XFL bolsters its ranks with new staff hires including former AAF Director of Player Personnel

The XFL bolstered its ranks with new staff hires, including a league-wide director of player administration, heads of communications in their Los Angeles, Tampa Bay and Houston franchises, and a head of partnerships in LA.

Russ Giglio has joined as Director of Player Administration. Russ spent over eleven years at the NFL working in the Player Personnel and Football Operations departments, and most recently was the Director of Player Personnel at the former AAF. In his role at the XFL, he will be charged with overseeing Player Personnel policies and procedures, including the draft and waiver wire, and report to Doug Whaley, Senior Vice-President of Football Operations.

Lisa Milner Goldberg joins the league as head of communications for XFL Los Angeles, after eleven years working at Swanson Communications, a PR agency with a focus on boxing, individual athletes and live events. Allen Barrett will head up communications for XFL Tampa Bay after 11 years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he most recently served as Senior Communications Manager.  Charles Hampton comes to Houston as head of communications for XFL Houston, where he spent eight years with the Houston Texans before heading up the athletic communications team at Grand Canyon University for the past four years.

Jim Baral also joins XFL Los Angeles as the Senior Director of Partnerships, after consulting for the Los Angeles Chargers for the past year and a half. A native of Los Angeles, Jim led media sales and marketing for Univision Networks and Cox Communications on the west coast for over 20 years.

Names you may know, names you should know from the XFL Summer Showcases (pt. 1)

With all eight Summer Showcases now complete, the next step for the XFL from a player personnel standpoint is to begin signing players to league contracts. Commissioner Oliver Luck has stated plans to sign 200-300 players from the Showcases to be made available in the XFL Draft, scheduled for some time in October.Over the course of the eight Showcases, around 900 players worked out for XFL coaches and league staff. In scouring the rosters, there are some players who may be familiar to even the most casual football fan. There are some players who are known to the diehards. And there are some players who fall into the “obscure” category.

That, however, doesn’t mean they don’t have a story to tell or aren’t of value. Over the next two columns, I’ll break down some of the bigger names attending the Showcases, as well as point you in the direction of some of the lesser-known players who may have a shot at a contract.

Some have slipped through the professional football cracks for one reason or another, and some just have intriguing backgrounds worth mentioning. Below, I’ll spotlight players from the first four Showcases. Later, I’ll write about players from the last four.

And if you’re interested in learning more about those who worked out seeking an XFL contract, check out my Google Doc on the players known to have attended the Showcases, as well as details about their professional careers. You won’t find this breakdown anywhere else, and I update it as new information comes in. If you’d like to contribute by adding a name who attended or other information, DM me on Twitter @gregmparks or e-mail me at g_man9784@yahoo.com.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1R8DSec0yBdhuqrCH1u3JU2JzoeHD9Te8a9YCBgsNw-8/edit#gid=249102793

Dallas

Names you may know:

RB Lance Dunbar: A six-year NFL vet, Dunbar spent five years with the Dallas Cowboys as a backup running back and special teamer. Among those he spelled in the Dallas backfield? DeMarco Murray and Ezekiel Elliott. Not a bad duo to study under.

RB Christine Michael: Michael won a Super Bowl ring with the Seattle Seahawks at the conclusion of the 2013 NFL season. A second-round draft pick of Seattle in 2013, Michael led the team in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2016, but was released in the offseason when he was caught up in a numbers game at the position.

FB Aaron Ripkowski: A fan favorite in his three seasons in Green Bay, Ripkowski played in 47 out of a possible 48 regular season games and proved a devastating lead blocker. He showed an ability to run the ball when pressed into action as well, averaging 4.2 yards per carry during his tenure with the Pack.

QB Landry Jones: Jones was a four-star recruit coming out of high-school and landed at the prestigious University of Oklahoma. He guided the team to a Fiesta Bowl win as a sophomore. A fourth-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Jones sat behind the durable Ben Roethlisberger for five seasons. Despite his college pedigree, he has thrown just 169 NFL passes.

DE Kony Ealy: Carolina selected Ealy out of Missouri in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Durable for four seasons, he was never able to consistently crack the starting lineup for the Panthers, and his statistics failed to grow. In the final year of his rookie deal, he was traded to New England before bouncing around with a few other teams before finishing last season in Oakland.

