Friends and fans of Thaddeus Bullard, better known as World Wrestling Entertainment star Titus O'Neil, waited in line Sunday to get an autographed copy of his new autobiography, There's No Such Thing as a Bad Kid, at the Carrollwood Barnes & Noble in Tampa.
The book chronicles Bullard's life growing up in Delray Beach. His mother, Daria Bullard, gave birth to him when she was 12. She would later send him to the Florida Boys Ranch in Live Oak. Bullard went on to become an honor roll student at Suwannee High School and a standout football player, accepting an offer to attend the University of Florida.
After college, Bullard played Arena Football from 2003 to 2007, then joined WWE, where he would become a wrestling favorite.
Bullard calls Tampa home, where he's the father of sons Thaddeus Jr., 15, and Titus, 13. When he's not on the road wrestling, you can find him making weekly visits to Sligh Middle Magnet School, Memorial Middle School and Academy Prep, where he hopes to make a positive impact on students from all walks of life.
While Bullard continued posing for photos and signing books for fans, familiar faces like Superintendent Jeff Eakins and Daniel Baugh, the Assistant Principal at Sligh Middle School, waited to get their copies autographed.
"He's the guy who's the face of our community. He's there every day, he know the parents, he knows the kids," said Baugh. "We can't thank him enough for the work that he does for students and the community."
Bullard became emotional when he spotted 11-year-old Brogan Paul of Lakeland wearing her Buccaneers cheerleading uniform. Paul, who has Down Syndrome, met Bullard during the photo shoot for the cover of his book last year in Orlando. They have remained in contact through her mother, Sharon Paul.
Bullard says he hopes his book will inspire others not to give to up hope.
"This book is a culmination of ups and downs in my life," he said. "Education and positive mentors gave me an opportunity to be in this position."