I'd die for my son, and I think you would too.
Words that millions of dads would echo across the United States and the world as we know it. They carry weight from coast to coast this week, as WWE wrestling star Shad Gaspard was pronounced dead in Los Angeles County Wednesday afternoon.
Declared missing three days ago, Gaspard's body was discovered next to Venice Beach. Born in Brooklyn and taking his last breaths off the coast of California, Gaspard's legacy should be felt all around the world.
The 39-year-old had been swimming out in the Pacific Ocean with his 10-year-old son with his wife Salina nearby when the waves got heavy and trapped them out at sea. Lifeguards responded and under Gaspard's instructions, saved his son first. Right after, a huge wave struck Gaspard and carried him further out to sea. Lifeguards and a subsequent search party couldn't locate him that night.
Gaspard's death hits me hard for one simple reason: he died protecting his son. That was his last thought before the end reached him. You see, when you have a kid, the rules adjust. The game changes overall and you, along with your spouse or partner, aren't the most important person in the world anymore. That falls to your son or daughter, the future as I like to call my son, Vincent.
Every single thought when the two of us are out together doing anything that runs through my head consists of survival. No matter what happens, get him home safe. It's a simple instinctive notion that never quits. I can only imagine what transpired in Gaspard's head as the waves started to get higher and stronger. At first, when panic approaches, you do your best to hold the line. In other words, keep your cool. If you freak out, they will freak out too.
Gaspard's next thought presumably was to signal the lifeguard for help. Since he had no idea if things were going to get better or worse, he made the tough yet required call. He chose to separate himself from his son, even if for a few minutes. Gaspard, according to news reports, instructed the lifeguard to save his son before his own life. A son that the late wrestler just saw celebrate a birthday in late April.
This is what makes Gaspard a hero. He chose another life over his own, a sacrifice that will cause pain and discomfort, yet will make several people proud in the end. It's part of the deal he signed as a dad when his son was born. If something happens, that's what will happen. We go first.
It wasn't the first time Gaspard was a hero. Back in 2016 while in Florida, Gaspard stopped an armed man from robbing a liquor store. He restrained him until the cops arrived to take care of the situation. While the gun was revealed later to be a BB gun, Gaspard didn't take any chances. He told Ryan Satin of Pro Wrestling Sheet at the time, "I didn't want anyone to get hurt. I just kept thinking about how I wanted to make sure I got home to my son."
Gaspard's toughness had been instilled inside him since before he was born. Shad's dad was a street enforcer for local gangs and personal security for Frank Lucas, the renowned gangster. The third of six siblings, Shad started boxing as a five-year-old and also learned various martial arts. He fought much older men various tournaments, including the No Holds Barred tournament. Shad followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a bodyguard for celebrities like Britney Spears, Puff Daddy, and Mike Tyson. Before long, wrestling came calling.
At age 21, he decided to go into professional wrestling, making his debut in 2003. He would spend time in the WWF, The Ohio Valley Wrestling, Tough Enough, and the WWE along with other organizations. Early on in his career, Shad wrestled on the independent circuit, forming a duo with JTG, aka Jayson Anthony Paul, called Cryme Time. He would return to circuit in 2012 until the end of his life. It was the indie wrestling circuit where Gaspard felt the most at home and comfortable.
Referred to as "Da Beast" for many years in his wrestling career, Gaspard wasn't perfect, but entertained the masses all while being a hero in his own home. But in the end, he was the perfect dad. He made the ultimate sacrifice.
It's what good dads do. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson called Gaspard a great guy, but he was more importantly a heroic dad. On multiple occasions, he made the call to save others as well as ensure the safety of his son.
Tough guys are a dime a dozen in this world. What makes the world run better are good parents. Ones who are willing to risk it all for their future. Whatever it takes.
While the world mourns the loss of a good man, I will raise a glass to a great father.
Shad Gaspard died so his son could live, something millions of fathers can easily relate to.