College football star and WWE prospect, Evidence Njoku appeared on Front Row Seat. He talks about growing up in a family of nine kids, including his brother David Njoku, who plays tight end in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. Evidence discusses why he is leaving football behind to pursue his WWE dreams.
Watch the full episode:
Here are the show notes along with a transcription of the interview.
Episode # 3
Episode Title: Evidence Njoku
Episode Description: After overcoming mental health stigma, football player Evidence Njoku now trains and prepares for his professional wrestling career, leads an annual humanitarian foundation in Nigeria and relives his religious faith through baptism.
Guest Information: Evidence Njoku started his career at the University of Miami and is now on a route into the world of entertainment and The WWE.
- Evidence's talks about his roots and family
- School athletics in University of Miami
- Injuries in football
- How Evidence got into wrestling
- WWE future plans
- Comparing WWE training versus football
- Annual give back foundation trip in Nigeria
- Evidence recounts how he dealt with stigma and mental health
- Faith and baptism journey
- Dream match-up with the Hardy brothers
- Rapid fire section
- Evidence's message to fans.
Shane: Hello, I'm Shane Mercer and welcome to Front Row Seat, part of the Millions Podcast Network. My guest today Evidence Njoku AKA ‘Prophet’. Welcome to the show, man.
Evidence: Thank you.
Shane: Look at you. You're down there. What? Miami Florida looks beautiful out there. It looks like you're living the life.
Evidence: You know, it's not too bad since it's sunny, but you know.
Shane: Good, good man. You've got a famous last name because of your brother David, he plays football in the NFL with the grounds tightened you. But you guys come from a really big family.
Evidence: Yes sir.
Shane: So tell me about that. What is it? Nine kids and you guys grew up in New Jersey, is that right?
Evidence: I’m one of 9 siblings. We have roots in Nigeria with West Africa. Charles, Evidence, David, Happiness, Gladys, Faith, Lisa, Chelsea. Innocent, he's a medical doctor. My younger brother Charles. He played with him at UCLA. He's a football player. David is who he is in the NFL and my sister Happiness is a pastor and Gladys is in engineering.
Shane: Wow man. That's an impressive family to say the least.
Evidence: Thank you. It means a lot.
Shane: Where did you spend most of your time growing up?
Evidence: I was born in Jersey city. I grew up in a small town maybe like 15 minutes from Montclair called Cedar Grove, New Jersey. I finished high school at Wayne Hills and yeah, so that's kind of my New Jersey roots.
Shane: Watching your brother right now, David Njoku in the NFL, that's got to be pretty cool.
Evidence: Yeah. You know, I had had a blessing or had the privilege to be able to kind of be on his journey in terms of just being around him all the time when he's traveling or going to games or just being around his teammates as well too. I've trained with Odell Beckham, drivers, Jarvis Landry, Kareem Hunt.
Shane: Wow, that's really cool man. What's it like to train with like superstars like that?
Evidence: One thing that I feel like my brothers and I pride ourselves on, we're like extremely competitive. So, I remember when I was at UCLA and we were training with guys like, Daniel Jones, Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard and I mean it was kind of surreal, but at the same time I wanted to like be present in the sense that I know that these guys are superstars, but that competitive nature of me and my brothers as well too, I was kind of stashed them up during the workout just to know that I could keep up as well too. So it was a great experience and that there were multiple experiences like that.
Shane: That's really cool man. So tell me about like when you first started getting into football, was it just something you saw your older brother doing and you're like, “Oh, I'm going to do that too,” like tell me about when in high school, I'm assuming it was when you probably first started playing?
Evidence: Yes sir, so I first started playing when I was in Cedar Grove. I played peewee football throughout my journey in my career. I always idolized David because everybody wants to be like the other brother and everything and he's always been such a world class and such a role model to not only myself but like other athletes as well too. And it's apparent because has done a lot of charity work and get back events in the community as well. And me going to college, I was at the University of Miami for three years, greatest experience in my life, world class university and throughout this whole kind of journey, I was able to meet a lot of good people, be in different states, which it all added up to that I am today.