Names you should know:

CB Brian Peavy: The Iowa State product was a favorite of Pro Football Focus, where he came in at 104 overall in their 2019 NFL Draft Big Board. The site credited him with the fourth-ranked overall grade in the class among cornerbacks, and the 12th ranked coverage grade. A criminal mischief arrest in 2017 and a height of just 5’9” in an era of big corners worked against him. He was signed, then released, by Arizona.

WR Jalen Rowell: In 2017, Rowell (nee Robinette) put up eye-catching numbers at 6’3” and 220 pounds for Air Force and was set to be a day three pick in the NFL Draft. Then, the service academies changed their policy on athletes turning pro, leading to Rowell having to serve two more years. Which brings us to 2019 and the XFL.

DE Moubarak Djeri: Djeri made his way to America after playing in the German Football League. He was signed by the Arizona Cardinals in 2018 after playing for the Cologne Crocodiles. He was released before the season began. Still just 23, Djeri is raw but has the measurables to be a force.

K Tyler Rausa: Size is a factor at every position in the NFL, even kicker. Rausa connected on 79% of his field goals in two years as a starting placekicker at Boise State, but his 5’9” stature works against him. He participated in the National Arena League in 2018, where he led the league in field goal percentage.

DE Marcell Frazier: Playing college at Missouri, Frazier notched 15.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks as a senior, following up a junior campaign that saw him register 7.0 sacks. Most impressive about his senior numbers? He did that playing most of the year with a torn quad. Not the most gifted athletically and having taken a circuitous route to get to Missouri, Frazier can obviously be an impact player.

Houston

Names you may know:

WR Robert Meachem: For six seasons, Meachem was a part of the New Orleans Saints’ prolific offense. Over that time, he amassed 164 receptions and averaged over 16 yards per catch. In 2012, he left for big money in San Diego, but never panned out there as a free agent acquisition. He returned to the Saints before heading north to the CFL for 2018.

S Will Hill: Despite a talented career at the University of Florida, Hill’s brand was so toxic that not only wasn’t he drafted in 2011, he wasn’t even signed after the draft. It wasn’t until a year later that the New York Giants took a flier on him. Hill played for the Giants and Ravens over four seasons, but personal issues continued to plague him at the pro level – among them, an arrest and NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

TE Larry Donnell: Donnell flew under the radar for two years as a pro until he broke out on a nationally televised Thursday Night Football game, grabbing three touchdowns en route to a Giants victory over Washington. At 6’5” and 269 pounds, Donnell is not a game-breaker, but he can move the chains. Across four seasons in New York, he caught 110 passes.

LB Taiwan Jones: This is a name you may know, it’s just not the PERSON you may know. Yes, there are TWO Taiwan Jones who have recently appeared in the NFL. Jones the running back is still active and on the roster of the Houston Texans. Jones the linebacker has only played a handful of games in the league with the New York Jets.

QB Brandon Silvers: Not known for his work in the NFL but rather in the Alliance of American Football (AAF), Silvers had a tryout with the Saints out of Troy in 2018 but didn’t land on their camp roster. He worked his way up from third string with the Memphis Express of the AAF to help the team win a key overtime game against Birmingham. He was briefly on the New York Jets’ roster this past offseason.

Names you should know:

FB J.D. Moore: Fullbacks need love too. Although a position that has become an endangered species in football, Moore has positional flexibility having played some tight end in college. He blocked for first-round NFL Draft Pick Leonard Fournette at LSU. His NFL career was cut short by injury last year in Kansas City.

DT Chris Nelson: A rookie out of Texas, Nelson was a team captain and played at the post-season East-West Shrine Game this January. A bit undersized at defensive tackle, Nelson showed an ability to push the pocket. He started all 14 games as a senior and had 39 tackles with 5.5 for a loss. He was signed then released by the Pittsburgh Steelers after this year’s draft.

QB Devante Kincade: The two-time SWAC Offensive Player of the Year at Grambling State, Kincade has signed contracts in the NAL and CFL since going undrafted in 2018. He is just as adept on the run as he is throwing the ball. Kincade has XFL connections: Then-SMU and current Houston XFL head coach June Jones offered the four-star recruit out of high school; Kincade signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the CFL, coached at the time by Jones.

