In the opening moments of Raw on October 23, Roman Reigns announced that he has been living with leukemia for 11 years and the disease’s return would force him to relinquish the Universal Championship and take a leave of absence from WWE.
In a rare public appearance since announcing his leukemia diagnosis, Reigns showed up today on the sidelines of his collegiate alma mater, Georgia Tech.
Reigns showed his support for the Yellow Jackets on the team’s official Twitter account, letting the school’s longtime rival, Georgia Bulldogs, know that “The Big Dog” was on the premises.
“I’m the real big dog here. To hell with Georgia, baby,” Reigns said with a smile.
— Georgia Tech Football (@GeorgiaTechFB) November 24, 2018
His wife, Galina, who is also a Georgia Tech alumnus, was there with him.
— Miles Garrett (@MilesWGXA) November 24, 2018
WWE Superstar Roman Reigns with some random dude pic.twitter.com/u7NZwjIPl7
— Kevin Faigle (@kevinfaiglewrdw) November 24, 2018
Before becoming a multi-time world champion in WWE, Reigns played as a three-year starter for the Georgia Tech football team. He was named a team captain for the Yellow Jackets his senior year and was also recognized as a first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) member during his tenure.
When we last heard from Reigns, the 33-year-old insisted that he is not retiring from professional wrestling and is very confident he will return stronger and better than ever after he beats leukemia again. Earlier this week, the NFL’s Tennessee Titans showed their support to Reigns as several players posed for a photo holding two jerseys.
One jersey was numbered 1 and said “Reigns” on it whilst the other jersey had his real last name, Anoa’i, written on it and included the number 96, which is what he wore in college at Georgia Tech.
The Titans included a touching message for Reigns and stated that a “special gift” is coming his way.
Sending good vibes to our guy @WWERomanReigns 🤙🏽
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) November 23, 2018
While Reigns played in the NFL after graduating from Georgia Tech, he never actually played for the Titans. After going undrafted in the 2007 NFL Draft, Anoaʻi was signed by the Minnesota Vikings in May 2007 but was released later that month. The Jacksonville Jaguars signed him in August 2007, only to release him less than a week later, thus ending his NFL career.
While Reigns said he contracted leukemia 11 years ago, he also noted that it was after his football career was over. That timeline doesn’t fit perfectly since he played the 2008 season with the Edmonton Eskimos in the Canadian Football League before retiring from professional football. Although to him, he probably feels that being cut from the Jaguars marked the end of his football career.
It’s unclear when his leukemia went into remission. He signed with WWE in July 2010, so he was probably fine by that point.