By Jason Powell, ProWrestling.net Editor (@prowrestlingnet)
CBS Sports Local interview with Titus O’Neil
Host: Chuck Carroll
Full interview available at CBSlocal.com
We hear about specific kids that leave this lasting impact on some of your colleagues in WWE, kids like Connor Michalek or Jarrius Robertson. Is there one specific kid that’s really had a super tremendous impact with you, and left just an indelible memory?
“Yeah, there have been several. Unfortunately, one of them is not with us anymore. His name was Elijah Aschbrenner. I met him about five years ago or four years ago. When I met him, he’d beat cancer six times… I guess probably three weeks prior to him passing away, I didn’t, obviously none of us expected it, because he was doing so well, but his birthday … I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in Albany, New York. This was before the brand split.
“We used to have to go to both Raw and Smackdown television. I wasn’t slated to do anything on TV, and so I wanted to surprise him with, I have some 24-carat headphones on when I was Face-Timing with him, and he’s, ‘Oh, those are really nice headphones.’ I was going to send them to him that Monday, but something just told me, ‘Hey, just go down and surprise him for his birthday,’ which was that Monday night. I didn’t have anything to do for Tuesday, so I asked Michael Hayes and Vince [McMahon] and Triple H if I could fly down. I gave them the reason as to why, and they, without hesitation, told me yes.”
An adult tells you, ‘There’s no such thing as a bad kid,’ despite that label that you had been given time and time again. Who was that adult, and how old were you when you had that conversation?
“I was 12 years old. The man was Patrick Monogue. He was the president at the time for the Florida Sheriff’s Boys Ranch, which is where I ended up going right before my 12th birthday to get out of trouble and to hopefully take a turn for the better. I’d been getting in trouble there too. They were getting ready to kick me off. I had just signed a contract that I wouldn’t get into another fight, and if I did, I understood that I would be sent home. Thirty minutes after that, I ended up getting into a fight with somebody. They had a meeting and pretty much the decision was made that I was going to get sent home.
“He called me in the office, and said, ‘I’m not going to send you home. I know I’m going to upset a lot of people, but I want you to stay here, because I believe that you can turn things around.’ Then he asked me, ‘Why do you think you get into trouble all the time?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, man. I’m just a bad kid.’ He told me to lift my head up, and he said, ‘You know, there’s no such thing as a bad kid.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? I’m getting in trouble here all the time. You all are getting ready to send me home. I’ve been told I’m going to be dead or in jail by the time I’m 16. How can you say that?’
“He said, ‘I’m not going to give you the answer to that right now, because I truly believe in my heart that you’re going to turn things around, and you’ll come up with the answer for yourself,’ which is what I illustrate in the book. ‘But in the meantime, I want you to know that I love you, and I believe in you.’ At that point, a lot of people had told me that they loved me, but then turned right around and abused me or beat me, but nobody had ever told me that they believed in me.”