CB Bradley Sylve: Although he wasn’t a starter on Alabama’s star-studded defense, Sylve was hoping to land a free-agent contract after the 2016 draft when he began his Pro Day workout. That all changed when Sylve tore his Achilles tendon while working in front of scouts. A year later, he signed with the Bills after running a 4.43 40 yard-dash.

TE Zeke Pike: Pike’s story is best told in this Sports Illustrated write-up from 2016: https://www.si.com/college-football/2016/12/26/zeke-pike-auburn-tigers-louisville-cardinals

New York

Names you may know:

WR Hakeem Nicks: A first-round pick of the Giants out of North Carolina, Nicks hasn’t played a regular-season pro football game since 2015. He was a six-year starter with the Giants, twice going over the 1,000-yard receiving mark in a season. He was a part of the Super Bowl-winning squad of 2011. Nicks is a true comeback story.

DT Jerel Worthy: Worthy has bounced around the NFL after being selected in the second-round of the 2012 draft by the Packers. Many draft analysts saw him as a borderline first-round talent. He was never able to put it all together though, compiling just 34 tackles and 2.5 sacks across 40 NFL games.

RB Branden Oliver: Undrafted out of the University of Buffalo, Oliver surprisingly led the Chargers in rushing during his rookie season of 2014. Oliver became the caddy for Melvin Gordon when the Wisconsin product was selected in the first round by San Diego in 2015. Oliver sustained a torn Achilles that kept him on the sidelines in 2016 and wasn’t as productive when he returned.

TE Evan Rodriguez: Another TE/FB hybrid, Rodriguez entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick out of Temple by the Chicago Bears. He was arrested twice while in college, and two more times while in the NFL. Though he was last on an NFL team in 2014, Rodriguez was a part of the San Antonio Commanders of the AAF this past spring.

RB Andre Williams: At Boston College, Williams was Doak Walker Award Winner (nation’s best running back) and a finalist for the Heisman Trophy, both in 2013. He was eventually drafted in the fourth round by the New York Giants in 2014. He was the team’s leading rusher that year, but only with 3.3 yards per carry. His carries dipped the next three years between the Giants and Chargers.

Names you should know:

LB Cardell Rawlings: Coming from Division II Wingate University, Rawlings was under-the-radar for much of the draft community in 2019. At a prototypical linebacker size of 6’2” and 240 pounds, Rawlings’ best asset is his ability to be a pass rush nuisance. As a senior, he had 18 sacks and 23 tackles for loss, and was a DII All-American. Oh by the way? He runs a 4.5 40.

QB Alek Torgersen: The Ivy League doesn’t produce a lot of pro talent, but Penn’s Torgersen would love to follow the path of former Ivy Leaguer Ryan Fitzpatrick. Torgersen set school records for passing touchdowns and total offense. He obviously has the intelligence you’d like at the position and is more mobile than his 6’3”, 230 lb size would bely.

RB Tarean Folston: Folston comes from a football family: His dad, James, was a second-round pick of the Raiders in 1994 and his brother has spent time in the league as well. Tarean was a four-star recruit out of high school, landing at Notre Dame. A torn ACL cut his junior season short and when he returned as a senior, he was behind Josh Adams on the depth chart. Folston tried out for Washington before playing in the AAF.

G Brian Dolce: Dolce went from walk-on at the University of Albany to earning a camp tryout with the Bills after the 2019 draft. Even more impressive is he did that while frequently changing positions. He came to Albany as a defensive lineman, moved to tight end, then back to defensive line. That’s after playing linebacker in high school. His position listed at the XFL Showcase? Offensive guard.

S Delvon Randall: A leader on the Temple defense, Randall is in the record books as having the third-most interceptions all-time in the American Athletic Conference. Randall signed with the Eagles following the 2019 draft after starting for three years on the Owls. Most impressively, Randall earned a single-digit uniform number while in college, given yearly to the nine toughest players on the Owl team.

Washington

Names you may know:

LB Terence Garvin: “Rugged” Terence Garvin carved out a nice career as a special teamer in the NFL, playing a combined 75 games for Pittsburgh, Washington, Seattle, and San Francisco. His most famous play may have been a hit that broke the jaw of Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber. Garvin wreaked havoc in the AAF this year, intercepting two passes and returning one for a touchdown in the first Orlando Apollos game of the season.

