ATHENS – Amarlo Herrera has always been a wrestling fan. He grew up watching it and going to events. One of his favorite wrestlers was Goldberg, who was known as Bill Goldberg when he played football at Georgia in the late 1980s.
Now, Herrera might be following Goldberg’s career path.
Last weekend, Herrera was among 40 people who received a tryout with WWE, as Vince McMahon’s organization seeks the next generation to succeed Goldberg, Hulk Hogan and the other legendary pro wrestlers.
“I have no problem with taking chances and doing different things,” Herrera said on Tuesday from Athens, where he’s taking three summer classes to finish his degree.
Herrera was Georgia’s starting linebacker for much of the 2012-15 seasons, and he stands 10th on Georgia’s career tackles list with 334. He was a sixth-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 2015, and he played three games there as a rookie. He was cut last preseason, and then spent time on the practice squads of Tennessee and Washington in 2016.
While he hasn’t shut the door on football, Herrera is more than intrigued by the wrestling opportunity, which he says he didn’t seek.
Herrera said he simply clicked on a wrestling story online, and the next thing he knew, he received an email from the writer, who had noticed Herrera’s interest. He put Herrera in touch with a talent scout, who invited him to the tryout in Orlando.
Among the other hopefuls were a CrossFit athlete, an All-American wrestler from Appalachian State, bodybuilders and kickboxers. The competitors were put through drills, which Herrera made sound fairly straightforward, though not exactly what he’s been used to in football.
“It’s a completely different sport. I mean, everything about it is different,” Herrera said. “It went pretty well for me, I feel, with me not having a background in rassling, and me picking up on some of the stuff quick. I think it went pretty well for me.”
Now Herrera will wait to hear to see if he’s a fit. If they want him, he wants to pursue a future in WWE. And there’s precedent for the career move.
The most famous is Dwayne Johnson, who started over Warren Sapp on Miami’s defensive line in the 1980s. Johnson eventually became The Rock, cooking up a big wrestling career that led to a lucrative film career.
Goldberg, a defensive tackle, lettered at Georgia from 1986-89 and was named first-team All-SEC as a senior. He had a short NFL career after being drafted in the 11th round by the Los Angeles Rams. He joined World Championship Wrestling in 1996.
Goldberg, as he became known, became one of the most famous wrestlers in the country. He’s been back to UGA on occasion, including earlier in June. Herrera recalled meeting Goldberg a few years ago in Athens.
“But I doubt he’d remember me,” Herrera said.
Goldberg and Johnson were both defensive linemen. Hogan and other wrestlers were massive presences. So could an inside linebacker cut it? Herrera, who was listed at 6-foot-2 and 231 pounds during his playing days, thinks so.
“I’m in the best shape I’ve been in in a long time,” he said. “So I can do some different things.”
For now, Herrera will wait and see if the WWE remains interested. It’s not far enough along that he’s thought of a stage name. But asked about his possible wrestling persona, he has a better idea.
While at Georgia, Herrera was known for his straightforward, no-nonsense approach. He said he hopes that would work in the ring, too.
“I’m just going to be me. If they let me be, and whip up on people, then I’d be OK with that,” he said. “But if they create a persona for me and have me doing all that, then I guess we’ll have to wait for that time to come and see what that might be.”