A proud Alum of Grambling State University, Ladd played in the A.F.L. for eight years, with the San Diego Chargers (1961-65), the Houston Oilers (1966) and the Kansas City Chiefs (1967-68). In the years before the A.F.L. merged with the N.F.L. in 1970, he played in four A.F.L. championship games before becoming a full-time wrestler.
Known for his immense size and power, it was a natural for Ladd to engage in feuds with other giants, including a famous feud with André the Giant (whom Ladd referred to as "Andre the Dummy" or "The Big Fat French Fry" during interviews). In certain areas, Ladd's wrestling nickname was "The King", and he would wear an ornate crown to emphasize it.. In other wrestling associations, he was "The Big Cat," and walked in with a big cowboy hat.