WR Jacoby Ford: Blazing a 4.28 40 yard-dash time at the NFL Combine led to the speed-happy Raiders drafting Ford in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. He immediately made an impact as a kickoff returner, taking three to the house as a rookie. He was also effective on jet sweeps and reverses. Ford couldn’t parlay his work into a second contract in Oakland and found himself in the CFL for two years.

RB Bernard Pierce: Pierce averaged an eye-popping 4.9 yards per carry in his rookie season in Baltimore, working behind starter Ray Rice. His performance dropped in 2013, averaging two full yards per carry less than his first year. Nevertheless, he had an opportunity to start in 2014 but was released after the season following a DUI arrest. He bounced around a bit before playing in the American Flag Football League in 2018.

CB Dexter McDougle: McDougle entered the NFL as a third-round draft choice of the New York Jets in 2014. He tore his ACL in training camp, sidelining him for the season as a rookie. He was relegated mostly to special teams in 2015. A trade to the Eagles in 2017 saw his career follow the same path. After being cut mid-season by the Eagles in 2018, McDougle latched on with the AAF.

TE Khari Lee: You probably didn’t select Khari Lee for your fantasy football team: In 34 career NFL games, he has just two receptions. A block-first tight end, he was signed out of Bowie State by the Houston Texans following the 2015 NFL Draft. He showed in college that he can catch the ball, coming down with 34 receptions during his senior season.

Names you should know:

DE Adham Talaat: Talaat played his college ball at Gallaudet, a school for the deaf in Washington, D.C. He was a dominating player in college, a captain and finalist for the award for Most Outstanding Player in Division III in 2013. He earned many “firsts” when it came to accolades bestowed upon a Gallaudet player. Talaat had tryouts with the Chiefs and Seahawks in 2014 before getting into coaching at the collegiate level.

WR Vinny Papale: You may not have heard of Vinny Papale, but you may have heard of his father, Vince. It was Vince’s story that inspired the movie “Invincible” starring Mark Wahlberg. At Delaware, Vinny played receiver and returned punts. Injuries mounted, as his freshman and sophomore campaigns were cut short due to a broken leg, and ACL & MCL tears respectively. He tried out for the Eagles, his father’s old team, following the 2019 NFL Draft.

G Toree Boyd: An ironman on the offensive line for Howard University, Boyd started 46 straight games in his career, a team record. Born in Nassau in the Bahamas, Boyd was a three-year team captain for the Bison. Post-draft in 2017, Boyd signed on with the Atlanta Falcons.

G Kyle Chung: Virginia Tech’s Chung, son of former NFL offensive lineman Eugene Chung, signed a free-agent deal with the Chicago Bears after going undrafted this year. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA due to medical hardships, specifically injuries relating to his shoulder. Chung played mostly left guard, center, and right tackle during his career, showing valuable versatility.

TE Cam Serigne: To some a surprising draft snub in 2018, Serigne latched on with the Carolina Panthers following the draft. All he did in college was set the ACC record for career receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns for a tight end. Even as a redshirt freshman, he led Wake Forest in receiving. Not big enough or fast enough for the NFL, Serigne’s story is all too familiar for many trying out for the XFL.

Imagining a reimagined game of football

The XFL’s goal is to make a great game even greater.  An ambitious mindset for sure, but everything about the league’s mission thus far has been just that.

The average amount of actual action in an entire NFL game has been calculated to be anywhere from eleven to fifteen minutes. This is what the viewer at home, and in the stadium, experiences over a three-hour span of watching an NFL game. Fifteen minutes or less of actual football.  A sixty-minute game that only produces a quarter of actual gameplay. More than three quarters of an actual NFL game clock is spent on camera shots, commentary and players huddling and regrouping before the next play from scrimmage. The average three-hours plus of an NFL game is dedicated to advertisements, replays, multiple breaks in the action, and then more advertisements. Fifteen minutes, at best, of actual football plays, and nearly three-hours of everything else. In defense of the NFL, after all these studies came out, in recent years they have to attempted reduce all the dead spots in their telecasts.

