Tito Santana recently spoke with WrestleZone and talked about his path to professional wrestling and how it started in college. Tito was a student at West Texas State University (now West Texas A&M University) and played tight end for the school’s football team. It was there that he met Tully Blanchard, who later helped him break into professional wrestling, but the connection between the school goes beyond those two.
Some of the other wrestlers that came through West Texas State were Stan Hansen, Ted DiBiase, Manny Fernandez, Bruiser Brody, Blackjack Mulligan and Dusty Rhodes. Tito says people already knew of the Funks because of their father’s wrestling promotion but many of the football players saw wrestling as an opportunity for success, noting that it was a little more fruitful than some of the salaried careers at the time.
“A lot of the football players were becoming wrestlers I guess because Terry Funk and Dory Funk were also football players at West Texas State. Tully Blanchard, myself, The Million Dollar Man, we were on the same team. That’s when Tully Blanchard started talking to me about becoming a professional wrestler. It was an area where wrestling was big already and you know, when you get out of school if you had a degree in teaching I think at the time I graduated in 1975, I think the basic salary in Texas was like $6,000 to be a teacher. My roommate in college was a teacher and he could barely afford a car and an apartment. He was struggling to feed himself and it wasn’t a lot of money so when opportunities like wrestling came around, a lot of football players jumped at it.”
Santana ended up graduating with a degree but stayed in sports since education wasn’t paying much at the time. Santana said he gave teaching a shot after his in-ring career was winding down, first starting as a substitute teacher since it kept him busy on weekdays. Now, he’s a full-time teacher in New Jersey and has been working as an educator for nearly twenty years.
Check out our full interview with Tito Santana at the top of this post. The next ’80s Wrestling Virtual Signing will feature former WWF World Champion SGT. SLAUGHTER on Monday, October 19th. Former WWF World Tag Team Champions DEMOLITION will appear on Monday, November 16th, and Brutus Beefcake and Greg Valentine (aka The Dream Team) will appear on Monday, December 14.
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