Updated: Aug. 11, 2022, 2:31 p.m Published: Aug. 11, 2022, 2:22 p.m.
Hayden Pittman doesnt yet know what his signature wrestling move is going to be, but hes already got a name in mind.
Im thinking about calling it the Pitt Stick, Pittman said. You know, kinda like hit stick.
Print the T-shirts already. Ill be the first person to buy one.
Ive been writing about sports for over 20 years, but this is the first time in my career Ive broken news on the pro wrestling beat. Hopefully not the last either. Pitt Stick, folks, always remember where you read it first.Pittman is a former football player for UAB. For UAB football fans, his career as a tight end and receiver will always embody the fighting spirit of what made The Return of the Blazers such a huge success. For everyone else, Pittmans story of toughness and willpower is on its way to becoming a representation of something else entirely.
And that thing, we can only hope, is a Pitt Stick off the top rope during WWEs WrestleMania.
On Wednesday, the biggest brand in professional wrestling announced to the world that Pittman, a kid who used to shuck oysters down in Spanish Fort, Alabama, made the final cut in a tryout to find the next generation of stars for WWE. Pittman is set to sign a three-year developmental contract with the wrestling firm, and then begin the training that goes into becoming an international pro wrestling star.
I talked to Pittman on Thursday morning. He is beyond excited, and his former teammates and coaches are treating him like a celebrity. Pittman, Im told, was the guy on the team who danced through every practice for five straight years. Naturally, his uncontrollable dance moves are what helped him stand out from other pro-wrestling candidates a couple weeks ago during a tryout of 50 former college athletes.
Once that music starts, Pittman said, I just cant help it. I gotta dance.
Pittmans personality can best be described as awe shucks what the heck lets do this and dance while its happening.
Hes not shy, in other words. Performing, one might say, is what Pittman was born to do. He went to Nashville for tryouts during WWEs SummerSlam 2022 and didnt hold back. Of the 50 former college athletes to try out, Pittman was one of 14 selected for developmental contracts. The famous former pro wrestler Paul Levesque Triple H is the person who gave the news to Pittman and others than they made it.
I think the biggest thing is they liked my personality, he said. I was just trying to be myself and have fun with it.
Pittman didnt know what to think about pro wrestling before the tryouts. A month ago, his goal was to be a pro football player. He can still do it if pro wrestling falls through, but hes committed to this new opportunity. There are plenty of former football players who have made the switch to pro wrestling. Pittman certainly has the frame for it. At 6-4 and 235 pounds, he was a matchup nightmare for college defenses.
Then theres this. Pittman was never seriously injured while playing college football, or if he was then he played through the pain. I dont know anything about pro wrestling, but that seems like a good indicator for success. Pittman played in every game at UAB from the beginning of the Blazers return to football in 2017 through the 2021 season. His 63 games played for UAB is a record that likely will never be broken.
Pittman reports to WWEs training headquarters in Orlando on August 29. On Thursday, he was at UABs football practice offering support for his former teammates.
Theres nothing like fall football practice, Pittman said.
The Blazers first game of the season is at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1, at Protective Stadium. UAB is opening up against Alabama A&M. Its going to be a great atmosphere for a season opener. The Blazers are coming off of their biggest win in program history, that amazing 31-28 beatdown of BYU in the Independence Bowl.
Pittman had three receptions against BYU in his final game with UAB. His was an unlikely college career from the start.
A high school standout for Spanish Fort, Pittman was a walk- on at UAB in 2016. His last job before college was shucking oysters at Half Shells in his hometown. The Blazers didnt play games that first year Pittman was a freshman. It was just an endless stream of practices.
Pittman originally followed his high school teammate Tyler Johnston III to Birmingham, and had no idea if he was cut out for college football. He showed up to campus skinny, but enthusiastic. That first summer he says he put on about 38 pounds of muscle in three months. After a year and half, Pittman was awarded with a scholarship.
Pittman loves UAB, and his former teammates are like family. It goes deeper than football for him. Not long after arriving to campus in 2016, Pittmans father, Mark, passed away from cancer. Haydens teammates got him through some tough times.
Now theyre all dancing for joy for this chance of a lifetime earned by their charismatic buddy.
Every time they see me, they scream and they start dancing, Pittman said of his former teammates. Theyre so excited for me, and that makes me more excited.
Im rooting hard for Pittman, and if he makes it as a pro wrestler then that would be a major win for the marketing of UAB football. What is it about former UAB football players becoming celebrities away from the game? Names like Bryan Thomas, Roddy White and Jordan Howard connect UAB to the NFL, but UABs most famous football alum is country music star Sam Hunt.
Cant say that I know much about the minutiae of present-day pro wrestling, but everyone understands the star potential that comes with breaking through with WWE. Some of the biggest celebrities in the country are former pro wrestlers.
Thats too much to think about, though. Pittman has the right attitude about all of this. Hes just going to try his best.
Im going to go down there and give it my all, Pittman said. Im just going to go with it and learn and see where this takes me.
Pittman has a phrase in mind for his signature wrestling move, but what about his ring name? He says he doesnt know.
I dont know what Im going to be, Pittman said. Im pretty sure they have people down there who will help me find it.
Unless you got a name for me.
Well, pro wrestling already has The Rock, but is it ready for The Fire?