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After a 90-minute workout at EFT Sports Performance gym in Highland Park, Joe Spivak has sweated through both his shirts. He learned at an early age there are no half measures.

“I can remember going to wrestling practice as a kid and going through it in my head, ‘if I’m going to be here for two hours why would I do anything less than 100 percent,’” Spivak recalls.

“I would have to tell him rest was not a four-letter word,” said Spivak’s dad Joe.

His basement workout room served as Spivak’s sanctuary growing up in southwest Darien—filled with exercise equipment, motivational mantras, and pictures of his dad’s two training camps spent with the Chicago Bears in the 80s.

“The story goes I was the last guy cut two years in a row,” the elder Spivak says.

The younger Spivak learned football from his father but before that, came wrestling. 

“I started wrestling in Kindergarten and my dad was my coach,” Spivak said. “I loved the sport. I walked out of practice saying I want to be an Olympic wrestler one day.”

Spivak wrestled through his freshman year at Montini High School, before focusing full time on football. He turned down a full ride at Michigan State to walk-on at Northwestern, earning a scholarship and voted team captain.

When Spivak’s college playing career ended, a new opportunity emerged for him to dive into headfirst. The WWE tapped Spivak for its inaugural “Next in Line” training program, providing a pathway from collegiate athletics to pro wrestling.

“My passions in life are competition, training and to be violent and also talking and having a mic and spreading a message, and I’m like where do these things mesh like the WWE,” Spivak said.

The natural hype-man attended last month’s Royal Rumble in St. Louis soaking in as much as he could.

“Meeting the writers and creative teams, strength and wrestling coaches, so when you get down there for the tryout [this summer] you are more familiar with the process,” Spivak said. “You’re building relationships which I just love.”

While a career in the WWE would fit Spivak’s personality to a T, he keeps pressing on toward his ultimate dream of playing the NFL.

“My pro day is at Northwestern March 8. It’s a huge step to go to NFL, but I’m one step away and you better believe I’m going for it with everything I got,” Spivak said.

As if Spivak could give any less: that’s just not in his DNA.

“They measure vertical and 40 [yard dash time], but they have yet to find a way to measure your want and size of your heart, and I always knew Joe had that,” the elder Spivak said about his son.

“I’m just so excited to be completing this dream and to have the WWE say, ‘no you need to finish that before you come to us, make sure there’s no NFL music playing in you,’ and I’m going after that with everything I got,” Spivak said. “It’s a big step, and I’m absolutely taking it.”

Every ounce of sweat drives him closer to his goal—next in line for the WWE, or maybe the NFL, or knowing Joe Spivak, both.