Quinn Ojinnaka's size and talent landed him in the NFL as a Falcons fifth-round draft pick in 2006. Now those very same things are allowing him to pursue another passion he's had for a long time: professional wrestling.
When Ojinnaka was finishing up his junior year at Syracuse in 2005, he knew the NFL may come knocking for his services. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound offensive lineman told himself if football didn't work out, he was going to make like his childhood hero, Hulk Hogan, and wrestle. That was the backup plan and it stayed on the backburner while Ojinnaka pursued a football career that lasted until 2012. He spent five seasons with the Falcons from '06-'10 and finished his career with stints with the Patriots, Rams and Colts.
The NFL career was cut short in October last year and that's when Ojinnaka decided to chase that second passion. One month later he was in the business. He's had some tryouts with the WWE and is currently wrestling with some other companies while weighing some encouraging future wrestling options.
So just like that, Quinn Ojinnaka went from NFL lineman to "Moose," a wrestler with a penchant for a high drop kick, appropriately called "The Illegal Boot to the Face." He's a good guy "right now," he said, but with a grin he admitted he's been disqualified from a few matches. In total, he's been in about 40 matches with a mixed bag of results including ties.
As for the disqualified part, Ojinnaka reminds that it's entertainment and that's just part of the show, but he does think the entertainment business of professional football helped prepare him for the life in the ring. Much of the things that happen on the football field are replicated in the squared circle, Ojinnaka said. The athleticism needed to do the kind of high-risk, jaw-dropping moves in the ring that pro wrestling is known for is the same kind needed to compete in football. He sees the link of the two now in what he's able to do as a wrestler.
"In the ring, I'm doing now, for my size, things in the ring that you typically never see a big guy in wrestling do like running up the turnbuckle, doing flips and stuff like that," Ojinnaka said.
Since he's been teammates with many of the players on this year's Falcons squad and still follows the team closely, he's happy to consider what current Falcons player would draw crowds in the ring, and perhaps make a great tag-team partner.
"Roddy (White) would make a great wrestler because he's an entertainer," Ojinnaka said. "Even on the field, after he makes a big play, he gets the crowd going. He'd be a real good face in the business."
Ojinnaka calls Atlanta home now and he's looking forward to a showcase he's hosting in September. It's the first time he's run the business side of an event in addition to appearing in the ring. He said he's excited to show fans what he can do and hopefully create new fans of pro wrestling.
But he won't forget about the Falcons while he pursues his other childhood passion. In fact, he visited with the team at training camp last week and has high hopes for this year's squad.
"They look great," he said. "Right now, I'm saying they're my favorites for the Super Bowl. You look at the team on paper and they are loaded. They've got one of the best quarterbacks in the league, two of the best receivers, a Hall of Fame running back and a Hall of Fame tight end. They're stacked. I'm excited to see what they're going to do this year."
(Ojinnaka's first annual Labor Day Bash will be at 560 Old Peachtree Rd., Suite 200, Suwanee, Georgia, 30024. Premium seats will be $12, general admission will be $10 and kids five and under will be $5. For more information on the September 2nd Georgia Sports Performance show, call 770-455-5254.)