Darren Drozdov, a former University of Maryland football standout who had a three-year NFL career and later found stardom in professional wrestling before a catastrophic in-ring injury cut his career short, has died. He was 54.
According to World Wrestling Entertainment, Drozdov died Friday morning from natural causes. His family provided the professional wrestling organization with a lengthy statement, in which they confirmed the tragic news and paid tribute to the beloved athlete.
“Darren, affectionately known as ‘Droz,’ was involved in a tragic ring accident while wrestling for the WWE in 1999 that rendered him a quadriplegic,” the statement said. “Nevertheless, Droz maintained a championship mindset and lived every day to the fullest even though he was unable to move from the neck down for the past 24 years. His own words sum up his relentless positivity in the midst of adversity: ‘There is always another day. Just because I’m paralyzed and stuck in a wheelchair, doesn’t mean my life is over. I’ve learned to live again, and my life is far from over.'”
The family went on to thank the WWE for treating him like family as well as supporting Daren and making sure he “always had the proper care and treatment needed to live in his condition over the past 24 years.”
Drozdov is being remembered as “a devoted son, brother, and friend who had always put others first, especially his family.”
Described as “an imposing force in the ring,” the WWE honored Drozdov with a touching tribute on its website.
“Darren Drozdov became a notable figure in WWE, known to fans as both Puke and Droz during his time as an in-ring competitor,” the statement read. “Drozdov was a gifted athlete before coming to WWE, playing football at the University of Maryland before stints in the NFL with the New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, and Denver Broncos.”
“Drozdov captivated audiences in the late 1990s with his time spent in the Legion of Doom teaming with Animal and his Droz’s World vignettes,” the statement continued. “WWE extends its condolences to Darren Drozdov’s family, friends and fans.”
After a short career in the NFL (1993 was the only year when he saw the field as a defensive tackle with the Broncos, when he also vomited on the football during a Monday Night Football game), Drozdov joined Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) in 1997 before making his WWE debut the following year.
Drozdov — nicknamed “Puke” because of his ability to vomit on command — was left paralyzed after suffering an in-ring injury on Oct. 5, 1999, during SmackDown. While facing off the wrestler D’Lo Brown, Drozdov landed on his head and broke two vertebrae in his neck.
While he carried on with a positive outlook, Drozdov admitted in a 2014 FOX Sports profile that taking dozens of meds several times a day — coupled with having to lay flat for long periods — took a toll on him. Nevertheless, his goal remained the same, to lift up those around him.
“My team is a Godsend and all I can do for them is to not give up and to battle just like I have all my life,” he told FOX Sports at the time. “I even try and motivate them, and I hope that I do.”
Source: ET Online