Sandusky Register – July 27, 2000
By Dan Angelo
BEREA — Bill Duff put a career as a pro wrestler on hold to bounce around the NFL.The defensive tackle from the University of Tennessee spent five months working at the Monster Factory after being released by San Francisco during training camp in 1998. But then the expansion Cleveland Browns called and Duff began a roller-coaster journey through the 1999 season and a spring with the Berlin Thunder.
“I do feel better this year,” he said. “I got a lot more pro experience over in Europe and I think the coaches have more confidence in me. I can see little things here and there that show me that maybe this year I’ll get more time in the game.”
Duff was originally signed as a free agent by San Francisco in 1998 and was waived in August of that year.
The following February, Duff hooked on with Cleveland and made the roster out of training camp. He was waived for the first time on Sept. 14, resigned on Oct. 6, waived again on Oct. 25 and brought back for the remainder of the season Nov. 9.
“It was pretty frustrating, and I think anybody in that situation would be,” Duff said. “From what I understand, every team has a guy like that every year and I just happened to be that guy last year.
“Hopefully I won’t be that guy against this year, but I don’t think I will be,” he said. “I feel a lot better this year and I feel like I can contribute so hopefully they’ll find someone else for that role.”
Duff played in five games and made one solo tackle, then jumped at the chance of playing in Europe when the Browns suggested the idea.
“I hadn’t played a lot of football in a while so it was something I had to do,” Duff said.
“I had to do it for me too, to get a little more confidence because of what happened to me last year. I was here, then I wasn’t.
“It was frustrating and it does start to take a toll on you. You start asking questions about if you’re good enough, so I needed to get over there and play some football. I dealt with politics for a long time and I just got back into the football.”
While Duff was getting back into football, the Thunder finished last in the league at 4-6.
“It was a great once-in-a-lifetime deal,” he said. “I got to see a lot of Europe and I played a lot of good football against a lot of good competitors.”
Duff also gained experience, something a 6-3, 285-pound defensive tackle must have in the world of giant offensive linemen.
“It’s about technique,” Duff said of playing his position at his size. “There are a lot of big and strong guys out there sitting a toll booth who can’t play with the technique you need to play in the NFL. I just try to concentrate on my technique, getting stronger and staying lower than the other guy, which isn’t hard since I’m 6-3.
“We basically get paid to make a big pile in the middle and get a tackle here and there. Defensive tackle is a thankless position. You have to be able to play with the proper technique, stay low, battle and take a beating.”
Of course, Duff knows about taking a beating after working the pro wrestling circuit as the “Urban Legend.”
“(Wrestling) is more of a career if football doesn’t work out,” he said. “Those guys put there lives on the line just like football players do. They risk injury just like a football player, but they are on the road 260 days a year.
“I’ve always been a great fan of football and I’ve always been a great fan of wrestling,” Duff said. “I’m stuck in the middle, but apparently I like football a little more or I wouldn’t be here.”