Sports Legend Revealed: Did Andre the Giant once try out for the Washington Redskins?
FOOTBALL LEGEND: Andre the Giant once tried out for the Washington Redskins.
STATUS: False (with some truth to it).
The late André René Roussimoff was best known as the stage name he worked under as a professional wrestler - Andre the Giant. The French-born legend was one of the early stars of the World Wide Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Federation (WWWF/WWF) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, preceding Hulk Hogan as the main "babyface" wrestler (wrestling term for the "good guy" wrestlers) for the WWF. He gained even more fame when he appeared in the 1987 classic hit film The Princess Bride as the gentle giant, Fezzik. At seven feet four inches and nearly five hundred pounds (a result of gigantism), Roussimoff was an imposing and surprisingly athletic figure who marveled fans for years before his untimely death in 1993 at the age of 46 due to congestive heart failure.
His athleticism (and size) has led to a persistent legend that Roussimoff tried out for the Washington Redskins and their coach, George Allen, offered him a contract to play in the National Football League (NFL) in 1975.
As the story goes, after the tryout, Roussimoff ultimately decided to pass on the deal, changing not only his professional legacy but perhaps NFL history, as well.
Is that true, though?
Read on to find out!
Interestingly enough, in his early days as a wrestler in his late 20s and early 30s, Roussimoff (who wrestled under the name Monster Roussimoff back then) would often use athletic moves like dropkicks, which was quite impressive coming from a guy as big as him. He lived in Canada and often traveled to Japan (where he was always quite popular). It was difficult for him to find people willing to wrestle him in Canada, so his destiny seemed to be as a highly capable wrestler rather than as a "star." Things changed, though, when then WWWF president Vince McMahon Sr. was brought into the mix in 1972. He convinced Roussimoff to change his style to play up the "immovable object" aspect of his personality - a "giant" who could not be stopped. This change to his style, along with the corresponding new stage name "Andre the Giant" turned him into a superstar (and McMahon cashed in by sending Roussimoff on a harrowing travel-intensive schedule of matches all over the world, all of which McMahon got a cut of).
It was during this time that Roussimoff was "discovered" by George Allen, the Hall of Fame coach of the Washington Redskins (who had led the 'Skins to the 1972 Super Bowl, where they lost to the undefeated Miami Dolphins).
In either 1975 (or 1976, as I've seen some places cite it - I think 1975 appears more likely), Allen was interested in looking beyond the normal football prospects for a possible addition to the Redskins. Tim Temerario recalled the situation:
After the draft, George Allen said he would like to sign someone unusual, maybe about seven feet tall. I had heard about this wrestler and traced him through Vince McMahon. When he told me how much Andre earned, I was a little bit put off. It would take a long time to get him ready, but I knew he was quick and the agility to be a defensive tackle or end. We were interested, and I talked to Allen about it.
However, ultimately the discussions never got past that (I cannot even confirm that Allen and Roussimoff actually even spoke to each other directly), as Roussimoff was not interested in taking off time to try out a new sport when he was making so much money as a wrestler (money that he would not make as a football player, certainly not right away), so the Redskins never made an offer and Roussimoff never tried out for the Redskins (the 'Skins likely did at least offer a try out, though).
Thanks to Ross Davies' book, Andre the Giant, for the scoop (as well as thanks to Tim Temerario for providing the information to Davies)!
Dan Steinberg, of the Washington Post, also did a good piece on the subject back in 2009.
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Photo: Andre the Giant. Credit: WWE.