WWE superstar and current one half of the Tag Team Champions, Titus O'Neil spoke to BREATHEcast about his incredible testimony, his good work outside sports entertainment, and his longing to make a difference in people's lives.
Titus said his dream was never to be in the WWE, but was always to have a platform to do great things on a personal and professional level. With the company being one of the biggest sports franchises in the world, he feels the WWE affords him no better opportunity to make his dream a reality.
"As I'm traveling around the world and meeting people from all walks of life, it is a dream come true because, my life was impacted by people from all walks of life," said Titus. "Now I get to reinvest in the cultures, characters, and the backgrounds of people that emulated my background and my up bringing and it's very rewarding to me."
The wrestler said a lot of people ask him, 'What's the greatest thing about being a WWE superstar? Is it winning a championship or going to cool cities?' His response is "No, to be quite honest it's being able to meet great people and be a light, and a positive influence and a positive image."
He said not only is he an athlete but also an African American male, a father, and a performer. "All the stereotypes that come with being me...there are all types of stereotypes that come with that and I just get a great opportunity with God's help to go out and completely destroy those stereotypes one by one."
Part of the reason Titus strives to be this example of excellence is because of his background. His family has overcome great tragedy and hardship. O'Neil's mother was raped when she was just 11-years-old by her mother's boyfriend. His mother, despite the odds and others telling her to abort the baby, wanted to have the child. Titus is the result of that pregnancy, and uses that chaotic upbringing as fuel to keep pushing on.
Growing up Titus and his family struggled financially. They lived in a two bedroom apartment with government housing. He shared that he didn't have much to call his own including clothing, and managed to get by with a few pairs of pants and shirts. And even in that, he had to share them with other family members.
"[During] Christmas if it wasn't for the Boys and Girls Club or family members I wouldn't have been able to get gifts and stuff like that. My mom was just trying to keep the lights on and keep food on the table."
Titus also began to exhibit problems outside of the home, getting in trouble, fighting, and blowing his fuse easily. "I got told at a very early age 'you're gonna be dead or in jail' by the time I was gonna be 16 or 17 years-old because I had a very bad temper."
He continued, "I had a lot of anger issues and as I got older I realized that a majority of those anger issues came about just like anyone in my position. You don't have any money, you don't have a father around. I'm looking at everyone else and see their dad, coming to the games and stuff like that. It was very frustrating to me and my only way of responding was to fight."
Fortunately for him, Titus was blessed with a way out. As he got older he had the opportunity to go to a place called the Florida Boys Ranch. He credits this boys ranch as the place that put him in the position to get to where he is now. Out of thousands of names ahead of him on the list, Titus was selected.
"There were many times that I should have been kicked off the boys ranch because of my behavior," said O'Neil. However, he had a few Christian teachers that steered him on the right course. "They never gave me an opportunity to think about quitting or giving up. They always told me, 'The only thing you ever owe me is go and get an education and when you have opportunity, you give as much of your time, your tithes, and your talents to those who are in need just like you'."
These adult figures became his examples and the little things they did, buying him food, clothes, and even movie tickets helped shape him as a man. "So that's all I literally do every week."
One such example that was in the news recently was his decision to take out a group of homeless people to eat. The story gained attention for his generous heart, but according to Titus, this was not an isolated incident. Just three months ago he feed the homeless in his hometown of Tampa.
He then shared a story of an incident two years ago at SummerSlam. Titus befriended a homeless man who was trying to use a restroom at a hotel. They wouldn't let him because he didn't have a room there. The humble superstar had leftovers at his restaurant table and instead of throwing them away, said "lets go find some homeless people to give this food to." When they went out Titus saw the man who got denied to use the restroom. The man said to him, "I really would like some change for some coffee, I appreciate the food, but I really want some coffee."
So Titus brought him into the restaurant with him and the homeless man said, "Nah, they won't let me in there" to which Titus replied, "Well they don't have a choice because you're going in there with me."
Homelessness is a big deal to Titus because he's practically been there. He said everyone is one situation away from being homeless. "People look down on people that they don't relate to because they are not in that situation. Just like that person who is homeless, you can wake up tomorrow and your wife is diagnosed with breast cancer, or your child wakes up in the morning and is diagnosed with autism," he said. "It just shakes your whole world up and people don't understand that. That's why a lot of time even when people are believers, they kind of go off the deep end when it comes to a lot of things because they never had to struggle."
Titus has lived the struggle, he's gone without food and clothing. It was as real to him as it was for that homeless man on the street, and that is a point he can not drive home enough. It is what keeps him in gear to do what he does.
"It was always my goal not to just be this big rich and famous football player and basketball player, it was to be able to be a good father and to be doing something that I enjoy doing where i can reach people," he revealed. "And even when I'm done with WWE, I'm gonna be doing the same thing, coaching somewhere or doing some broadcasting on one of these networks, and doing the same exact thing. I already know it because God showed me that before he even showed me WWE."
Read part two here to hear more about Titus O'Neil's life testimony and his 'accidental' contract with the WWE.