The world saw Andre Roussimoff as larger-than-life, quite literally. He was one of the most famous pro athletes in the 1970s and 80s. Perhaps he’s remembered best by his wrestling name, Andre the Giant, but those who knew him say that despite his Texas-sized proportions, there was a gentleness to him.
Someone who got to know him well over the years is Terry Todd, the director of the Stark Center for the Study of Physical Culture and Sports at the University of Texas at Austin. Todd is featured in a new HBO documentary that explores Andre’s life and career.
Todd says he first met Andre in the 1970s at a wrestling match in Georgia.
“This was before the days of the Internet, so I didn’t have access to numberless videos,” he says. “So I just wanted to see this wonder of the world with my own eyes in person.”
At that time, Andre was seven feet tall and weighed almost 400 pounds.
“We became pretty good friends,” Todd says. “Pretty much every time, everywhere we were, if we went into a restaurant, everything stopped. People stopped talking and people just stared at him.”
Andre knew his size meant he likely wouldn’t live as long as other people, but he appreciated the unique experiences he was able to have. Todd says he was one of the most quickly-recognized celebrities in the world.
“To me, he was sort of a living manifestation of our childhood dreams of giants,” Todd says. “This, I think, is the reason that he’s remembered. I don’t believe he would have been remembered so kindly had he not himself been a basically kind, gentle man.”
Written by Jen Rice.