Darren Drozdov, a former NFL football player who pursued a wrestling career that was cut short after an in-ring accident that paralyzed him, died on Friday. He was 54 years old.
His death, at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Pomona, NJ, was confirmed by his sister, Rommi Drozdov, and his agent and longtime friend, Cliff Stein. A cause of death wasn’t immediately clear.
Before Mr. Drozdov made his mark in the wrestling world, he first came to public attention as an N.FL. player after vomiting on a soccer ball during a Monday night game, Mr Stein said. Some reports indicate this vomited more than once.
Mr. Drozdov grew up in Mays Landing, NJ where he has spent most of his adult life. He attended the University of Maryland, where he played soccer, and graduated in 1992 with a degree in criminal justice.
Upon graduation, he was signed as an undrafted rookie for the Denver Broncos. Mr. Drozdov, who stood 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 280 pounds when he played football, has also worked with the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles.
While playing for the Montreal Alouettes, a professional Canadian football team, he began thinking about a career in professional wrestling, Mr. Stein said. It was something that had always been in the back of his mind.
« His personality was so colorful, and the crests and tattoos and the way he spoke, all said, ‘You’re a fighter,' » Mr. Stein recalled. “He would call you ‘brother’. He would pick you up. His presence was so great.
Mr. Drozdov, known as Droz and Puke, was eventually accepted into a WWE training program. Subsequently, he was placed in more games. He became a member of the Road Warriors, a popular tag team, and became famous for his « Droz’s World » cartoons, WWE said.
Early in his career, he was in a WWE training program with other notable wrestlers like Matt Bloom, known as Prince Albert, and Dwayne Johnson, the actor known as Rock, who mourned Drozdov’s death. on Twitter.
« We wrestled together on many cards, » wrote Mr. Johnson. “Such a great guy. Great personality and great wrestling talent. We always talked about football and fishing. Sending love, strength, mana and light to his family. RIP brother.
During a 1999 wrestling match at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, NY, Mr. Drozdov suffered an injury that rendered him a quadriplegic, effectively ending his wrestling career.
He fractured two discs in his neck in a stunt gone wrong after being knocked down by his opponent, D’Lo Brown, and landed on his head instead of his back.
Mr. Drozdov was born in Wilmington, Del. on April 7, 1969, the son of Olaf and Cyndi Drozdov. His mother worked in real estate and owned three laundromats, and his father was a professor at Atlantic Cape Community College in New Jersey.
Survivors include Mr. Drozdov’s parents and his sister. A marriage in 1999 ended in divorce in 2001.
Mr. Drozdov’s sister helped care for him after he was injured. She spent much of her time rooting for her four children, she said.
« He loved watching them grow up, » Ms. Drozdov said. “He used to go to all the football matches, soccer, tennis, everything. You could always find him courtside where my kids are.
He also continued to hunt, one of many outdoor sports he enjoyed.
Kevin Plank, a friend of Mr. Drozdov and founder of sportswear company Under Armor, facilitated the design of a wheelchair that was essentially a « wheeled tank, » which enabled Mr. Drozdov to move through the woods, Mr. Stein said.
Mr. Drozdov’s family members described him as relentlessly positive following the wrestling incident.
In a statementthey quoted his own words.
« There’s always another day, » she said. “Just because I’m paralyzed and stuck in a wheelchair doesn’t mean my life is over. I learned to live again and my life is far from over.