Titus O’Neil, a former football player and current WWE wrestler, was scheduled to be the commencement speaker at UF this semester. However, he was still able to show support for the 2020 graduates virtually.
O’Neil explains that he was excited to present his speech in the same stadium he used to play in, but will hopefully return to Gainesville after the pandemic blows over.
O’Neil, whose real name is Thad Bullard, started his college football career on an athletic scholarship with the Florida Gators from 1997 to 2000. After college, he played with the Arena Football League before starting his professional wrestling career. In 2009, he signed a deal with WWE and made his television debut. He moved on to competing in the second season of WWE’s NXT brand. Later he was selected to return in the show’s fifth season. In 2012, he became a member of the Prime Time Player’s main roster on NXT. He was then drafted to the Raw roster in 2016.
He credits the beginning of his wrestling career to his friend Dave Bautista, a long time wrestler for WWE and other brands. He was hesitant at first but he took a chance at Bautista’s urging and began training in Tampa.
O’Neil came from a single-parent home. He was the first in his family to graduate high school and college. He talked about how it was possible through the Boy’s Ranch in Live Oak and the impact it made on turning his life around. So far he has helped 341 kids attend college in the last 12 years, served a number of families with his family’s two foundations, and raised millions of dollars for various organizations.
He went from having nothing to graduating with honors from the University of Florida. He virtually did his commencement speech to remind students of their amazing achievements.
“Graduates, because of who you are and what you have achieved, you will get through this – and the light will shine,” says @TitusONeilWWE in his commencement video for University of Florida graduates. #UFgrad #DearGators2020 pic.twitter.com/b1cNtY3iBW
— FLORIDA (@UF) April 29, 2020