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Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” Early life

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Johnson was born into a family of diverse backgrounds and heritage. His father was the Black Canadian professional wrestler Rocky Johnson, a former WWF Tag Team Champion. Johnson’s mother Ata Maivia belonged to a royal lineage of Hawaii and Samoa (such Polynesian lineages are interconnected across the Pacific societies).

Johnson’s maternal grandfather retained the royal title of Ali‘i and was highly respected especially as an elder among Native Hawaiians and Samoans. Peter Maivia was also a professional wrestler, known especially for the tattoos (of great cultural significance) that covered the lower half of his body. In keeping with this tradition, Johnson has also received such tattoos, the most prominent covering his left shoulder and upper chest.

Johnson spent his childhood living near his maternal grandfather and grandmother in Honolulu. He attended local public schools including Washington Intermediate School and President William McKinley High School, both near Ala Moana and Waikiki.

As a high school junior, Johnson’s father’s career uprooted him from his Hawaii home and they relocated to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Johnson cultivated and developed a more intense athleticism in high school, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.

He began playing football at Bethlehem’s Freedom High School, a member of the East Penn League (now known as the Lehigh Valley Conference) in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. It was then (and continues to be) considered one of the most competitive high school football conferences in the United States.

Johnson received various athletic scholarship offers from several universities before choosing to attend the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. The University of Miami football program did not openly recruit Johnson; he had to face try-outs to join the program. In 1991, he was part of the Hurricanes’ National Championship team.

Considered a candidate for the NFL, Johnson’s hopes of a football career was challenged by a severe back injury. After college, Johnson signed a three-year contract with a CFL team instead. However, he was cut from the team after a year. It was then that Johnson decided to follow in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps by pursuing a professional wrestling career.

Johnson was heavily recruited by many Division I collegiate programs but ultimately accepted a full scholarship from the University of Miami to play defensive tackle. In 1991, he was part of the Miami Hurricanes’ national championship team. After an injury kept him sidelined, Johnson was replaced by fellow Hurricane and future National Football League (NFL) star Warren Sapp.

Johnson met his future wife, Dany Garcia, who also was attending Miami at the time. Garcia, who graduated from the University of Miami in 1992, is a member of its Board of Trustees, and the founder of a Miami-based wealth management firm. The two have remained close to their alma mater, giving a $2-million donation in 2006 to build a living room at the university’s alumni center. Johnson graduated from Miami in 1995 with a degree in criminology and physiology. On November 10, 2007 he returned to the Orange Bowl in Miami to participate in the festivities surrounding the University of Miami’s last home football game at the stadium.

Johnson continued his football career in 1995, joining the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League after being passed over by the NFL, but he was cut two months into the season. Johnson has two nephews who play football. Kaluka Maiava played football at USC and was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in 2009, while Kaluka’s brother Kai Maiava currently plays at UCLA.

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