As a WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil knows how to face adversity and overcome many obstacles in his way. One of O’Neil’s toughest challenges was growing up without a father. Now as dad himself, Titus makes sure to cherish every moment he has with his two sons. As a loving father he knows that his children are his number one priority.
So when the Ad Council teamed up with the WWE for their “Take Time To Be a Dad Today” campaign Titus was a perfect spokesperson. O’Neil along with Roman Reigns, and Alberto Del Rio have created some outstanding public service announcements encouraging dads to make it a point to take time to be with their children. You can watch O’Neil’s PSA right here!
The WWE will promote the “Take Time To Be a Dad Today” campaign on television, live events, in-arena, digital and their social media outlets to spread the word. Plus you can visit www.fatherhood.gov or to call 1-877-4DAD411 to get information on how to become more involved with your children’s lives, including parenting tips and fatherhood programs.
I had the great pleasure to talk to Titus about this fatherhood campaign, his career in the WWE, and what it means to be a father.
Art Eddy: I first want to chat about you and the WWE working together with Ad Council for the “Take Time To Be a Dad Today” campaign. Can you tell me a bit about this program?
Titus O’Neil: We partnered with the Ad Council to run some PSA’s in print and video formats to encourage fathers to go spend more time with their children. As a father myself with two sons I know that my kids have every gadget known to man. I can buy them anything they want, but the thing that they enjoy the most is the time that we spend together and the moments that we spend together.
Myself, Roman Reigns, and Alberto Del Rio have all done some very cool PSA’s that will be airing throughout the country. We look to encourage fathers of all races and backgrounds to spend more time with their family, especially their children.
AE: I see the fantastic pictures of you and your sons on Twitter. Even with the tough schedule you have for the WWE you make time to be with your family. How do you balance work and family life?
TO: I just make it a priority. I don’t believe anybody should say that they are too busy to hang out with their kids. I think it is maybe more dear to me just because I didn’t grow up with a father. I didn’t grow up with a male figure in our home. So it was always important to me when I became a father to have my kids never feel the way I did or have the issues that I dealt with when I was a kid.
Although my schedule is very hectic I still keep in contact with my kids when I am on the road. They both have iPads so we FaceTime together. They call me regularly to let me know how their day went. They call me pretty much every night. When I get home I try to structure everything to be able to spend as much time as I possibly can. That is one of the main reasons that I work out at five in the morning. I can get up, go workout, and then take them to school.
I run all the errands while they are at school so when they get out of school I can be completely devoted to what they have to do. We do their homework and go to their sports practices. I always try and be one of the coaches. It is actually pretty cool for them and me. A lot of their teammates are WWE fans. So it is always a great opportunity to bring their team together faster I guess since one of their coaches is a WWE Superstar.
AE: As a father what are some of the morals you look to teach your sons?
TO: The number one thing that I am trying to teach them is respect. To me I think it is a one of the universal things in life we should have. If people respect you and you respect others than you will be able to gain a better understanding of life itself. You should respect another person’s opinion even if you don’t agree with them. You should allow others to feel free to believe what they want to believe as they should do the same for you.
You respect people’s property. You respect people’s space. If someone says that they don’t want to be bothered leave them alone. We practice that at the house too. If one of my sons is bothering the other and he keeps asking him to stop and he doesn’t then he has to understand the consequences.
AE: What is the best thing about fatherhood?
TO: Being a father. It is the greatest title that as a man you can have if you choose to look at it that way. Some people look at it as a responsibility, which it is. To me is an honor. Like I said I didn’t grow up with a father. So to have the ability to raise my kids to where hopefully they are productive citizens. They are educated. They are respectful and that they are successful in whatever they choose to do. To have that opportunity to mold them is an honor to me.
As men get older they still need guidance. I am 37 years old and I still look for advice and a father figure. I get that from my pastor. Luckily he has been like a father to me. He is not perfect. He has made mistakes, but I learn from him. He gives me support when I need it.
AE: What are some of the major differences between when you were growing up to now as your children grow up?
TO: I think that there are more resources for people to utilize to help raise young men and women and help parents be parents. That is one of the great things about the Ad Council and Fatherhood.org. It is one of the reasons that this partnership with the WWE is huge. We have a huge social media presence. We have over 350 million followers and 14 million viewers weekly on television.
There are so many platforms where we can help get this message out. Along with our other community initiatives that we are engaged in we are looking to help make a difference. Now you can go to so many different outlets and resources. If people don’t want to read about parenting they can just go on YouTube and find out about these things. There are a lot more things on the internet and a lot more resources that are wholeheartedly are trying to help fathers be fathers, mothers be mothers, and for children to be raised in a great environment.
AE: Switching to the WWE, you and Darren Young made up the duo of “The Prime Time Players.” How long did it take for you two to build a chemistry in the ring?
TO: It took two years to build a chemistry, but it took me about three minutes to disengage that chemistry. We are no longer a tag team. We kind of went our separate ways as far as television is concerned, but Darren is definitely one of my closest friends. I have shared a lot of great memories with him, a lot of great matches with him, and win, lose, or draw we would always go out and try and have fun and entertain. Now I am in a position where I am trying to have single success and put myself in a position to do so.
AE: You played football for the Florida Gators in college and the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL. Are there any parallels in your training and preparation for the WWE to your time playing football?
TO: Yes. As far as training is concerned I train the same way now as I did as a football player. A lot of the movement that I did in football like short bursts and explosive moments I have to do in the ring. You have to be explosive, be strong, and be athletic. I try to adapt my training as I go along.
I don’t lift real heavy as I used to. I still condition the same way. With working five to six nights a week, the travel, the driving, it all can wear on you so you have to be in condition to go and perform at any time. I follow what I learned in college, which was to train hard, but also train smart.
AE: What has been your favorite match or moment so far in your career at the WWE?
TO: My favorite match would probably have been my first SummerSlam, which was last year. Darren and I competed against Kofi and R-Truth for the WWE Tag Team Title for that year’s SummerSlam. My second favorite moment was this year. I have been with the company for four years. This time was the first time that I actually competed on the card in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royale at WrestleMania 30. There were so many legends in town. It was hosted by arguably by one of the biggest Superstars, if not the biggest Superstar in WWE history in Hulk Hogan. It was definitely a highlight in my career so far.
AE: Speaking again of your Twitter account I see you retweeting fans and taking pictures with fans. I have to say it is fantastic to see how interact with your fans. Is that a priority for you?
TO: It is an honor for me to be in a position of influence. I have always been one to be grateful to those who support anything that I have been doing for the WWE. People support us week in and week out. What I have come to find out is that with us being a family friendly program you see so many families come week in and week out.
With me spending so much time away from my family, if I can take the opportunity to put a smile on kid’s face it is all worthwhile. I don’t even look at it like it is a job. It is part of who we are. I think anyone with influence on any level should utilize that influence to make a positive impact. So whether I am playing a good guy or a bad guy on TV I am going to make time for the fans. I am going to be the man that I have been for most of my life and look to inspire, motivate, and help as many people as possible.
AE: What is something that a WWE fan might not know about you?
TO: I like to cook. Cooking is one of my favorite things to do when I am at home. It is actually something my sons and I like to do together. I taught them how to make a lot of stuff and they are going to make some women proud one day.