WWE superstar Titus O’Neil has had a bumpy ride of late, even for a pro wrestler. Back in January, the Prime Time Players, his tag team with Darren Young, broke up. O’Neil turned on Young, and turned heel in the the process. It wasn’t pretty.
Going it alone hasn’t worked out well for O’Neil. He split matches with his former partner and lost to Big Show, Big E, Adam Rose, Kofi Kingston and others on multiple stages. Turning heel looked more like getting the boot. His bark seemed worse than his bite.
Fortunes can change quickly in WWE. O’Neil’s new tag team with Heath Slater is piling up the wins, which could translate into individual success. His goal, after all, is to win the WWE Singles Championship.
Here are eight other things you didn’t know about Titus O’Neil.
1. Titus O’Neal was born Thaddeus Bullard in 1977. Raised by his mother, he spent his teenage years in the small town of Live Oak, Fla., outside of Tallahassee. There he played defensive line for the Suwannee High School Bulldogs, becoming a high school football All-American his senior year.
2. Bullard also played defensive line for Steve Spurrier at the University of Florida. He managed his first sack in a 1997 game against the Tennessee Volunteers, taking down opposing quarterback Peyton Manning.
3. Bullard became a brother in the Omega Psi Phi fraternity at Florida. O’Neil’s barking in the ring comes from a fraternity chant.
4. Bullard tried out for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars but injured his knee in training camp. Upon recovering, he moved to the Arena Football League, where he played for the Carolina Cobras, Las Vegas Gladiators, Tampa Bay Storm and Utah Blaze between 2003 and 2007.
5. Bullard’s neighbor Dave Bautista, who you know as WWE’s Batista, first got him interested in a wrestling career. An introduction to Steve Keirn, then president of Florida Championship Wrestling (now WWE NXT), led to a development deal. Bullard, as Titus O’Neil, saw his first televised action only seven months after starting his training.
6. O’Neil was one half of the Prime Time Players tag team with Darren Young. Regular contenders for the tag-team title, the pair was never able to unseat Kingston and R-Truth or their successors. The team publicly broke up earlier this year, though the two are still close personal friends.
7. O’Neil and Slater unofficially form the up-and-coming tag team Slater Gator. The “Gator” portion of the name is derived from the O’Neil’s time with the Florida Gators. The seemingly haphazard pairing have experienced some success, with recent victories over a Tyson Kidd and Zack Ryder and later Goldust and Stardust.
8. O’Neil has been involved in various charitable pursuits since college. He recently showed up in the “Take Time To Be a Dad Today” campaign. Not coincidentally, O’Neal has two sons.
Norm Elrod likes sports and other sanctioned forms of craziness.