Dwayne Johnson doesn’t forget.
His long memory helps in making NBC’s “Young Rock,” a sitcom steeped in his impossibly colorful life, which kicks off its second season Tuesday (8 EDT/PDT). “Young Rock” follows Johnson, 49, in four life phases – in 2032, as a presidential candidate giving an in-depth interview about his life; as a 10-year-old (played by Adrian Groulx); a 15-year-old (Bradley Constant); and as an aspiring football star (Uli Latukefu).
In the first two episodes, Johnson, a University of Miami lineman, sees his NFL dreams waylaid after being overlooked in the draft and in his brief Plan B – a spot on the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. Johnson’s big-name Stampeder quarterback was one-time Boston College star Doug Flutie.
Johnson talked from his Hawaiian home about “Young Rock,” his memories of Flutie and whether he’d suit up for a revived XFL football league.
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Question: ‘Young Rock’ fact-check: As an undrafted rookie, did you really go into Calgary predicting the team would go 18-0?
Dwayne Johnson: I did. I came into Calgary with all the Miami swagger, even as an undrafted football player. In my first interview, I was asked, ‘What’s your goal for the season?’ And I said, ‘The goal is to go 18-0 and to win the Gray Cup.’ When that came out, it was like this rookie is a loudmouth; he’s boastful, cocky. I got a good talking to by the veteran players and learned a lesson very quickly.
Q: Did the veteran beating also include a smackdown from Stampeder quarterback Doug Flutie?
Johnson: Doug was our quarterback, one of the greatest of all times. Jeff Garcia was his backup, who went on to have this amazing NFL career. So we were pretty stacked. Doug probably does not remember me in Calgary, but I remember him. As the team leader, he was not a fan of me popping off. The last thing that he needed was to have another mark on his back. It was an energetic smackdown from Doug Flutie, because there’s no such thing as a real smackdown from Doug to me.
Q: You hang out with other players in ‘Young Rock,’ but not Flutie. Were you a Flutie fan?
Johnson: I was a fan of his quarterback and leadership skills for Calgary. But when he was with Boston College, he threw that Hail Mary against my (Miami) team. So was I a fan? In two words: Hell, no! We didn’t know each other that well, and after my ’18-0′ headline, we didn’t talk much.
Q: The Stampeders cut players – like yourself in next week’s episode – by pinching the removed player. is that really a thing?
Johnson: I got the pinch, and it was not fun. As a rookie on the practice squad, you’re kind of looking over your shoulder at all times, hoping not to get cut. The pinch always comes when you least expect it, like when you’re walking with your buddies, not even thinking about getting pinched. All of a sudden, you get the little pinch and you hear the words you never want to hear, ‘Hey, get your playbook.’
Q: You come full circle from getting cut with $7 in your pocket, to superstar with the Seven Bucks Productions company and introducing last month’s Super Bowl. Were you nervous in that bedlam?
Johnson: I live and thrive in that space and love it – 80,000 people, microphone in hand, live TV. The kicker had the ball in his hand ready to put it on the tee. I have (Rams head coach) Sean McVay yelling at me, ‘Rock, come on, let’s go.’ But that was my dream. I wanted to play in the NFL and go to the Super Bowl. But God and the universe works in this amazing way. So I was on the field, and that was a dream come true.
Q: Days later, as an XFL football league owner, you announced that training camps will open in January 2023. Will you be suiting up?
Johnson: I may suit up for the XFL and show those guys how it’s done. And then I’ll have one of the offensive linemen completely knock one of my lungs loose and leave me laying on the 50-yard line.
Q: As a presidential candidate in ‘Young Rock,’ you dodged this unwinnable question, so I’ll ask it again: ‘Which dog breed would you eliminate from the Earth?
Johnson: (Long pause) It might have to be the husky. Because when I was 5, a husky took a nice chunk right outta my face. I had to have surgery on the top of my nose. It was a big husky. Luckily, huskies will still be around. But I’m still scarred by that husky bite.