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Former Seahawks RB Demitrius Bronson scores big with WWE contract

Former Seahawks running back Demitrius Bronson has found a new home in the wrestling ring. (Contributed)

Demitrius Bronson is used to starting over.

After spending the 2014 season on the Seahawks practice squad, the former Kentwood High School football star bounced around looking for another NFL gig, making ends meet as a baker at Costco in Covington, Wash.

And then something surprising happened: He was offered a job with World Wrestling Entertainment.

There was one small problem.

“I don’t know how to wrestle,” Bronson said Aug. 10, more than two months before WWE’s announcement of the signing, which is expected to become official on Tuesday.

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Bronson is among a new set of nine recruits to ink a deal with WWE NXT, the developmental division of WWE, which is the world’s largest professional wrestling promoter. There, Bronson will be in a college-type atmosphere at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando, Fla., learning the ins and outs of the industry. Beyond just in-ring work, he’ll be taught to formulate his on-air character and will review tapes of other wrestlers.

Once Bronson passes the developmental hurdles, he’ll be thrown into the rotation to wrestle on live NXT events and maybe even appear on NXT’s weekly show that airs Wednesdays on the WWE Network. The next step would be the real deal: a spot on WWE Raw or SmackDown, which are among the highest rated TV shows on cable.

“WWE is constantly scouting the world for the most talented athletes and entertainers,” said Paul “Triple H” Levesque, in a press release. “This new class will have every opportunity to fulfill their dreams of becoming a WWE Superstar, as they train out of the WWE Performance Center in Orlando.”

Most new wrestlers will spend between one and two years learning the craft before joining the top ranks, but Bronson has loftier goals.

“My goal is to be on there within a year, if not less,” Bronson said Wednesday, just before his first day of orientation. “I’m really trying to push the envelope.”

Bronson, who is married with two young children, never wrestled in high school but starred on the gridiron for Kentwood. After four injury-filled seasons at running back for the University of Washington and Eastern Washington, he worked his way into the NFL on the Seahawks practice squad. A nagging injury forced the Seahawks to cut the 5-foot-9, 215-pounder before the start of the 2015 preseason. He was scooped up by the Dolphins but again released before the start of the season. He spent the next year working odd jobs around Seattle, including as a bouncer, baker, and assistant football coach.

Bronson was training in Florida in June and hoping for another shot in the NFL when he received a call from a WWE scout.

“This came out of nowhere,” Demitrius Bronson said. “It looked like one door was closing and another was opening up. But maybe doors wouldn’t open up if hard work wasn’t in the mix. So it’s a whole lot of things I didn’t think I would be expecting to do but, shoot, I kinda wouldn’t change it. There’s a lot of people wishing and dreaming with woulda, coulda, shoulda.

“It’s cool. It’s a different opportunity but it’s still an opportunity,” Bronson added. “An opportunity that most probably won’t have. Just like football.”

The wrestling experience

Bronson is a weight-room junkie and despite his infatuation with the hard work, he found the WWE’s three-day tryout to be challenging, as he competed against more seasoned athletes.

“It was brutal, I’m not gonna lie,” he said. “I made it through it just because I was in shape.”

Bronson said the training included conditioning – running off the ropes, high knees, etc. — as well as judo and boxing. Then he learned to do rolls and slams.

“Just like football, you kind of have to learn on the spot,” he said. “Look at something and I had to do it.”

While his technique may have been suspect, Bronson said he “killed it” during the training and was hand-picked to sign. Where Bronson thinks he most excelled: his 60-second video promo, where his days in high school theater shown through.

“I swear to you, I was like Denzel out there,” he said laughing. “My promo was so on point. Dead serious. When I was done, it gave me chills and I felt like I was gonna cry. Like, wow. It was so intense. Basically, I just told my story right now in the matter of 60 seconds, how I was working all these jobs and supporting my family by doing it and still grinding.”

Bronson is not the first to make the jump from limited exposure to the NFL to the ring, following big names like Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, “Big Cat” Ernie Ladd, “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, Leon White (a.k.a Vader) and Bill Goldberg. Bronson says he grew up watching The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Undertaker and Triple H – who now oversees NXT as the WWE’s Executive Vice President of Talent and was present at Bronson’s tryout camp.

“I’m glad I didn’t notice he was there or I probably would have been nervous,” Bronson said of Triple H. “But he is bald now. I didn’t know.”

The new class of nine grapplers, which includes a collegiate wrestler and U.S. Army veteran, will join a group of more than 65 men and women training out of the 26,000 square-foot WWE Performance Center. Demitrius Bronson and his family bought a condo in Orlando, where Bronson has trained with Olympia native and former WWE tag team champion Brian Kendrick and will now, quite literally, learn the ropes.

“I just know the faster I learn to wrestle, the faster I move up the ranks and the higher my paycheck goes up,” he said.

Bronson said he signed a three-year contract that will pay him six figures. It’s a pay cut from the estimated $6,300 per week he made as a member of the Seahawks but a substantial raise from his time working at the Costco bakery and as a bouncer at a nightclub in Capitol Hill.

“It’s not like football money but it’s still pretty good money as far as starting out with,” he said.

While playing for the Seahawks, Demitrius Bronson always knew exactly who he was and who he wanted to be. In the WWE, he has no idea the persona he may be portraying. He hasn’t yet developed the most creative aspects of the job, like a finishing move or an on-air personality, as learning the ins and outs of the sport need to come first. Still, he’s thought about it.

“I don’t know if I’m gonna be a good guy, gonna be a bad guy or if I’m just gonna be a trash talker,” he said. “I do know somewhere I want to make an influence. That’s why I’m probably more leaning toward being a positive guy. I look at the big guys who have made it in the industry and they have some sort of influence on the crowd or society. … A lot are bad at first and then they turn good. So, who knows, I might be bad at first and then they switch me to a good guy. Honestly, I have no idea. I wouldn’t mind being a bad guy. Being the villain would be kinda fun.”

Demitrius Bronson is also open to incorporating his past with the pigskin.

“I would love that if they just let me be that football guy,” he said. “I would rock the Seattle jersey.”

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