Titus O’Neil was the inaugural WWE 24/7 Champion and is a former WWE Tag Team Champion.
Thaddeus Bullard — the man behind the character — is opening up in his new book, "There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Kid," about his turbulent childhood years to his current success as an accomplished WWE Superstar, philanthropist and entertainer.
FOX NEWS: What was it like for you growing up being labeled a “bad kid"?
Titus O’Neil: Growing up being labeled a bad kid, I was a kid that was obviously in a lot of bad situations and a bad environment, around bad influences and making bad decisions. And so I started becoming a person that felt like, you know, there might be some truth to what these people are saying that I will never graduate from high school or I'll never go to college, I was too uncoordinated to play sports.
And once I got an opportunity to go to a place called Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, all that changed because it was there that a gentleman told me at twelve years old that there is no such thing as a bad kid. And in the midst of me just getting into a fight, you know, getting ready to get sent back home to my family — and I asked him what he meant by that and he told me that: 'You know I'm not going to give you the answer to that right now because I truly believe in my heart that you're going to turn things around and you're going to come up with the answer for yourself.' And so at this point in my life, I do feel like I have come up with that answer which is you know there is no such thing as a bad kid.
You have kids that are in bad environments, around bad influences, making bad decisions and having bad outcomes — you put those same exact kids in a good environment, around great people and they have greater chances to succeed. That's what happened with me and that's why I try to utilize this message that there is no such thing as a bad kid, go deeper into the behavior or do go past behavior and start looking for the cause and the root issue of why these kids are acting a certain way.
FOX NEWS: What can readers learn about you from your new book, "There's No Such Thing as a Bad Kid"?
Titus O’Neil: Well, I wanted to share a little bit about my story. Obviously being a product of a rape, my mother was raped at 11. Had me at 12. Growing up poor, all government housing, didn't have it and not having many opportunities to be exposed to a lot of positive things, simply because the environment that I was raised in and brought into this world. And I want this message to be not one just of you know being raised by a single parent, but also the steps in which my mother took to get into a better place but also the people that imparted into our family and invested in our family when they had nothing to gain in return.
I want those people to be highlighted as well because those people exist everywhere around the world, they're coaches, they're mentors, they're teachers, they're police officers or you know military men and women. There are people from all walks of life that have this opportunity to speak life and to what seemingly could be a dead situation. And by taking that time you could also multiply the result of Titus O'Neil stories or many others that have been in very dire situations in the beginning of their life stages that ultimately end up finding success.
I'm the first high school graduate in my family. I'm the first college graduate in my family. My mom didn't graduate from high school until after I graduated from high school. Well, she has four sons total and three of the four are college graduates. And she never had to pay for any of us to go to school. So it is a story of how one decision that she may [have] made, which may have been very tough, has literally helped raise millions of dollars [and] has helped impact thousands and thousands of families.
And those teachers and those coaches and those people that imparted words and time and everything else into my life, at the times that they did, so they ultimately got me into a position that I'm able to write this book and hopefully coach some other people to think the same way that they thought.
FOX NEWS: Any advice for parents whose childeren think they are the “bad kid”?
Titus O’Neil: I think sometimes you know as parents, and I found that even sometimes myself sometimes, I can tell my kids something and it may not register but somebody else tells them and it's like it's the gospel. We say the same exact thing but for whatever reason, it resonates. Coming from someone else in a different way. It doesn't make us a bad parent. It doesn't make us a person that the family doesn't trust or whatever it may be it just means that they just connected with my child in a better way than I could.
And so I would express to any parent out there that just try to place them around as many positive influences as possible because you may not be the one that can help them in one way or the other. Although we want to as parents to be our everything for all of our kids. Sometimes we have to come down to the reality of: 'We don't know everything' — and then sometimes our kids may or may not feel comfortable sharing everything with us. And the reality of it is, there is someone out there that they will share it with and they will want their opinion. And we should respect that and honor that as long as it's coming from a good source.
FOX NEWS: Violent gangs like MS-13 are now prevalent in Long Island and Los Angeles. How can kids avoid joining gangs?
Titus O’Neil: Well I think a lot of the reason why these kids are joining gangs is because sometimes the gang members are showing them more love and attention than the people that are supposed to be raising them. And so one thing that we can do, and I'm not a political guru or whatever, but I wish that we would just take politics out of education and out of the afterschool programs because if these kids don't have a place to go and a safe place to grow then they're going to go end up finding themselves in a gang or in an association of some sort. That is not going to be beneficial to them or to society.
