Mike Rallis played football for the Gophers and earned two degrees — marketing and entrepreneurial management — as a double major in the Carlson School of Management. His background in both endeavors has come in handy in his professional career.
If you need proof, he will smash a metal folding chair over your head and then shout into a microphone to draw attention to his brute strength.
And don't call him Mike anymore. His new name is Madcap Moss, a burgeoning WWE performer with long black hair, silvered tongue and a body sculpted like Zeus.
Growing up in Edina, the man once known as Mike Rallis often attended Timberwolves games at Target Center.
On Friday night, that same man will enter Target Center to music and flashing lights to battle his friend-turned-rival Happy Corbin in a "Last Laugh" match at WWE's SmackDown event (7 p.m., FOX).
"I'm really excited to be able to show Minnesota what I have done with myself since being away for 10 years," Rallis said.
The answer is not what he originally imagined for himself.
The former linebacker finished his Gophers career in 2012, followed by a tryout with the Miami Dolphins that ended after minicamp. He considered going into coaching but took a flier on professional wrestling instead.
Rallis loved watching wrestling as a kid. He made a video of himself around age 10 performing a "Diamond Cutter" move on younger brother Nick, which, in hindsight, was a bad idea.
"It looks incredibly dangerous," Rallis says now. "I'll take this time to reiterate: Do not try what you see on TV at home."
He landed a contract with WWE after a tryout and on-camera audition. He started on a developmental circuit called NXT while learning the craft at the WWE Performance Center in Orlando.
One of the first items of business was to pick a name with the help of WWE's creative team. They settled on Riddick Moss, which was changed to Madcap Moss during a recent character reincarnation. His last name is an homage to his favorite football player, Randy Moss.
“I'm really starting to hit my stride and having the time of my life. ... I think it's going to be one of the most memorable nights of my life.”
Learning the art of wrestling became a full-time job. Rallis spent hours each day perfecting moves in the ring, training in the weight room and polishing his verbal performance skills, which was the trickiest part of the process.
Rallis was comfortable speaking publicly after giving countless interviews as a college football player. But, as he noted, football players are trained not to provide bulletin board material to opponents or to say anything bombastic. Pro wrestling is the exact opposite.
It's perfectly OK for him to say that he's going to pound his opponent into submission and send that hillbilly home crying to his momma.
"You do have to get out of your own head and let your personality come through," he said. "There are times when that's been difficult for me. Most wrestlers will probably tell you that when they have found their voice is when they can kind of be a version of themselves."
His training included seminars with Hollywood acting coaches, sessions talking into a camera and individual tutoring from The American Dream himself, Dusty Rhodes, a master of oratory blowtorching.
Sometimes Rhodes would give Rallis 30 seconds to promote a match. Or he would toss Rallis an orange and say, sell me this orange. He'd make him pretend to be a different person, or act like an animal.
"It was just crazy, different things to get you out of your comfort zone," Rallis said.
Two serious leg injuries disrupted his development, but he was finally promoted to WWE's main tour in January 2020. He returned after an ACL injury sidelined him for months with a new name, Madcap Moss.
Now the intersection of life and career offers him a cool homecoming. Rallis remembers almost hyperventilating from excitement the first few minutes of his college football debut at the Metrodome. He learned a lesson about controlling his emotions.
That won't be easy Friday night. Forgive Madcap Moss if he acts a little wild on his way to the ring at Target Center.
"I'm really starting to hit my stride and having the time of my life," he said by phone earlier this week. "I'm very, very excited to be there. I think it's going to be one of the most memorable nights of my life."