Staying hyped: Mojo Rawley makes his NXT debut
After weeks of heavy anticipation, Mojo Rawley has arrived on the WWE NXT scene. The former collegiate standout has had some unique experiences up to this point with an equally compelling outlook on life. Earning a victory in his debut NXT matchup, Mojo has lived up to his self-coined motto: “I don’t get hyped, I stay hyped.” WWE.com takes a deeper look into a story of hard work, sacrifice and positivity as we learn what makes the “hype” behind Mojo Rawley.
WWE.com: How did you get your start in WWE and NXT?
MOJO: I was coming off of an injury with the Arizona Cardinals that sidelined me for 18 months. When I healed up, I had some offers on the table to resume my career in the NFL and also had offers to enter the financial services industries with companies such as Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley. I ended up getting in touch with WWE through a friend. Being part of WWE was the first thing I ever wanted to do, so I ran with it. When I was offered a contract, I left everything I had ever known and everything I had ever done to start over here.
WWE.com: Tell us about your football background.
MOJO: I wasn't recruited to play football out of high school, so I went to Christopher Newport University where I was a two-year starter and captain. I was on a full academic scholarship at CNU, but I ultimately decided I wanted to take a chance at a major Division I school, so I walked on as a defensive lineman at the University of Maryland. I gave up my full academic scholarship to pay $40,000 a year to have a chance at something special. I had to fight extremely hard at Maryland but eventually earned my scholarship and starting position on the team. Eventually I was giving all the pregame speeches every week.
I was not drafted or immediately signed by the NFL following the draft, but I earned a tryout with the Green Bay Packers. Out of 25 players trying out for the team at their mini-camp, I was one of three who made the team. I later played for the Arizona Cardinals where I was nicknamed “The Iron Sheik” by the team. My playing ability at every level was always summed up as being hard-nosed and very physical, and having a never-ending motor.
WWE.com: You actually attended a pretty famous high school.
MOJO: Yeah, I was a four-year starter at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. T.C. Williams was featured in the movie “Remember the Titans.” My mom works there still to this day and my family all went there. It is a very tight-knit community with a family atmosphere. I actually received an academic scholarship from the 1971 Titans and have a great relationship with the players portrayed in the movie. Coach Boone, Petey and Blue actually came to my college homecoming football game one year to support me. Needless to say, I was so hyped that I had one of my best games!
WWE.com: We understand academic excellence is always something you strived for?
MOJO: Academics have always been something I never took lightly. I had the highest GPA on the team every single year of school at all levels and took tremendous pride in that. I was always a part of every major organization on campus and was at least an officer in those organizations.
WWE.com: You were also the youngest athlete to earn an MBA at the University of Maryland.
MOJO: I was the youngest person accepted into the program as well. I started working for Morgan Stanley financial services when I was in seventh grade as an intern and ended up staying there. Because of that experience and other qualifications I had, Maryland accepted me as an early admittee to their program. I worked hard to condense the two-year program into a year and a half so I could resume my athletic career. I was actually working on my degree while simultaneously playing in the NFL. My last semester, I took 28 credits so I could finish my degree on top of my football commitments. I remember flying home after making the team in Green Bay and doing homework on the red-eye flight because I had class the next morning.
WWE.com: Why wasn’t working a financial job appealing to you?
MOJO: I am not at a point in my life where I am ready to sit down at work. I am 27 years old and feel like I have never worked a day in my life. I am an extremely active person. I love training, I love the competition, and I love the grind to fight for something special. Don't get me wrong, these kinds of jobs are extremely appealing to me, but I have the rest of my life to work there. WWE is an opportunity of a lifetime that millions fight for every day, so as long as it's open to me, I am going to run with it.
WWE.com: What kind of training prepares you for the ring?
MOJO: I have been very fortunate to work with some of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the world. My training is primarily focused on conditioning mixed with Olympic style and explosive training. When I have a match, I don't ever want to have to worry about getting tired or being the less physically prepared man in the match. I want to be the most explosive and intense person to step in the ring. My training never stops because I stay hyped.
WWE.com: What exactly does it mean when you say you “stay hyped”?
MOJO: “Stay hyped” is what I stand for. It stems from a philosophy of pushing yourself to the absolute limit every moment of every day. When a person gets hyped, they are transformed from ordinary into superhuman and can therefore do things they never thought possible. So if getting hyped is that powerful, then staying hyped can make you a game-changer.
As the last recruited guy on every team I played on, I had to work harder than everyone to get noticed. After practice, when everyone was tired and would head home, I would stay and do extra conditioning and lifting and film study, etc., and then I would go to work to find a way to pay tuition. Staying hyped is what I have built my foundation upon and it is responsible for the entirety of my life's success.
WWE.com: Where did you get such a positive and focused attitude?
MOJO: That's how I was raised. I was taught to always stay positive. I learned a long time ago I had no place for negativity in my life and if I didn't stay focused, I would never get what I want. Even when times are at their worst, I show up every day with a smile on my face, ready to take on whatever challenges are thrown at me because that is life. For me, being positive is an opportunity to overcome life's biggest obstacles and stand tall triumphantly in the end.
WWE.com: Now that you are here, what do you want to accomplish in WWE?
MOJO: Inside the ring, I have only one goal, and that is to become WWE Champion one day. Outside of the ring, I want to do everything I can do to use my position as a Superstar to give back to the world. People in this type of capacity are in a very rare and unique position to make a massive difference in people's lives and it is important to never forget that. I still remember everyone who helped me and was there for me when I was coming up as a kid, and I understand how powerful their assistance was, so giving back has never been something I have ever taken lightly.