And so as adults we need to do a better job of providing resources and arenas for these kids to be artists and to be, you know, athletes or whatever it is they want to be and support them in it. Because every time, especially in underserved communities, you see a kid is a tremendous athlete and automatically say you're going to go to the NFL, or you're going to go to the NBA one day. They might not even have a desire to do that. They might have a desire to be an engineer or they may have a desire to paint murals and all over the world or something like that and you have stereotyped and pigeonholed them into one thing or one aspect based on their one skill that you noticed or saw. And so when they're turning into gangs and they're looking for someone to accept them and to love them and to treat them in a certain way.
And unfortunately, that's a very violent way for them to go. And I would tell any kid you know there are so many organizations and people out there that are working tirelessly. Even the ones that you don't see that are sitting around boardroom tables trying to figure out ways to make life better for you. Seek out those people and seek out those places and try to stay away from the violent aspects of where your circumstance is because you have a chance to one day be an example of what can happen when you make the right decision. And so embrace that and enjoy that.
FOX NEWS: How difficult is it being a role model in a world of cyber-bullying?
Titus O’Neil: I think the people that follow you, you know they follow you for various reasons. It's really about your brand and what you put out there on a consistent basis. And if you put out negativity, there are people out there to look for that and want to embrace that and things like that. And for me personally I have this saying that: 'If they don't know you personally, don't take it personal.'
So a lot of these people that are sitting behind these keyboards, you know, I call it Internet thugs. They're real brave to say whatever they want to say behind a keyboard. And it's a beautiful feature on all social media platforms, which is called a block button. And I utilized that a lot when I need to, but for the most part, I've been having some very positive feedback from everything I've done on social media.
Not just with this project, with the book, but everything in general and I think a lot of that has to do with the respect that you gain because of what kind of content you put out on a regular basis. And one thing about bullies, once they know you'll hit them in the mouth with truth, nine times out of ten, they just try to find somebody else so they can pick on and elicit a response out of or negative response. That's their goal. I don't give them that joy.
FOX NEWS: What role does faith play in your life — personal and professional?
Titus O’Neil: Faith for me, personally and professionally, is the same. I believe in God, you know, and Jesus and I'm perfectly fine with other people believing in something else or nothing at all. For me, religion is about relationship. My relationship with my God is about relationship. Relationship with you know my higher power and my relationship with people. I think ultimately a lot of people would misconstrue what faith is really about and you have extremists on all sides, and I don't care if you're Muslim, Buddhist, or don't believe in anything at all. At the end of the day, I think all religion is based and rooted in love and there's no way that I'm going to be able to put myself in a position to help people and then condemn those because I don't necessarily agree with their views or their lifestyle.
In the Bible that I read, it says: 'Hate the sin. Not the sinner.' And so a lot of times people get caught up in bashing same sex marriages and utilizing the Bible to push their own agenda. And my thing is, in the same Bible, it says do not judge or you shall be judged. I'm not going to meet people with scripture. I'm going to meet them with love, and I think the that's where the church has failed in a lot of cases because the first thing will be: 'Let me pray for you.'
Sometimes people don't want you to pray for them. They just want you to listen to them because nobody else will listen to them or they want you to talk to them in a manner which is different than everybody else was talking to them. Everybody else is telling them their failure because they did x y and z and you can tell no he is not the end of the world. Everybody makes mistakes. And so, I don't really care for politics or organized religion that much simply because those two facets of life I feel I should be bringing people together and they have ultimately been the ones that have separated more people than brought them together.
FOX NEWS: Were there any opportunities you've turned down because they have conflicted with your faith?
Titus O’Neil: Yeah. I had an alcohol sponsor that wanted to sponsor one of my events for a lot of money and I don't drink beer so I had to respectfully decline. And some people were like, 'You know man, you could have did this and we could have done that.' But my thing is yeah, but at the end of the day-long after that event is over with that brand is still going to be in images and pictures and things like that and if I'm telling my kids, like they know I don't drink and they know I don't smoke, and I don't mock anybody that does drink or smoke. People can do whatever decision they want to make. But as for me, that is the example I've been trying to live by for years, and I just, I've seen so many people in my personal life affected by drugs and alcohol that it just was a turnoff to me and I just didn't want to be able to be pushing that image out there as well.