Long before the internet gave us answers, I always wondered when wrestlers were billed as being former pro football players. I was a pretty hardcore football fan and I had never heard of most of these guys playing in the NFL. Yet, there were some, like Wahoo McDaniel, who did legitimately play and therefore leant credibility to the rest.
Paul Orndorff was one of the first such wrestlers billed as a former NFL player.. The WWE made vague statements that he played pro football, but never gave the details.
With the invention of the internet and websites which have every possible bit of minutea, it is now possible to verify (or disprove) these statements. So what is the case with Mr. Wonderful?
The fact is he was a pretty good running back with the University of Tampa. He was drafted by the New Orleans Saints in the 12th round of the 1973 draft. (He could have gotten handoffs from Archie Manning.)
He did not make the team, due to injuries. Unfortunately, no other real details are available. Players from the 12th round were not front page news. Seventeen of the 26 players drafted in the 12th round did not make the NFL. Life stories and updates are usually not available for these men, as they pretty much just went into a regular job.
Orndorff was different. First he had a brief stint in the WFL with the Jacksonville Sharks. He did appear to actually play for them, too.
Of course, Orndorff would go on to have a very successful wrestling career. While he never won the big title in the WWE, he was one of the top guys for a while in the 1980's. We must remember that titles were not passed around so quickly back then.
Orndorff had been on my "want list" for a long time. I finally met him at David Herro's SuperFriends Fan Fest. Mr. Wonderful was actually quite wonderful. He apologized for remaining seated, citing knee issues. We talked a bit about his wrestling career and I did mention his football career. He responded by talking about his time at Tampa (which is pdefinitely where he had the most succcess).
The SuperFriends Fan Fest was a great event. Like all of Herro's events, it was well-run and a fun time. Additionally, it allowed me to take one off of my want list and to dig a little deeper into the whole NFL: issue.
Paul Orndorff and me in Milwaukee, WI-May 2016.