Shane: When did you realize in high school that, I'm going to get recruited, I'm going to be going to play college ball for sure.
Evidence: I realized after my junior year in high school, I believe it was against when we played Auburn, I had a good game and then my coach at the time Ed Zadlock, he called me in his office and he was telling me about how I was getting notices with scouts and a lot of buzz around me around the town so I just tried to keep an even keel and that's when scholarship began to come in so I'm grateful to God with that.
Shane: I'm assuming you've got several offers. Was it an easy decision to go to the University of Miami?
Evidence: Yes and no. I feel like the love I have for my brother and my family altogether we just I've always wanted to keep this like such a unifying story. So when I made the choice to go to the U, I don't regret a thing. That was the best two years of my life and I made a lot of great connections with people in the building and even greater experience from the field.
Shane: What happens then? You get to the University of Miami. Then what?
Evidence: So after my tenure at the University of Miami, I grew like 3.5 inches, 4 inches. I went through a lot of injuries and ups and downs as well too so I decided to transfer to UCLA with my brother at the time Charles and just me being able to kind of have that outlook on things playing at my brother's school UM at the time having the same kind of experience playing with Charles. It was just such a -- I never really thought that I would be able to have best of both worlds.
Shane: You were at the University of Miami I think for what? Three seasons?
Evidence: Three season, yes sir.
Shane: I'm assuming, first year you probably didn't get as much playing time, but then how did things progress from there?
Evidence: First year I went through a injuries as well as a season ending injury, little surgery. So I had to rest for that year and I changed from my position from a wide receiver to a tight end the year after. So it was just about a lot of me just getting acclimated and just used to just the different kinds of schemes and everything, but it was cool because I knew that my brother was a tight end and me just being able just to be like mentored by him, just an intensive learning, blocking, learning which steps to take. It was like it was cool, different but cool.
Shane: The injury, tell me about that. What happened? A season ending injury sounds pretty serious.
Evidence: Well yeah, I was running around and I like sprained my meniscus so actually just like a little scope that got cleaned up and everything.
Shane: You've actually got different dreams that aren't on the football field, and are actually inside the wrestling ring, you've been to a few WWE tryouts. Talk to me about that. I mean, what was that like?
Evidence: I felt like I was dreaming because like, it was just I didn't know what to expect. I was with like a lot of other competitors that were in the same boat and it was just such a unifying and like positive overall experience. And I got to like be with Brown guys like Shawn Michaels, the McMahons, [0:06:14] the Kofi Kingston I met and it was just like -- it was exciting at the same time, but I also wanted to make sure that I put my best foot forward and I carried myself in a professional sense and overall creative sense.
Shane: When did you first start getting into wrestling?
Evidence: Dude, like I just got chills. Like when I was a kid, me and my brother we used to like pretend like we're wrestlers and I used to like pretend like I was John Cena. So one day when this opportunity happened, I was just like, it was just it felt like it was a dream.
Shane: That's awesome. So you started getting into it around that era, the John Cena era.
Shane: Right. Did you ever watch any of the older wrestling? Stuff from like the ‘80s or ‘90s?
Evidence: No, no, I never watch anything that old.
Shane: Jeez, you're making me feel old over here, man. What about even like the attitude era? Did you ever watch like, Stone Cold?
Evidence: Hell bro, I mean, excuse my French, but DX, all those guys, you know. Like the Hardy boys? I used to think, dude, I used to be Matt Hardy and David used to be Jeff Hardy, like it was just like we used to play the video games as well too, so it was just crazy.
Shane: Talk to me a little bit more about where you see yourself going in the WWE?
Evidence: I'm literally just focused on the process at hand. They want me to gain weight. I'm at, I weighed 237 pounds right now currently, but they want me up at about 245, 250 so I'm just doing what I had to do on the day to day aspect in a training sentence, but when it comes to just a progressive plan, I'm just going to show up when it's time for me to show up and I put my best foot forward and do whatever they tell me to do. So I really don't know what to expect because I've never tried out, get in this situation.
Shane: Did they give you any kind of like indication about when you might be able to sort of go back and after you bulked up a little bit?
