How West Virginia football owns a victory over WWE Undisputed Champion Roman Reigns

Alex Bierens de Haan/GettyImages

Professional wrestling is enjoying quite the boom period, and with WrestleMania 40 approaching, it's safe to assume there will be a lot of water cooler talk in the workplace this week about the next installment of WWE's biggest annual event.

Headed into WrestleMania, one of WWE's biggest stories involves the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns, who is in the middle of a historic reign as champion which recently surpassed 1,300 days in total. He is set to compete at both nights of the event -- he will team with his cousin and WWE legend The Rock against Cody Rhodes and current World Heavyweight Champion Seth Rollins on Night One, with a solo match for the Undisputed title against Rhodes set to headline Night Two.

But before Roman Reigns was famous for being The Tribal Chief who runs the show in pro wrestling, he was known by his given name, Joe Anoa'i. Under that name, he garnered attention as a team captain and three-year starter for Georgia Tech football who earned an All-ACC First-Team Selection as a senior in 2006. He tallied 40 tackles, two recovered fumbles and 4.5 sacks that season.

Joe Anoa'i suited up for Georgia Tech in 2006.
Joe Anoa'i suited up for Georgia Tech in 2006. / Mike Zarrilli/GettyImages

To close that campaign, Georgia Tech was matched with West Virginia in the 2007 Gator Bowl, where the two programs squared off in what looked like a lopsided affair as late as the second half of action, but finished as a close battle.

2007 Gator Bowl

The Mountaineers would jump out to an early 7-0 lead in the matchup, propelled an Owen Schmitt/Pat White rushing attack that drove the team 80 yards down the field in just four plays on the opening drive. From there, however, Georgia Tech outscored WVU 28-10 to close the first half, taking an 11-point lead into the halftime break.

The Mountaineers would give up an onside kick followed by a quick score to fall behind 35-17 in the third quarter, but they weren't dead yet. Powered by White's dual-threat performance, WVU would score 21 unanswered points over the next seven minutes of play to re-take the lead headed into the final period of action -- White threw for two of those touchdowns and added the third on the ground.

Georgia Tech kept the Mountaineers scoreless from there, but WVU's defense held as well -- neither team would score in the final quarter, and WVU went on to snag a 38-35 win over the Yellow Jackets. The Mountaineers defense ended up holding Tech scoreless for the final 28 minutes of action despite giving up six scores on Tech's first eight offensive possessions. White finished the game 9-for-15 passing with 131 yards and two touchdowns and also added 22 carries for 145 yards and a touchdown, leading the team in both categories and earning MVP honors for the game.

Owen Schmitt, Adamm Oliver
Owen Schmitt breaks free on a carry during the 2007 Gator Bowl / Marc Serota/GettyImages

Reigns' performance, and how he was outdone by a fellow WWE employee

Roman Reigns -- or Joe Anoa'i, if you prefer -- didn't make too much noise during the 2007 Gator Bowl. It certainly wasn't one of his top performances as the season. That being said, he did manage to rack up three total tackles during the game, including one solo and one for a loss.

Most notably, though, Reigns was dealt a loss by a future WWE colleague in the contest, who played a significant role in the Mountaineer victory. Pat McAfee is known now mainly nowadays as a sports media personality -- he hosts The Pat McAfee Show on ESPN and has spent time as an ESPN College GameDay contributor, and is a WWE color commentator currently handling commentatiing duties on WWE RAW weekly.

But before his days as a media man -- and even before his days as an NFL star -- McAfee was the starting kicker for WVU during the 2006 season, and he would handle all of the kicking duties during the Gator Bowl against Tech. He would go 5-for-5 on extra point attempts and 1-for-1 on field goal attempts, converting a 25-yarder in the first half. He also booted five punts for 204 yards during the contest, averaging 40.8 yards per punt.

So if you're watching WrestleMania this weekend and you see Roman Reigns battling it out to extend his reign as champion, you can remember that whether or not Cody Rhodes can finish his story and knock off The Tribal Chief, there's a man commentating at ringside who does in-fact own a victory over Reigns. Even if that victory wasn't in a WWE ring.