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  Nov 12, 1999



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Bill Duff headlocked by two sports


Friday, November 12, 1999
By TOM WITHERS -- Associated Press

 BEREA, Ohio -- Bill Duff grew up dreaming of tossing Hulk Hogan over the ropes, not sacking Kordell Stewart for a 10-yard loss.

 Duff hasn't given up on the idea of becoming a pro wrestler. It's just that he can't get away from pro football.

 Duff has been released three times by Cleveland already this season, and each time he was let go, the defensive tackle returned to New Jersey to pursue a career in pro wrestling.

 "We're working on my character," Duff said. "We call it 'The Urban Legend.' I'm good and bad. I was a good guy until I threw a little kid across the ring. I guess I was bad that day."

 Duff's comings and goings have made him something of a locker room legend with the expansion Browns. It's gotten to the point where his teammates don't miss him when he's not there.

 "They say welcome back when I get there," he said. "And they don't say anything when I leave. That's the way it is, you kind of die when you get cut in the NFL."

 Duff, who played college ball at Tennessee, was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by San Francisco last year. The 49ers cut him a few months later, but Browns director of football operations Dwight Clark never forgot him.

 "He's a scrapper," Clark said.

 When Clark came to Cleveland, he signed Duff, who made it through training camp before being cut on Sept. 5. He was placed on the practice squad the next day, and promoted to the active roster before being released a week later.

 Cleveland signed Duff again on Oct. 6, and released him on Oct. 25. On Tuesday, the Browns, needing insurance after tackle Darius Holland sprained his knee, tracked Duff down again.

 He hasn't been able to establish roots anywhere yet. When he's with the Browns he stays in a hotel, back home in New Jersey he's either living with his parents or friends.

 "They have a nickname for me, the Nomadic Warrior. I go to a different place week to week," he said. "All my stuff is always packed, I just pull it out when I want to wear or iron it."

 Duff grew up idolizing Hogan and became a successful amateur wrestler as a two-time New Jersey high school state heavyweight champion, "but there isn't much of a future in that."

 He wanted to give pro football a try first, but always had his sights on wrestling. Duff has even tried the sport's "extreme" version, which isn't staged and allows combatants to use objects to inflict damage.

 "I had a no-holds barred match once with a guy named Patch," he said. "He put me through a table. I think he tried to hit me in the head with a chair, but I got out of the way. There weren't any garbage cans in that one, there was a frying pan I think."

 In between his stints with the Browns, Duff has been attending a pro wrestling school in New Jersey, The Monster Factory, which produced stars King Kong Bundy and Bam Bam Bigelow among others. He has wrestled in some matches in New Jersey and hopes one day to make it to the big time -- the WWF or WCW.

 Duff, who had almost completed the school before the Browns brought him in again, said using wrestling moves on the football field is out of the question, and illegal, just as football stuff doesn't work in the ring.

 However, the two sports are equally rough on the body.

 "You get more bruised on your back in wrestling," he said. "And once in a while you kind of cut yourself open. It's no big deal."

 And for a guy with two hazardous jobs, Duff has remained relatively healthy.

 "I've been lucky. In wrestling, I haven't suffered any injuries. I might have got a concussion once when I went into a wall. Football? I've been pretty lucky there, too. Turf toe has been the worst."