruas-an ultimate fighting champion from Brazil—always said: ‘People who get nervous are people who don’t know what they’re doing. If you train hard every day, there’s no reason to be nervous because you’ll know what you’re doing there.’ ” 

Mixed Martial Arts vs. WWE
“If you’re looking, you’ll actually see my training in my finishing move—the submission arm bar.” 

NIKKI BELLA
Sport: Soccer
Team: Grossmont College Griffins; EL Cajon, CA

Playing Days
“When I was a junior in high school, I was asked to play with Arizona State University. They needed players in one of their big college games, and I actually got to play as sweeper for a half. I had a four-year plan for college, but I only played for one year as a sweeper due to injury. I snapped my leg in half. I was Player of the Year in my region as a freshman.”

Professional Aspirations
“Before I signed with WWE, I was thinking of moving to Italy and playing in their women’s league. But even before I broke my leg, I was going to play for The Heatwave—a pro team in Arizona—and hoping to try out for the World Cup team after college.”

Best Advice From Coach
“My coach was the one who totally gave me my sense of commitment, making me goal-driven. He encouraged us to always go after what we wanted. I feel like that’s the way I’ve lived my life because of my coach; whatever I want, I go after it.”

Soccer vs. WWE
“There are definitely similarities, especially with your footing. When I came to WWE and started to learn how to wrestle and move around the ring, I realized that everything I learned in soccer as a defender helped me between the ropes. I never tripped over my feet. All those drills about keeping myself balanced totally totally helped.”

To read more, get your copy of ‘WWE Magazine’ on newsstands now, or click here to order online!

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