“No matter what puts you down, in my eyes and in my mind, there is always another day. Just because I’m paralyzed and stuck in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean my life is over. I’ve learned to live again and my life is far from over.” — Darren Drozdov
WWE Superstar Darren Drozdov was 30 years old in 1999. He was an outstanding, multiple-sport athlete, a former defensive tackle for the University of Maryland who had a short NFL career and went on to become one of WWE’s brightest prospects.
On Oct. 5 of that year, at a WWE TV taping at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y, in a heartbeat, the 6-foot-3, 280-pounder became a quadriplegic with essentially no movement below the neck.
A basic pro wrestling maneuver called a power bomb delivered to Droz by veteran grappler D’Lo Brown went terribly wrong, and multiple people’s lives were changed. Forever.
I met Droz when we were recruiting him for WWE and I was EVP of the Talent Relations department. Droz had gained a degree of infamy after he vomited on the football prior to the center snapping the pigskin on “Monday Night Football.”
The incident became a highlight-reel moment for the Denver Broncos nose tackle. It earned Droz the nickname “Puke,” which caught the interest of WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. When we met with Droz in McMahon’s office, the likable and charismatic athlete puked in the chairman’s trash can — on camera, by the way — as a part of his audition.’
In high school, Darren Drozdov was a 6-foot-3, 240-pound option quarterback who by his own admission — and with a smile — “did not throw the ball much, but I did run over a lot of people.” Droz also was an outstanding track and field athlete as he competed in the shot put, javelin, and discus, even earning a spot in the state track meet as a 110-meter high hurdler. Droz followed in the footsteps of his father, who was Maryland’s last three-sport letterman.
Today, the 45-year-old Droz lives near where he grew up in South Jersey, across the river from his father and mother along with his sister and her family. Droz has to have 24-hour, in-home care to help him function. Thanks to the efforts of WWE and others, Droz is able to have a degree of independence and many of his staff have become like extended family.
“The McMahons came through for me and I remember my Dad saying after the surgeries that ‘Thank God that you worked for WWE,’ ” Droz said. “The WWE is still supportive.”