wayne Johnson barely escaped his hardscrabble upbringing, says Allison Glock in Men’s Journal.
Before becoming rich and famous as “the Rock,” the 36-year-old wrestler-turned-actor grew up poor and rowdy in Bethlehem, Pa. “When I was 15 we had to go to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving because we couldn’t afford our own meal. I remember they asked my mom to say grace, and she started crying, she couldn’t get the words out.” Johnson’s father, a professional wrestler himself, was usually on the road; at home, he drank. “My relationship with him was strained. He was not a loving guy.” Seething with anger, Johnson began shoplifting and picking fights with classmates. He was arrested several times. The “defining moment” in his life, he said, came after he was suspended for pushing another kid, hard, into a locker. When he returned to school, he encountered the head football coach, who screamed at Johnson that he was ruining his life. The coach later convinced Johnson to try out for the team; he not only made the squad but became its star defensive tackle. “Coach wanted so much more for me. He pushed me, got me to apply for scholarships.” Johnson got into the University of Miami, which led to a football career in Canada, professional wrestling, and finally, Hollywood. Lowering his head, he says, “I could have easily gone the other way.”