Three years ago, before he was NXT champion or a wrestling prodigy, Kennesaw State fullback Bronson Rechsteiner entered the NFL combine in search of his professional football dreams.

Known for his physicality, there was optimism that Rechsteiner could become the first player in Owls program history to be drafted, perhaps finding a home as a fullback or on a special teams unit. While that did not happen, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Ravens, which appeared to be a promising sign—an undrafted rookie had made the Ravens’ opening week roster for 16 straight years at that point—yet Rechsteiner was dealt a blow when he was released that summer. That was especially tough timing as rookie camps and minicamps were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead of playing in the NFL, Rechsteiner signed with WWE. The decision has worked out quite well so far, and he has become the face of NXT as Bron Breakker. But he made a solid impression at the combine and at KSU’s Pro Day, coming as advertised: in order to get an extra few yards or a much-needed block, Rechsteiner was willing to break an opponent. While preparing for the draft, Rechsteiner worked with veteran NFL trainer Chip Smith in Georgia, training with several top prospects—including former Alabama and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Hurts was selected in the second round by the Eagles in the 2020 draft, a move that has paid dividends. After leading the Eagles to back-to-back playoff wins this winter, Hurts will be under center for the Eagles on Sunday at Super Bowl LVII. Their opponent, the Chiefs, is battle-tested, seeking their second Super Bowl title in the past four years, but Rechsteiner is all-in on Philly.

“I’ve got the Eagles,” says Rechsteiner. “I did some training with Jalen Hurts for the combine, and that short time I got to be a part of that process with him was great. He’s a hard worker, he’s a stud and I’m pulling for him.”

Rechsteiner is only days removed from defending the NXT title against Grayson Waller at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte in the main event of Vengeance Day on Saturday. It was the culmination of a lengthy feud that included some unique elements, including a brawl at the WWE Performance Center. The program ended with Rechsteiner winning in a steel cage.

“It was refreshing to go out and wrestle in front of a crowd like we had in Charlotte,” says Rechsteiner. “That city is known for being great wrestling fans, so it was cool that they were into NXT.

“And that match was a reminder of who I am and what I’m about. I want to represent this brand and be the leader. I’m working to put a stamp on it. You know what you’re going to get, which is my very best.”

Only 25, there is plenty of reason to believe that Rechsteiner will be elevated to the main roster following this year’s WrestleMania. That would mean having to adapt to the demanding travel schedule of a WWE performer—one that his father, the legendary Rick Steiner, knows all too well.

“He traveled all over the world, and now I’m getting a taste of what he did,” says Rechsteiner. “My respect for him keeps growing. He’s been super supportive of my career, too. He’s a coach, he’s there to talk about the business, and he’s a great dad. I’m excited to go through this with him.”

Rechsteiner is not WWE’s only blue-chip prospect. That is an honor shared with a few elite talents, including Carmelo Hayes, who made his name on the indies as Christian Casanova before developing into a rising star in NXT. Hayes also wrestled at Vengeance Day, defeating Apollo Crews in convincing fashion. After Breakker’s win on Saturday, Hayes and Trick Williams made their way to the ring, signaling that the direction moving forward will be Breakker against Hayes.

A program between the two has been hinted at for a long time, but it is now officially in motion. Real-life friends, the challenge is now to ensure their chemistry and competitive fire comes through on television.

“It’s time,” says Rechsteiner. “I have a lot of respect for Carmelo Hayes, and this has been a long time coming. It’s time to settle the debate on who is the best.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.