Evidence: I'm going to be going there in July along with the other competitors that seems. So I have like a little window of being just training and doing what I got to do and just doing what they expected me.
Shane: I know your brother he came out to support you at the tryout. Is that right?
Evidence: I felt like I was dreaming because just me being in that ring and I just felt, I just, you know, I mean it was cool. It was cool because he also was in the ring as well too, and Triple H was coaching him up and it was just such a positive experience.
Shane: What kind of stuff did they make you do?
Evidence: They made me do things that I wasn't really as prepared for I would say. I used to my drills and my area of expertise used to be cutting drills and weight training and things of that nature. But during this tryout we had to do improv, we had to do these enduring drills as well too like bumps and rolls.
Shane: I don't know if people realize how much athleticism is needed in in professional wrestling in the WWE.
Shane: How would you compare that to like a football workout?
Evidence: The differences of intensity is like, it's different from football obviously like you're not running full speed routes, you're not burning your cardio. Like you're not running a 20-yard dig, but in the ring it's definitely cardio and you have to be agile and you have to be really attentive to detail in the sense that while they're coaching, you’re up, you have to be able to translate all past the learning from the drills into like the ring. So it's definitely a combination of both worlds I would say.
Shane: I guess you have to come up with like a persona, right? Or like a character of sorts. What would that look like for you?
Evidence: I don't really have anything set in stone, but the character that I did kind of present them with was like this kind of African warrior because about 2.5 months ago, me as well as my family went to Nigeria and we participated and my older brother’s like humanitarian, give back situation, we help people and the needy and I kind of brought that kind of idea to them in the try out and I kind of max the try out around that and I mean, it was fun to me. I got positive reinforcement from even some other competitor or the other talent and I'm just open ears, whatever they want me to do, whatever they however route they want me to take in this I’m open ears, open heart.
Shane: Talk to me about that trip to Nigeria, I saw some of the posts on that you posted on Instagram there. It looked like an incredible experience.
Evidence: Yeah, I mean it changed my life. I feel like that trip kind of made things a lot more visible and how I look at myself and how I want to progress with my own journey.
Shane: Let's expand on that a little bit more. You know, you say it changed your life.
Evidence: Well, a few different reasons. Number one, I saw or I'm reunited with a lot of people in my extended family that I haven't seen for like 15-plus years. I was able to really just like be aware to how life really is on other parts of the globe, the people of need and how they just try to survive, get to the next meal and everything. But what really made me really enlightened me the most I would say was how happy everybody was.
Shane: What sort of other lessons might you have taken away from that trip?
Evidence: Are you asking about me in a personal sense or just a general sense?
Shane: No, no. You personally.
Evidence: Okay. Yes, sir. So just me being humbled and me being just grateful for my experiences, I would say the good and the bad and the light in the dark, just being grateful for everything that has brought me to this moment, I would say and just me being inspired to hopefully use that experience and what we're trying to do out there to inspire other people to think the same way.
Shane: I think that's amazing and that it's great that you were able to sort of get back to your roots. It must have meant a lot too to your parents being immigrants to the US and raising nine kids. It must have been really something special for them to sort of be able to make a trip like that with you back to their home country.
Evidence: Yeah, I mean for eight years of my life or seven years my parents were in Nigeria. But us having like -- the last time we were all there as a family, as a collective unit was like 15 years ago. While we were there in Nigeria, me and my brothers, we used to be pretending to fight each other as current WWE superstars. That's funny because David was Batista, Charles was the Undertaker. I used to be John Cena. That's really cool, man. It's funny that wrestling is this thread through your life.
Shane: If you were to end up in the WW, is there a chance that maybe a brother joins you and we see like a tag team duo of sorts?
Evidence: You know what, if that happens like I don't even -- I mean, that would be insane. I asked David if you would do it and he seemed interested, but obviously that's a whole different separate route and journey that we have to make a process to, but that would be the icing on the cake.
Shane: Do you think you'll be going back to Nigeria ever?
Evidence: Yes, so we're going to be having that annual give back for the Foundation every year. So yeah, next year we're going to be going back as well too.
Shane: Talk to me about that. What is this annual give back? What would that look like?