People will often point to advertisements eating up the three-hours plus of a football game. The NFL has taken steps, in recent years, to increase their in-game advertising through picture-in-picture technology, with quicker commercial breaks and on-field advertising.  The real issue is that it’s not just about how long a game or broadcast takes. It’s about what happens during the actual game. It’s about the amount of in-game action, and the lack of it, or the delays between plays.  It’s not just about the fans at home watching. It’s about the people watching live at the games. Oftentimes, the home viewer has a better experience than the fan seated in a stadium. TV Ratings have been up for the NFL, but attendance is down; simply because people would rather watch the games at home. Part of that is a financial decision, but a large part of it has to do with being able to better enjoy the game at home. The breaks in action and momentum throughout the course of a football game are way more noticeable when experiencing a game live in person, than they are from the comfort of your own home. The breaks in momentum also effect the players and the play on the field.

The XFL’s mantra of “less stall and more ball” is less about fitting a football game into a three-hour window, and more about increasing the importance of the action on the field.  It’s about minimizing the dead play time and meaningless plays, and maximizing the meaningful plays.  So, the number of plays and the overall time of the telecast is important, but not the main focus. It’s only part of the overall picture.  Actions speak louder than words, and for these words to matter they need to be put into action.  How exactly does the XFL plan on doing that?  The experimenting of this is still on-going, and will continue later this month with the league’s broadcast partners, ABC, Fox and ESPN, when the league partners again with the Spring League to continue their research, development, and testing of game rules and in-game technologies.

One way of speeding up and increasing the action is to shorten the play clock. Rather than the current 40-second play clock used in the NFL, the XFL is working towards having a 25-second play clock.  With a 40-second clock, two offensive plays can potentially take up to a minute and twenty seconds of game clock. The 25-second play clock will, in theory, add an extra play for every minute played on the field.  However, it doesn’t stop there. The XFL’s goal is to quickly run another play once a play has ended. The league is planning to speed up the process by having a designated official, whose sole job will be to line up the football immediately after a play has ended. The quicker the ball is spotted, the quicker the next play happens. In theory, a shorter play clock with a system in place to set and reset for the next play will help speed things up, but there is a reliance on human execution.  This is where modern technology comes into play to help boost the operation further.

The XFL is planning on using an “all-11” audio communication system, for both offense and defense. In modern day football, a play call is relayed from a coach to his quarterback, who then relays the play to his teammates before the next play can be run. Some NFL and college teams that implement a faster style of offense will often use signals and even drawings to speed up the process.  With an all-11 audio system,  every offensive player will immediately know the next play call. Once again, time is being saved before the next play happens. This will extend to the defense as well. What’s unknown at this point is if there will be a cut off time in the audio transmission to players.  In the NFL, the audio is cut off before the team is at the line of scrimmage. Will the XFL decide to keep the audio transmission going right up until the snap? It would be the equivalent of Tom Brady hearing Josh McDaniels instruct him at the line of scrimmage, while Brady is scanning the defense. Imagine if that audio exchange was also available to the audience. During NFL telecasts, Tony Romo has expertly surmised where the play should, and could go, right before the snap. Imagine a scenario where he was actually telling Jared Goff, where to throw the ball based on the defensive look.  An “all-11” audio system not only helps players know the play and line up quicker, but it can also help them execute their designed plays better. Using this type of technology will almost make the need for a huddle unnecessary.

Technology can also be a useful tool in other areas. Some of the dead spots in football telecasts are unavoidable, like injuries for example.  The one area where games do get dragged down, and the action gets slowed down to a halt, is with officiating delays and replays. The XFL plans on implementing a modified officiating protocol. They are looking to speed up the process in which penalties are called, and in how quickly replays and challenges are resolved. One of the nine game officials is going to be in the booth, with access to all angles and replays. This official’s job will not only to be to correct a call, but to communicate it quickly to the head referee on the field.

Simplifying the rules will also help cut down on penalties and game stoppages. The XFL’s proposed “multiple forward passes behind the line of scrimmage” rule, not only adds an extra layer to the offensive strategy, but it makes the referee’s job easier when it comes to determining where the ball is. The XFL’s proposed one foot in bounds catch rule also helps officials as well. So much time is spent on stoppages and replays determining what is, and what isn’t a catch. One foot in-bounds as a catch eliminates the referee conferences after a catch and the potential challenges that usually follow these types of plays.

