'The Mountain' has excelled at everything he has tried. Could the NFL be next?

Dan WetzelColumnist
Yahoo Sports

He stands 6-foot-9, with the kind of massive hands, shoulders and hips that would make the NFL scouting combine pass out with excitement. 

Strong? He’s literally been the World’s Strongest Man. Powerful? The other day, he deadlifted 1,104 pounds during a global livestream from his home in Iceland. It would’ve been a world record if accomplished in competition.  

OK, fine, but maybe Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, or Thor as he’s called — you may know him as “The Mountain” from “Game of Thrones” — is just all mass and muscle. After all, he did weigh about 450 pounds this spring. 

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True, except strongman competitions require athleticism, not just might. Besides, back in the day he was athletic enough to be a professional basketball player in Iceland.

Right now, he’s shedding weight, regaining fluidity and prepping for a September boxing match against rival strongman Eddie Hall. 

“I’m going to knock him out in the first round,” Thor told Yahoo Sports.

You want to doubt him?

So maybe this is all how and why Thor once found himself part of one of the more intriguing, if unlikely, NFL free-agent courtships.

Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson salutes the crowd after lifting the Odd Haugen Stone Shoulder (410 pounds) to win the Arnold Strongman Classic as part of the Arnold Sports Festival on March 2, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson salutes the crowd after lifting the Odd Haugen Stone Shoulder (410 pounds) to win the Arnold Strongman Classic as part of the Arnold Sports Festival on March 2, 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Colts tried to sway Thor to the NFL

There is no question this is one of the great athletes on Earth. If he had grown up in the United States, he’d have been steered to football. Instead, he wound up a strongman, which is huge in Iceland, a nation of just more than 360,000 that’s won nine titles.

Back in 2013, however, the Indianapolis Colts made a run at him. It got far enough that team owner Jim Irsay took to Twitter to hype the potential signing of an unnamed prospect — “The Icelander” — who at the time was 6-9, 419 pounds.

In the end, it didn’t happen. Thor said it was because he wasn’t interested. 

“It didn’t get far,” Thor said. “At that time, I had a dream and a goal to win the World’s Strongest Man. And in my mind, if I had gone a different journey, I wouldn’t have given myself fully to that journey. I’m the kind of a guy that if I go into something, I go all in.”

He was 23 at the time. A promising basketball career ended due to a recurring foot injury (he was a 200-pound center). 

That was fine because he’d come under the tutelage of Magnús Ver Magnússon, the Icelandic legend who was a four-time World’s Strongest Man champion. In Thor, Ver Magnússon saw the sport’s next star. 

“I fell in love with the weights,” Thor said. “When I started to lift weights and saw the progress there each week. I was putting more and more weight on. And each week, I saw the body change. That was very motivating for me.”

American football was nothing but a curiosity, some odd game that meant little to him. Maybe there was big money to be made, but Thor didn’t care. He wanted to be crowned World’s Strongest Man, which finally occurred in 2018.

Along the way, almost nothing could distract him. Thor said the WWE inquired, but he turned it down.

Former WWE star Natalie Eva Marie and "Game of Thrones" actor Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson celebrate the launch of Reign Total Body Fuel on April 16, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images)
Former WWE star Natalie Eva Marie and "Game of Thrones" actor Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson celebrate the launch of Reign Total Body Fuel on April 16, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images)

In 2013 he had a chance to become an actor, despite having no acting experience. The role was specific: “The Mountain” for Season 4 of the popular show “Game of Thrones.” Thor was already a regular viewer. He didn’t believe the request was real.

“When I was contacted by them, I honestly thought it was a prank,” Thor said. “I actually declined.”

The producers didn’t give up. You can’t just find 6-9, 400-pound muscle men at an open casting call. Soon, Thor was in front of an acting coach to see if he had any potential.

“After two sessions, he was very, very surprised at my learning abilities and reflectiveness for my size,” Thor said. “So he told them, ‘We have to sign this guy, he’s perfect for this role.’ ”

A star was born. And while the show ended last year, Thor hopes his career hasn’t.

“If anything exciting comes up, I’ll do more acting for sure,” he said.

Could the NFL still be in the cards for Thor?

It’s a transitional time. Thor wanted to set the deadlift record in competition this spring, but due to the coronavirus, everything was canceled. So on May 2, he set up a livestream from home and stepped up to the record weight.

“When I was walking to the bar, it never came to my mind that I couldn’t do it,” Thor said. “I'm a big believer in believing in yourself. You have to believe in yourself. If you are trying to do something great and you tell yourself you can’t do it, you have already failed.”

From around the world, jaws dropped.

With that accomplished and nothing left to prove in strongman, he began returning to a more svelte (at least by his standards) form. 

He believes staying above 400 pounds is too much for the body. So now he is doing cardio, changing up his weight training and working with a boxing coach to prepare for a fight with Hall. His diet is new, and he says he’s devoted to Reign Total Body Fuel, of which he is a company ambassador.

“This is not a show,” Thor said. “This is serious business. I am taking this very seriously. I take everything serious.”

It’s probably why he has succeeded at everything — basketball, strongman, powerlifting, acting. 

So what about the NFL? Could it still happen? He’s only 31.

“I know with my work ethic, that I would make progress and hopefully learn the game fast,” he said.

What if a team took another shot at a freak athlete with intriguing, nearly impossible to find offensive line metrics? (Thor is even left-handed, which can be coveted in left tackles.) 

“I didn’t show enough interest for them to go forward with it [in 2013],” Thor said. “I’ve never done it because of my love of strongman. Now, who knows? Now, I am doing [boxing]. After that, you never know. 

“If someone offers, you never know.”

With this dude, you truly never know.

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