ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When kicker Jason Hanson retired after last season, center Dominic Raiola became the longest-tenured Detroit Lion.
Dominic Raiola has been the Lions' starting center since 2001.
He's been a stalwart in the middle of the offensive line for Detroit since the middle of the 2001 season after being drafted in the second round out of Nebraska, where he won the Rimington Trophy.
We caught up with Raiola to chat about being in Detroit for a long time -- and one of his other interests, professional wrestling.
You’ve been here for a long time. Does that register at all, how long you’ve been at one spot?
Dominic Raiola: It was, but this year I kind of reinvented myself, so it’s kind of like all brand new to me this year. Which is a good thing, you know. You stop and think, I’m 34. In the NFL, that’s old. But I feel great. I don’t ever stop and think, I just know it’s a different year and I feel different about it. Everything about it.
You reinvent yourself, is that off the field, too, or just on the field?
DR: Every aspect, daily. Football’s always been my life, but I make it more of my life. I don’t know how I could take it to another level, but I did, and it’s working. I feel way better on the field.
Usually when you get to 32, 33, 34, maybe the job becomes less of life than family and other things. Is that weird for you to go opposite?
DR: I just try to soak it all in, really. And that’s just part of it. I’m trying to suck the life out of my profession, and with that I’ve become a better player. I don’t know what it is, but I’m going to keep churning.
Away from football, what’s your favorite thing to do? What’s your hobby?
DR: I’m an avid golfer. My kids are getting bigger, and I like to sit at their practices and watch.
DR: No, not golf. My son plays football, my daughter plays volleyball. That’s my down time. I’m getting older, I’m in bed at 9:30, 10 o’clock and I’m up at 5. When I get here at 5, that’s when I start sucking the life out of my profession, out of this sport.
I know wrestling is a thing for you? Did that start when you were like 10?
DR: You’re talking WWF?
DR: Oh, it’s back in the day. I think I was 6, like 5, 6. I used to watch the WWF cartoon and kept it going. I knew it wasn’t real.
When did you realize it wasn’t real? For me, it was like when I was 11.
DR: Like 12, 13, maybe. Then you look back, you watch it now and some of the stuff they do does hurt. Some of it is real. But they don’t hate each other, all that stuff. It’s just a storyline. So that’s why I watch it now. It’s like reality TV. It’s a storyline.
Who was your favorite wrestler growing up?
DR: Pssh. Growing up, oh man, I used to love Ted DiBiase, the Million Dollar Man.
Dominic Raiola was a fan of Ted DiBiase and the way he toyed with opponents.
Is that just because of the awesome belt?
DR: Yeah that, and I used to like how he just used to belittle people. That was my favorite. He used to ask you to do 30 pushups, you’d do 29 and he’d kick your hand away or bounce a ball off you.
Did you want to be him as a kid, maybe when you thought he was real?
DR: You know what, he was maybe my second favorite. Ric Flair had to be my favorite. I’ve got him right there (points into his locker, where there is a Ric Flair action figure). He’s been there for three years now. Wooooo.
When did you get it?
DR: A few years ago.
Did you buy it? Did someone give it to you?
DR: Somebody gave it to me. I forgot who gave it to me.
Is this now something you’ve passed on to your kids? Are they into it?
DR: My boys are. I just watch it with them. It’s one more thing we can do together.