Sabby Piscitelli's football career ended like a striking knife edge chop to the chest.
The 2007 second-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had started the final game of the 2011 season at safety for the Kansas City Chiefs, putting a bow on his sixth year with a victory against the Denver Broncos.
Piscitelli became a free agent following that season believing he was entering the prime of his football career.
And then ... nothing. His phone never rang. But the NFL doesn't offer explanations when it's done with you. It just moves on.
"It was a very dark part of my life," said Piscitelli, 35.
Then, when Piscitelli was training with UFC fighter Rashad Evans in Boca Raton, Florida, his photo made its way into the hands of Canyon Ceman, the senior director of talent development for World Wrestling Entertainment.
Ceman was in the market for professional athletes going through a transitional period and was instantly drawn to Piscitelli, who had the look the WWE covets in its superstars.
Tired of waiting for the NFL and with images of football players-turned-WWE superstars like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Bill Goldberg and Ron "Faarooq" Simmons in his head, Piscitelli decided to make the big change. He attended a WWE tryout in Orlando and signed soon after. He was assigned to NXT, the company's developmental territory, and took the ring name Tino Sabbatelli.