Evidence: So every year we're going to go back and donate more money to our tribe and community and just keep trying to share that awareness and provide for that community the best way we can.
Shane: That sounds great, man. I applaud you and your brothers in that effort. It's great to be able to give back to a community you're so connected to in that way. So I want to ask you about something else and you just let me know how you feel about it and in this part of the conversation, but I saw you post something else recently on Instagram and this was about your mental health. It was a very sort of serious post, but it was about a time in your life about a year ago. Tell me where you were at a year ago.
Evidence: I was in a really dark place mentally in terms of not really knowing who I was. Obviously my brother and his success on the field was always kind of like a not a negative pressure for me, but I realized that his dream was different from my dream and I had all this energy and I really didn't know where to direct it towards, and I was just kind of lost, bro. I just didn't really feel like I was moving forward in life, you know what I mean? Or didn't have any outlook. And yeah, I feel like me along with many other athletes, we go through this, but like a lot of athletes don't make it out on the other side. We're kind of put in between a rock and hearts in a hard place, because we're supposed to be like strong and we're supposed to be like really dominant and really physical, but I was just talking to this one track Olympian, and she was also agreeing with me in the sense that mental health it doesn't discriminate. That came from my heart and I didn't want to make anybody feel like too like, oh my goodness.
Shane: No, I think it's always brave whenever anybody comes forward about their mental health issues and just as much when an athlete does it, because, like you said everybody has this perception that that athletes especially where the general public looks at these people as bigger than life, larger than life, stronger than life.
Evidence: This thing called life, it's tough. You think you haven't figured out, but that's exactly the kind of image that I want my transition from this from the football world to the WWE to represent. Because not only is it going to I feel like I was standing my purpose, it's also kind of healing for me. For me to step away from the from the conformity, not really conformity, but from the stigma of football to be into a different industry where I can feel like I'm like, not necessarily reborn, but I could be myself transparent night and day.
Shane: To me, it sounds like you were on a football path, you're watching your brother who had moved on to the NFL, he's playing in the pros. But maybe you weren't seeing that you were going to be able to walk the same path and you needed to come up with something else.
Evidence: You hit the nail in the head without a doubt.
Shane: How are you able to sort of deal with that and cope with that? Or I guess, if you weren't coping how are you struggling with that?
Evidence: I was struggling in the sense that, like, because I knew that I had a younger brother that kind of looked up to me the same way I looked up to David, I felt a lot of pressure to try to give him the answers. But before anything else, I'm there for my family, I'm here for my brother, David. My brother, Innocent. All of my sisters, even Charles, my parents because they were really there for me. More important than anything I feel like I'm connected with God and I really tried to start doing right by God and trying to build my faith. I got baptized like a week and a half ago with Pastor Mike, he's a team chaplain at the University of Miami. And I think I have a strong communication with him as well as my sister Happiness as a pastor.
And just really trying to be a better person each and every day and just trying to let that kind of light show in the lives of other people and that's all really we can do. So not be too hard on myself. That's the big thing that I'm working on.
Shane: Was there somebody at the time that was able to kind of pull you out of that dark place you were in or did you end up having to pull yourself out or how did you get out? And how long did it take to get out?
Evidence: It's kind of a touchy subject to me because I don't want to come out for a certain way, like I'm being too dramatic, but that was a real thing and I would say my brother David and Charles, they were the one that they were just kind of just assuring me that my value as a person wasn't just attainable, just me being a football player or me being in any industry or anything. It’s my value as a person is who I am and how I can treat people and how I could influence people as well too. So that kind of gave me confidence to just let's ease and not be too hard on myself about the past and everything.
Shane: Was there a moment or was there a specific incident or a time and place where you had reached a tipping point?
Evidence: No, not really. I just, my overall outlook on life was just I just didn't want to do anything. I just didn't want to do anything. I just I feel like my identity was just so much a reflection to me being a ballplayer. And this is why I want to advocate for things like this is because I want to be like, look, to other athletes or even anybody in any field. My sister, she's an engineer and we talk. I have a really good relationship with Gladys and we talked about how her stressful work environment could like effect or influence her. And, I think that it's like a unifying thing to say that there's something that we can all share.