Meaningful versus meaningless plays. Since taking multiple safety measures, the NFL has seen a big increase in touch-backs and fair catches over the last few seasons. Kickoff and punt returns, to a lesser extent have been reduced significantly. One of the bigger dead spots and lulls in action in the NFL, comes after a team scores. A break in the action is then followed by the next play, being yet another break in the action. No time is taken off the clock during this operation, but usually nothing happens. This really hurts the live in-game experience and the momentum and flow of the game, not to mention eliminating the excitement that was attached to kickoffs in the past. The now defunct AAF eliminated the kickoff altogether, and an offensive play followed a score. However, what that effectively did was to guarantee that no offensive team would have the ability to start a drive in good field position. Every team started their drives at the 25-yard line. Eliminating the kickoff also eliminated the excitement and shift in momentum that comes from big plays on kick returns.

The XFL is bringing the kickoff and kick return back, keeping safety in mind with a new alignment that reduces collisions but brings back the exciting aspect of a big return. This is one of the original “reimagine” concepts that the XFL has been tinkering with and testing for quite some time. This concept was heavily aided by the league’s health advisory committee members. One of the most recent proposals was for touch-backs to result in teams starting on offense at their own 35-yard line. An incentive to not kick the ball deep into the end zone and to ensure that a return happens. The punt return will also be different, but familiar to football fans. A 5-yard halo will be in place that allows the returner to set up and return the football. This is borrowed from the Canadian game. One of the more exciting plays in the CFL is the punt return, and CFL special teams coaches have a field day designing plays with reverses and all kinds of gadget plays stemming from the point of the return. Another reimagining that has safety and the big play in mind at the same time.

There is no play that goes against the competitive nature of pro sports, and is more meaningless, than the kneel-down in football.  The NHL has its own form of clock killing during penalties, and it comes when a team is trying to run out the clock when they are facing the disadvantage of having one less player on the ice. However, this form of action requires skill and risk. It’s the boxing equivalent of being up against the ropes and trying to avoid being knocked out until the round ends. The kneel-down in football has no such skill involved. It’s always been a way of retreating and copping out. An extremely boring end to first halves and the end of games. Although things are still being ironed out, the XFL plans on reducing or eliminating the kneel down altogether by enforcing that teams have to attempt to gain yardage by moving forward. To further this rule, the clock automatically stops within two minutes. This forces teams to have to try and get first downs rather than attempt a series of quarterback sneaks and then punt. You are essentially waving the white flag and giving the ball back to your opponent inside of 15-20 seconds if you don’t try to maintain possession. To keep the ball, you have to keep moving it forward. The competitive action continues, and it doesn’t come to a screeching halt.  One of the sequences that almost always gets booed by a home team crowd is when a team decides to take a knee before a half, simply because they don’t have enough time or timeouts and don’t want to risk trying to advance the football.  Increasing the amount of meaningful plays and action actually extends to a few other different aspects as well. The first ties into the kneel-down and the final two minutes of each half, and what is being loosely referred to as the “comeback period”. The game clock is supposed to stop after every play within two minutes. This has been, and is still being tested by the XFL. If implemented, it will no doubt increase the amount of plays run in the game’s most crucial moments, but this type of “reimagining” may dramatically change the whole time honored aspect of game and clock management as we know it.

In the original and in the current XFL, the extra point kick is no more. This is another untimed play that is virtually meaningless. In recent years, it has been moved back to create drama but it’s still one of the more automatic and boring plays in football.  Replacing the extra-point kicks in the XFL are three tiered conversions: a one-point conversion from the 2-yard line, a two-point conversion from the 5-yard line, and a three-point conversion from the 10-yard line. After a team scores a touchdown, they will have one of these three options to choose from. What they choose will be based on strategy, and if they are ahead or trailing in the game. Teams that attempt a three-point conversion will be in desperation mode. Converting one play from the ten-yard line will be very difficult to pull off.  The premise of this concept is to create more scoring related plays that add drama to a game, and create the possibility of a late comeback.

