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Earl Mitchell checks out WWE NXT workouts

Maybe he’s looking at life after football.

The San Francisco 49ers have nose tackle Earl Mitchell locked up for three more years, after that he’ll be 33 and that’s an age that is usually the beginning of the end for one’s football career.

This isn’t indicative of anything, but WWE posted these out on instagram of some NXT visitors and look who’s there:

For those of you who don’t follow, NXT is the WWE’s ‘farm’ league or developmental territory where they get their talent ready to go to the Raw or Smackdown rosters. Former WWE wrestler and now executive Triple H has made NXT into a great product, rivaling the big guns with Raw and Smackdown. The only problem with NXT has been the same with any developmental league—call-ups can deplete your roster and change things overnight. If you got into WWE as a wrestler, your first stop most likely would be NXT.

Judging by the announcement WWE made of the tryouts this week, Mitchell wasn’t among those giving it a shot, but judging by the second photo, he was taking notes. Many NFL contracts explicitly prohibit professional wrestling or other extreme sports in the offseason or otherwise (to prevent injury). I don’t know if this was written into Mitchell’s contract, but it may have been. It’s not the first time Mitchell has been to a WWE facility as he’s been documented as being a wrestling fan.

Whether he is looking to get into the wrestling side of it or maybe work as a trainer or even a booker is yet to be determined. Contrary to what some think, professional wrestling is a sport that does require athleticism and pushing your own body. Having been in a ring myself (albeit briefly), I described it to someone as, “running on a treadmill at 7 mph for a half hour, then the instant you get off it, being tossed a 45 lb bar and having to curl it for 20 reps with perfect form”. Don’t get me wrong, wrestling is crazy fun, but it’s also physically and mentally demanding—especially when you’re putting someone’s life in your hands. Every day when I got done with an hour of training, my entire body would be sore and ready to fall apart—and that’s not an understatement. It’d take me a week to recover (and WWE superstars do it three-four nights a week).

For that reason, it can be a next step for several athletes when their careers in professional sports come to an end. The WWE signed Ronda Rousey after her MMA career ended and mega-star Goldberg played in the NFL before an injury ended his professional football aspirations. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has also been rumored to be considering a career in professional wrestling when things come to a close for his career as well. Brock Lesnar did the opposite and left the WWE briefly to pursue a career in the NFL playing for the Minnesota Vikings, but didn’t make it past final roster cuts.

The name recognition alone helps as Earl Mitchell, being an NFL star would be a ‘draw’. While he’s not near as animated as Gronk, he’s definitely athletic but able to play a big-man role. And Vince McMahon likes big guys.

I know I wouldn’t want to face him for the championship. He can have it.