Shane: Right. You mentioned, your faith. Has that always been something that's been part of your life? Or is that something really new for you?
Evidence: I would say I grew up in a Christian household. My mom and parents, they used to always how does and how important God was in being in a relationship with God and everything. But it wasn't until I really like listened to my brother, David and my sister Happiness about really trying to put Him first and like get right with Him because I was questioning everything. Like I didn't know where I was mentally. It wasn't until then that gave me enough confidence to just leave it, just to move ahead, you know? And, you know what I mean? Just try to put my faith in something that's not in myself.
I feel like as young men, we want to put all the pressure on us, we want to provide for our family, we want to help our parents, we want to make it, we want people to accept us as being like good men. And I feel like that pressure I put myself in that kind of pressure ever since I was a kid with my brother Charles, so he could look up to me the same way I would want someone to look up, you know what I mean?
Shane: So talk to me about now about where you're at in terms of your faith. You mentioned you just got baptized just recently?
Evidence: Yeah, I got baptized at the University of Miami and that's also where I've been training and I've been really transparent with my Pastor, Pastor Mike and just really just kind of passionate about me wanting to just feel like I am walking with God and he gave me confidence to just be in my faith and that wasn't something I was used to ever.
Shane: You know a big part of faith is also being part of a church and being part of a community. How important is that at this stage of your life to sort of feel a part of something maybe bigger than yourself?
Evidence: I would go to the church called the Universal Church and that's where my sister is a pastor in Texas. So me and my brothers and my parents would go there and that's also a community that I could identify as, as well as being part of the UFCA, that’s where I got baptized as well too.
Shane: Just to be transparent on my side and where I'm coming from, I grew up in a Catholic family. I'm very Catholic, I was baptized when I was a little baby, I don't remember my baptism, but what's it like to be baptized as an as an adult, as a grown man?
Evidence: I mean, that was the first time I ever got baptized, you know? I think that like when I was growing up, other people used to get baptized, but I never really thought about it. I never really thought about the significance or what it really meant, but being at this age and with the experiences that I've had, I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Shane: Talk to me about that day though, what goes through your mind as you're preparing for something that significant.
Evidence: I just was like thinking to myself that like all the experiences of yesterday, it's going to be like made new again. That's why I'm so passionate about trying to get baptized, it's still like I feel in my head that if I try to be a better person every day to the world or try to admit more positivity and love and like truth and stuff and it'll just come back to me.
Shane: It sounds like you've really been going through a lot of personal and spiritual growth over the last couple of months, that trip to Nigeria, being baptized, what's next for you now? How do you sort of put that all together and sort of build a life for yourself? You're still a very young man.
Evidence: That's what I said about the education aspect of being a Sociology or how that was my previous degree. I believe that we're going to live long lives. So like I don't want to limit myself on to what I can do. But right now my immediate goal and my immediate objective is to be solely immersed in what the WWE development people want me to do, trying to get myself to the best physical shape that I could. The best weight.
Shane: So you're chasing that WWE dream. I love it, man. That's awesome.
Evidence: Thank you bro.
Shane: Yeah, that's really cool. I look forward to watching you in the ring. Hey, let me ask you this. If you could pick, I guess we'll call it a dream match-up, a dream fight in the WWE, who's it going to be with? And not only who's it going to be with, but what kind of match is it going to be like?
Evidence: I mean, dude, I just got chills. I feel like my dream match would be like probably either John Cena or like a guy like Matt and Jeff Hardy versus theoretically speaking me and David. You know what I mean? Obviously they're retired or I don't know if there's still wrestling, but that would be like a movie.
Shane: You and David versus the Hardy bros. Is it just a straight tag team in the ring or are we talking like tag team, ladders, tables, ladders and chairs or hell in a Cell or?
Evidence: Hell in a Cell. Yes, sir, Shane. I’ll leave you to it. Hell in a Cell.
Shane: There we go. Love it. Oh, man, the hell in the cell matches are always wild. I remember watching like Mankind.
Evidence: Yeah. Mick Foley.