Then there’s the XFL’s proposed overtime concept. This has safety and fairness in mind.  The safety aspect is to avoid having players play multiple series and quarters. Doing so increases the likelihood of injuries.  The fairness aspect is allowing both teams the opportunity to win the game on offense and defense, with no coin flips or kickers determining the outcome. A tie is broken when both teams get the opportunity to score in what has been loosely labeled as a “shootout”.  As presently proposed, both teams’ offenses get five scoring opportunities at the opposing teams five-yard line. Although similar “shootout” concepts exist in hockey and soccer, those shootouts come down to a version of their games that is not played during regulation. The XFL’s shootout is traditional 11-on-11, offense versus defense. No field goal kicks, “Oklahoma drills,” or 40-yard dashes. The concept is trying to resolve a tie quickly and fairly with the players health and safety in mind. Trying to accomplish all of this and still make it an exciting sequence for football fans to watch. The XFL is still working out the kinks and rules on this concept. The truth is that overtime games are very rare, especially in an 8-team league. The original XFL had 43 regular season and playoff games. Only one of those games resulted in overtime. The AAF played 8-weeks of play, resulting in 32 overall games. Only one of those games ended up in overtime. So, the likelihood is that the XFL could only have one or two games that would result in this overtime concept seeing the light of day.

The XFL is trying to walk a fine line of being different enough to get noticed, but still appear to be familiar. The idea is appealing to college and NFL fans, by trying to resemble the game of football that those groups love, while also trying to improve upon aspects of football that can be upgraded for the year 2020 and beyond, all the while using advanced technology to be the driving force behind all of it.  Change always produces resistance.  There was a time when people didn’t want 2-point conversions.  Many rule and presentation changes over the years were first met with skepticism and scrutiny.  While the XFL will be adopting ninety-percent of NFL rules, it’s the other ten-percent that could create hesitation for those who may consider following the league.

A lot of these concepts seem very exciting. When imagining the possibilities of what’s being reimagined, can the league pull it off? The attempt to increase action and plays and to make the game more exciting and evolved than it already is. The XFL’s goal is to make a great game even greater.  An ambitious mindset for sure, but everything about the league’s mission thus far has been just that.

XFL Names Dallas Native Grady Raskin President of City’s New Team

Grady Raskin, most recently Vice President of Corporate Partnerships for the NHL Dallas Stars, has been named President of the XFL team in his native Dallas.

Stamford, Conn., June 27, 2019 – The XFL today announced that Grady Raskin, most recently Vice President of Corporate Partnerships for the NHL Dallas Stars, has been named President of the XFL team in his native Dallas.

The Dallas XFL team will take the field in February 2020 for its inaugural season and play its home games at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas. Bob Stoops is the team’s head coach and general manager.

Raskin will be responsible for the team’s fan engagement and business operations, including ticket sales, corporate partnerships, marketing, content, communications, community relations, and game day experience.

“Vince McMahon, Oliver Luck and I are thrilled to welcome Grady to the XFL as our eighth and final team president this year,” said Jeffrey Pollack, XFL President and Chief Operating Officer. “As a Dallas native who has called the Metroplex home his entire life, Grady understands the heart and soul of local sports fans and he’s deeply connected in the business community. We know that, working alongside Coach Stoops, he will help us connect with the community and build something special.”

“The XFL has attracted an impressive group of coaches and sports executives to its ranks, and I’d like to thank Vince McMahon and Jeffrey Pollack for the opportunity to lead the team in my hometown and work with the legendary Bob Stoops,” said Raskin. “Knowing how passionate football fans in North Texas are, it’s humbling and extremely energizing to take on this new challenge. We are eager to begin the process of building a first-class organization devoted to creating fan-first experiences and strong partnerships throughout the community.”

Raskin began his 22-year sports career as an intern for MLB’s Texas Rangers in 1996 and soon worked his way up to Director of Advertising Sales, selling corporate partnerships for three sports entities owned by Tom Hicks (Texas Rangers, Dallas Stars, and Mesquite Rodeo), as well as the newly-constructed American Airlines Center. He was elevated to Vice President of Business Development for the Rangers and Stars in 2007, then, upon the sale of the teams in 2009, moved to the Rangers exclusively. Raskin rejoined the Stars in 2012, serving as Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, managing all partnership sales and activations. Over his career, he has experienced two Western Conference Championships and a Stanley Cup Championship with the Stars, and two American League Pennants with the Rangers.

