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WWE NXT’s Trick Williams on his Eagles tryout, going from football to wrestling, and WrestleMania in Philly

The former South Carolina wide receiver didn’t make the Birds, but that set him on the path to becoming a pro wrestler.

WWE NXT superstar Trick Williams played college football before transition to pro wrestling.
WWE NXT superstar Trick Williams played college football before transition to pro wrestling.Read moreCourtesy of WWE

Trick Williams is ready for his big moment at the Wells Fargo Center.

He’ll be on the WWE NXT Stand and Deliver card during WrestleMania weekend on April 6. But back in 2018, Williams thought his moment in Philadelphia might come across the street at Lincoln Financial Field, with the Eagles.

Williams — his real name is Matrick Belton — took part in Eagles rookie minicamp in 2018 after a college football career as a wide receiver at South Carolina. He didn’t make the team, but that experience ultimately set him on the path to becoming a professional wrestler. Now, with WrestleMania XL in Philadelphia, Williams’ journey is coming full-circle.

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What was your Eagles minicamp experience like?

It was great, man. First of all, Duce Staley — he actually is from Columbia, S.C., where he played for the University of South Carolina, and [he] played for the Eagles and actually coached for the Eagles while I was there. When I got to camp, I asked him, “What can I do to make this team?” and he told me straight up — he was very honest with me — he said, “There’s nothing you can do to make this team. Just don’t do anything that will mess it up for you.”

With that being said, I went in the camp. I absolutely got the footage out and I felt so good going into camp and being at camp. Until the day I got cut, I really thought that I was going to make the team. But seeing how that didn’t happen, I just knew that there was something else for me on the other side. I am where I am today, completely happy.

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How did you transition from football to wrestling?

My football career ended in Philadelphia, trying out for the Eagles, and my wrestling career started in Philadelphia as well. [When] I got cut from camp in 2018, my agent was trying to hook me up with another team or possibly the XFL. Somehow or another, I guess, when he sent my film out to different teams in the XFL — which was owned by Vince McMahon at the time — I don’t know if the film and footage on my profile got shown to the WWE, but I got an email asking me if I want to attend the WWE tryout. This was at the end of 2018, December of 2018.

Up to that point, I never thought about wrestling, but I was open to it because I really felt like it’s something I can do very well, having an athletic background in football and sports and just a natural feel for entertainment. I went through that trial in December and they told me, “Go get some wrestling experience, and we’ll bring you back for another tryout.” I moved back to South Philly to train [in] wrestling, and then I got signed in February 2020 to the WWE.

What did that transition look like in training, pivoting from football to wrestling?

It was a foreign world for me. Playing football, I would say I trained 20 years on how to stay on my feet. I played wide receiver, so the goal was to stay off the ground as much as possible. Transitioning into being a sports entertainer, I had to learn how to fall. I hit the ground a lot more, how to roll or how to bump on my back, all types of different stuff like that. I think that was the biggest adjustment for me, naturally learning how to fall and how to fall without hurting myself, learning how to throw different type of kicks and strikes and different things like that. I enjoyed it. I was up to the task, but it was definitely a foreign world.

» READ MORE: WrestleMania descends on Philadelphia: Five days of title fights, star showdowns, and fan festivities

How do you feel your football career helped you in wrestling?

Playing football for a long time, you’re really trying to be a soldier — learn how to take critiques, take coaching, and then perform at a very high level. Our bodies were built to take all the type of impact and take all types of adversity, but on a deeper note, learn how to overcome adversity mentally.

My football journey was not easy at all. I went to Hampton University my freshman year, where I decided to take a chance on myself and leave a full scholarship to walk on at the University of South Carolina. I walked on — I competed and I found a spot on the team. Won breakout, outstanding offensive walk-on, to being in the starting lineup as a walk-on at an SEC program. That takes resilience. Going through all of that to my senior year and I didn’t get as much playing time at University of South Carolina, and training for a whole year, just to find myself in a tryout with the Philadelphia Eagles.

[It’s a] similar story. Taking the cards that were dealt to me and learning how to overcome and how to fight in these situations has come in handy for me transitioning my career. No matter what cards I’m dealt, I know how to fight through and know how to make the best out of my situation.

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What about your personality makes you a good fit for WWE?

I just think I have a natural feel for liking people, liking to be around energetic situations. It’s really my goal in life that every single room that I walk in, I want people to feel better that I’m there. It started off with little things, maybe in a wide receiver meeting room or class, to now on a grand scheme. When I walk into the arena or stadiums, people can feel my presence now. It seemed like a little thing when I told myself, “That’s the goal, I want it,” but now to see it on the big stage is awesome.