University of Florida football player. WWE Superstar. Dedicated philanthropist and mentor. Now Titus O'Neil can add another title to his resume: author. There's No Such Thing as a Bad Kid: How I Went From Stereotype to Prototype, published Tuesday, is an often moving memoir by the man born Thaddeus Bullard. His life began in a rough place, as the result of someone raping his mother when she was 11 years old. He grew up in grinding poverty but found his way to fame and fortune through determination, athletic talent and, he says, the right words at the right time from adults he respected. We talked to the Tampa resident by phone.
What made you decide to write a book?
Over the last 10 to 15 years I've been heavily involved in working with schools and coaching. I see some people still have the notion that there's such a thing as bad kids. I just get tired of it, of correcting teachers and other people.
Also, I'm continually telling my story at events, and people always say, "You should write a book." It's not an autobiography. It's stories from my life that I hope will be inspirational and motivational for educators and other adults who work with kids.
You write about your many successes, but you also write about things like the misstep that went viral as the Titus World Slide, when you were entering the ring at the 2018 Greatest Royal Rumble and took a fall on camera that led to you sliding right under the wrestling ring. Why did you include that?
Even now I talk to kids about it and I tell them, you might fall or trip and your homeboys and homegirls will make fun of you. I did it in front of millions, and ESPN must have played it a million times. But I tell myself that people have tripped and fallen on the Grammy stages, on the Oscar stages. It's all in how you respond. We all make mistakes, but it turned out all right because I embraced it, I laughed about it. John Cena and Mysterioso were there, the list goes on and on, but the only thing people remember is the Titus World Slide.
Your sons are 13 and 15 years old. Have they read your book? How did they react?
Yes, they have. My younger son said he remembers me talking about some of those things when he was little. Of course, he's still little to me. My older son said, "Dad, I agree, it's not a wrestling book. Anybody can learn from the lessons you talk about." He asked if he could give copies to his friends. That made me proud.