From Depressed Football Player to Hollywood Mogul: the Tough Life Story of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
We all recognize Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He’s become one of the most famous people in the world and one of the most successful actors too. But his life wasn’t always like this. He, like many other people, had to go through his fair share of struggles before success and fame came. It built him into the man he is today, and that’s one of the many reasons why he has hundreds of millions of fans.
Bright Side loves a good success story and inspirational people, who, despite all their fame and money, have stayed humble and kind, and The Rock is definitely one of them!
His rough childhood taught him responsibility from a young age.
Young Dwayne Johnson was born in Hayward, California, into a wrestling family. His dad, Rocky “Soulman” Johnson was a part of the WWF Superstars of Wrestling, which meant he traveled a lot. At the age of 14, Dwayne and his mom Ata relocated to Honolulu, Hawaii, but despite his dad’s successful career, the family struggled financially, and his mom was struggling with work. Dwayne, at the time, wasn’t helping the situation much either, as he was always getting himself into trouble with the police.
“That was the tipping point,” he says. “It was about, ’What can I control with these 2 hands?’ The only thing I could do was train and build my body. The successful men I knew were men who built their bodies.”
He was angry at his father for being absent and forcing him to move around a lot, but his father had taught him how to wrestle and introduced him to the gym. Young Johnson hopped from school to school all over America. When he was forced to leave Hawaii and move to Nashville, TN, he was already 6’4 with a “creepy mustache” and other students and teachers would avoid him because they thought he was an undercover cop.
His football career was a very dark period of his life.
Dwayne eventually ended up at Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His intimidating figure got him in a lot of trouble with other kids, and teachers alike. He had an argument with Jody Cwik, a teacher, for using the teacher’s bathroom, but he realized his mistake and apologized for it the next day, which got him an invitation to play football.
That interaction with his teacher led to a massive improvement in Dwayne’s life. Not only did he start falling in love with football, but his grades improved and he started getting recruited by every college in the country. “He became a father figure to me, and a mentor,” says Johnson.
Thanks to a successful high school career, Johnson accepted a scholarship to play football at the University of Miami under Coach Dennis Erickson. However, he wasn’t being played much, and he suffered an injury that took him off the field. That was when his depression started. “I didn’t want to do anything,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was crying constantly. Eventually, you reach a point where you are all cried out.” Then when it was time for the NFL draft — and he did not get picked.
In 1995, after not being drafted to the NFL he was signed to play for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League. However, he was quickly relegated to the practice team and then ultimately got cut from the team. Eventually, the same coach who cut him from the team called him, wanting him to come back. That is when Johnson made the decision to not go back to football and to instead join the family wrestling business.
Turning back to his wrestling roots changed his life.
Having fully given up on football, Dwayne went back to working on his body and training with his father. He made his World Wrestling Federation debut in 1996 under the name “Rocky Maivia.” Fans didn’t like his “good guy” attitude, because it wasn’t authentic, it wasn’t who he truly was. “I represented everything, at that time, that was wrong with pro wrestling, and the fans turned on me... They started chanting, ‘Rocky sucks‘ at every arena that I went to,” he recalls.
That is when Dwayne decided to go “heel,” and give the people what they wanted — a bad guy, who doesn’t care about what people think. He joined “Nation of Domination” alongside Faarooq, D’Lo Brown, and Kama where he embraced that “antagonist” aspect of professional wrestling. And just like that, The Rock was born. Dwayne would then go on to become one of the most successful, famous, and loved WWE wrestlers in the world.
This newfound fame wasn’t enough, Johnson wanted more.
Johnson recalls the time when he first got into the world of Hollywood. “They were welcoming, then it got icy, quickly. The iciness was ’Oh, your career is going to be done in a couple of years. You’ll make a few movies, I’m sure, and then you’ll be out.’ But that was never my goal, and it took me about 7 to 8 years to realize that I’m done trying to conform to Hollywood, Hollywood is going to work for me,” he told TIME.
His debut was in the movie The Mummy Returns, but he also opted for other roles, not just the basic “tough guy” ones. He played in movies like The Run Down and The Tooth Fairy. His acting career took off and he was starring in big movies like Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6, and he was earning his place as the top-grossing actor in Hollywood with the movies like San Andreas and Fast & Furious 7. And since 2017 he’s also been producing movies.
The life of a Hollywood mogul and family-man
Dwayne Johnson has found a lot of success despite his very rough childhood, and he’s been an inspiration to many people from all over the world. His mindset is that no matter what you achieve, you can always do better and be better. That is why we constantly see him working out in the gym and improving himself. But there’s also the “family-man” side of him. He loves posting pictures of himself with his daughters and wife to his millions of fans:
“I’ve learned the power that we have to make other people happy and content in a relationship. And I have the love of my life, Lauren, who I’ve had for 8 years now. I wake up every day so grateful and so thankful that I have someone like that, someone who I can walk through this world with...,” Johnson shared on Oprah’s OWN.
Dwayne also spoke on fatherhood, “I realized that being a father is the greatest job I have ever had, the greatest job I will ever have. I always wanted to be a great dad, I always wanted to give Simone things I felt I never got. When I held her when she was born, I held her in these 2 hands and I said to her, ’I will always, always, take care of you. For the rest of your life. You’re safe...’”
Today, he’s a “GirlDad” of 3. Jasmine, 5, and Tiana, 3, can often be found on his Instagram page, as Dwayne Johnson shares precious family moments of them playing together, brushing and braiding hair, and sometimes painting nails!
Bonus: This picture of Dwayne Johnson in the ’90s will always be iconic.
Do you think Dwayne Johnson is a positive role model for kids, and even adults? We would love to hear your thoughts about this!