His long memory is helping NBC make “Young Rock,” a sitcom based on his incredibly colorful life that begins its second season Tuesday (EDT/PDT 8). “Young Rock” follows Johnson, 49, in four stages of life – 2032 as a presidential candidate who gives an extensive interview about his life; at age 10 (played by Adrian Groulx); a 15-year-old teenager (Bradley Constant); and as a rising soccer star (Uli Latukefu).
In the first two episodes, Johnson, a lineman from the University of Miami, watches his NFL dreams fall apart after being passed over in the draft and his brief plan B: a spot with the Calgary Stampeders of Canadian Football. League. Johnson’s well-known Stampeders quarterback was Doug Flutie, a former Boston College star.
Johnson spoke from his native Hawaii about “Young Rock,” his memories of Flutie and whether he would fit into a revived XFL soccer league.
Question: Young Rock Fact Check: As an undrafted rookie, did you really go to Calgary and predict the team would go 18-0?
Dwayne Johnson: I did. I came to Calgary with all the bragging rights of Miami, even as an undrafted football player. In my first interview they asked me: ‘What is your objective for the season?’, and I said: ‘The objective is to win the Gray Cup 18-0’. When that came out, it was like this newcomer was a loudmouth; he is boastful, arrogant. I had good conversations with the experienced players and learned a lesson very quickly.
Q: Does the veteran’s rebuke include a hit from Stampeders quarterback Doug Flutie?
Johnson: Doug was our quarterback, one of the best ever. Jeff Garcia was the successor to him who continued this incredible career in the NFL. So we were pretty stacked. Doug probably doesn’t remember me in Calgary, but I do. As the team leader, he was not a fan of mine. The last thing he needed was back on his back. It was a powerful Doug Flutie slap, because to me there is no such thing as a real Doug slap.
Q: You hang out with other players in Young Rock, but not Flutie. Were you a fan of Flutie?
Johnson: He was a fan of his quarterback and his leadership in Calgary. But when he was at Boston College, he threw that Hail Mary at my team (Miami). So I was a fan? In two words: hell no! We didn’t know each other very well and didn’t talk much after my 18-0 title.
Q: Stampeders, like you in next week’s episode, cut players off by prodding the ejected player. Is it really a thing?
Johnson: I got the pinch and it wasn’t fun. As a newcomer to the practice squad, you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, hoping you don’t get cut. Pinches always happen when you least expect it, like when you’re walking with your friends and you don’t even think about getting pinched. All of a sudden you get that little adjustment and you hear the words you never want to hear: “Hey, grab your playbook.”
Q: You’ve come full circle from the $7 cut in your pocket to stardom with Seven Bucks Productions and last month’s Super Bowl intro. Were you nervous about that boo?
Johnson: I live, thrive, and love this space: 80,000 people, microphone in hand, live TV. The kicker had the ball in hand ready to play. I’ve got (Rams head coach) Sean McVay yelling at me, “Rock, come on, let’s go.” But it was my dream. He wanted to play in the NFL and go to the Super Bowl. But God and the Universe work in this amazing way. So I was out in the field and it was a dream come true.
Q: A few days later, as the owner of the XFL Football League, you announced that training camps would open in January 2023. Will you dress up?
Johnson: I can dress up for the XFL and show these guys how it’s done. And then I drop one of my lunges completely on one of the offensive linemen and drop on the 50-yard line.
Q: As a presidential candidate in Young Rock, you dodged that unwinnable question, so I’ll ask it again: “What breed of dog would you wipe off the face of the earth?”
Johnson: (long pause) Maybe it’s the husky. Because when I was 5 years old, a husky ripped a big chunk out of my face. I had to have a nose job. He was a great husky. Fortunately, the huskies are still there. But I’m still scarred by that husky bite.
Previously posted on March 15, 2022