An article by Mike Mooneyham
“Nature Boy” Ric Flair, who has most definitely made his mark on the world of professional wrestling, might have been a star on the gridiron had not fate, or more specifically grades, intervened.
Flair, the son of a Minnesota gynecologist, was heavily recruited as a football player out of high school and earned a scholarship at the University of Minnesota. But Flair, who played offensive guard and defensive tackle, dropped out of school during his second year when his grades made him ineligible for the team.
Greg Gagne, a friend of Flair, helped him decide to turn pro wrestler. Trained by Greg’s father Verne, whom Flair credits as having the greatest influence on his career, Flair began his career in the squared circle in late 1972.
“It’s been many years ago, but I believe it was in 1969 when I recruited Ric Flair,” University of South Carolina athletic director Mike McGee said Friday. McGee, who served as University of Minnesota offensive line coach and head recruiter from 1966-69, moved on as head coach at East Carolina in 1970.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]“When I was coach at Duke in the ’70s, Ric was quite the personality on the wrestling circuit,” recalled McGee. “He once went on TV and mentioned that I had recruited him when he was a football player at the University of Minnesota, and he consequently called the football office at Duke. He invited my sons, who are all grown now, and myself to a show at the coliseum in Raleigh and took us behind the scenes backstage and introduced us to some of the other wrestlers. I must admit, however, that that was the first and only time I’ve been to a professional wrestling event. But Ric’s certainly a nice fellow, and he was terrific to my sons and I appreciated that. It was quite an entertaining evening.”
McGee also noted that Flair must have been a unique prospect due to the fact that Minnesota was primarily known for its hockey players.
“Minnesota recruits a lot of hockey players, but not many football players, so he was sort of unusual for those parts. I think he would have made more of a defensive player, however, because I’ve watched some of the moves he makes in the ring, and he would be more suited to defense than offense.
“He certainly has made quite a name for himself, and like his name, he’s got flair and a lot of style. I’m sure he could have been successful in any sport he chose. I just hope he’s got some sons or daughters coming along that we can recruit here at the University of South Carolina.”