Shane: Yeah. He, was unbelievable, man. And the pain and the punishment this guy put himself through. Oh my, are you prepared to do that kind of thing?
Evidence: What? Like physically?
Shane: Like, yeah, physically because Mick Foley is a guy who really put himself through the wringer.
Evidence: No doubt, no doubt. I feel like as football players, we kind of taught to make pain our friend, you know what I mean? Not our friend, but like our ally. But I mean, in terms of that standpoint if I work hard and work smart and in terms of the recovery aspect as well too and making sure that I'm taking care of my body, I think that obviously it's going to be taxing, but we all have the capacity to heal.
Shane: Yeah, that's true. That's true. We do. Well then that'll be really awesome. But I really hope that we all get to see you fight in the ring one day.
Evidence: Yes, sir. With God’s grace.
Shane: This is the rapid fire section here where I'll just shoot some questions at you very straightforward questions that are either yes or no or you pick or choose kind of thing. Okay, so you're ready for it?
Shane: Pineapple on pizza, yes or no?
Evidence: Next. No.
Shane: Dogs or cats?
Shane: Okay. Bath or shower?
Evidence: Is it a cold bath or hot bath?
Shane: Oh, you choose.
Evidence: Ice bath for sure.
Shane: Ice bath. Okay. Alright. Wasn't expecting to hear that. Toilet paper, over or under?
Evidence: Over. Good question.
Shane: Alright Coke or Pepsi?
Shane: TV series or movies?
Evidence: You know what? Movies for sure.
Shane: Phone in the bathroom or no?
Evidence: No, like when it's my time, it's my time.
Shane: Ketchup on fries or beside?
Shane: Do you arrive early or late?
Evidence: Early in the sense that I'm going to try to be early.
Shane: Text, call or Facetime?
Shane: Do we sleep with pajamas or naked?
Shane: There we go. Alright my, man, listen, anything else that you want to put out there before we say goodbye? Any message that you want to share with the world, share with your fans?
Evidence: Just my excitement, overall excitement and just how well they treated the talent, guys like Triple H or just a medical staff too everybody was just so polite and just so friendly and we touched base and a lot of good stuff.
Shane: Awesome man, well I can't wait to see you in the WWE.
Evidence: Thank you, bro.
Shane: Will make you some t-shirts too.
Evidence: Would I have to get a guy to design the logo or is that something that I could just say you got it.
Shane: Oh dude, yeah, we will do whatever you want man for as far as design goes for your t-shirts, your sweaters, your hats, hoodies, whatever you need, man.
Evidence: Wow, thanks, dude. Because I was going to pay somebody like $400.
Shane: Dude, we got you, we got you.
Evidence: How do you connect to the WWE fan base?
Shane: You just direct them to the platform then they can connect with you there through the Ask Me Anything feature, so they can hit you up with questions too, you respond. You can host a watch party. That's an option too. Let's say there's a big WWE event coming up and people that have followed you and or your fans and follow you on Instagram you let them all know that you want to host a watch party for a WWE event and boom, so we got you on the merch, we got you on the watch parties, live streams, whatever you need, man.
Evidence: Thank you, bro. Thank you so much. It means a lot to me honestly. Really guys.
Shane: Alright dude, well, hey, thanks again for taking the time to chat with me man and we'll stay in touch and stay connected. Okay?
Evidence: Yes sir, peace.
Shane: Thank you so much folks for joining me in the Front Row Seat with Evidence Njoku this week. Once again, I'm your host, Shane Mercer and this podcast is presented by MILLIONS.co. If you want to support and interact with Evidence, visit MILLIONS.co to shop his merch, get personal videos, and join them for exclusive live events. You can also find the Front Row Seat on MILLIONS to shop our merchandise. Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast on YouTube and follow us on all socials at frontrow.pod. We'll see you next week with our next special guest as we dive deep and give you the Front Row Seat. Take care.
You can ask Evidence anything and you can support him by shopping for his merchandise. You can also follow his fight journey by regularly checking out the MILLIONS blog. You can also follow him on instagram @evidence_njoku and on Twitter @Evidence_Njoku.