A cum laude graduate of George Washington University with a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in sports management, Raskin was a three-year letterman on the university’s Division I baseball team. He lives in Dallas with his wife Ally and their two children.

The XFL Registers Trademarks for its Seattle Franchise

Today, commentators on Reddit and in the XFLBoard forums were discussing multiple trademark applications that were recently made by “Alpha Entertainment,” the XFL’s parent company.

The trademark registrations may indicate potential names for the Seattle franchise:

  • Seattle Wild
  • Seattle Force
  • Seattle Fury
  • Seattle Dragons
  • Seattle Surge

There is speculation that the registration of five names may lead to some sort of vote or contest for the fans to choose which name is preferred.  There is other speculation that the league has registered five names just to cloak their real team name choice in the run-up to a big reveal. Either way, we won’t know the Seattle team name until the league makes the official announcement.

Trademark attorney Josh Gerben has weighed in on his opinion for the multiple trademark filings:

Back in February, this web site asked its followers to choose team names for all eight XFL franchises. The names the fans chose were:

Seattle (2225  total votes)

  1. Wolfpack – 9.5%
  2. Sasquatches – 8.8%
  3. Lumberjacks – 8.5%
  4. Emeralds – 8.4%
  5. Sea Monsters – 7.3%
  6. Tridents – 6.4%
  7. Steelheads – 6.2%
  8. Stingrays – 5.8%
  9. Orcas – 4.9%
  10. Scream – 4.9%
  11. Timberwolves – 4.8%
  12. Knights – 3.8%
  13. Kings – 3.3%
  14. Lynx – 3.2%
  15. Silencers – 2.9%
  16. Stallions – 2.9%
  17. Needle – 2.9%
  18. Sonics – 0.4% (write-in)
  19. Grunge – 0.2% (write-in)
  20. Supersonics – 0.2% (write-in)
  21. Kraken – 0.2% (write-in)
  22. Reign – 0.2% (write-in)
  23. Storm – 0.2% (write-in)
  24. Dragons – 0.1% (write-in)
  25. Rain – 0.1% (write-in)
  26. Seals – 0.1% (write-in)
  27. Thunder – 0.1% (write-in)

The challenges that await the XFL

Will the XFL be able to survive and thrive in the long run, when so many other football leagues haven’t?

The biggest question surrounding the XFL, is will the league be able to survive and thrive in the long run, when so many other football leagues haven’t? A lot of that will hinge on what transpires from now until the start of it’s season in February.

In 2017, unbeknownst to many, a team of employees were hired in preparation for the relaunch of the XFL, before any announcement could be made of the XFL’s return. Vince McMahon needed to work extremely hard to secure risk insurance for his players and the league. Without it, the league wouldn’t be able to proceed. McMahon succeeded by obtaining the services of two of the countries leading sports risk and insurance companies in, The Berkley Group, as well as The Fairly Group. For over two decades, Berkley has insured more pro sports leagues, teams, and professional athletes than any other U.S. insurer. The Fairly group is also an industry leader in the field of risk consulting and management. It was this very action that helped Vince McMahon make his sales pitch to Oliver Luck, to become the CEO and Commissioner of the XFL. This showed Luck, how serious Vince McMahon was.

The first seeds planted in the growth of the XFL was a proactive plan to have the league prepared for adversity, something  most startup business don’t take account of in their early stages. Ninety percent of all startups fail, and they almost all fail in their first year, because they do not effectively factor in all the challenges and pitfalls that are guaranteed to come their way. Start-up companies need to be able to cover all their bases, have proper planning, and be resilient enough to recover from all the blows.

One need not look any further than what happened to the Alliance of American Football. Any business, particularly a start-up business, needs to have contingency plans for the challenges and problems that will inevitably come their way. The Alliance’s plan A was a disaster, and Plan B was an equal catastrophe. The glitch wasn’t in the payroll system, but in the entire plan. While the league presented a good front to the public, the AAF was dead on arrival. Its just that no one knew it publicly. Everything went wrong before the season even started. It makes most wonder how could the AAF could not have seen this coming, and why weren’t they prepared for all the adversity. There’s a reason for that. The concept of a football league has always been fun to imagine and plan, but not as fun once it is realized and set in motion.

Right now, the XFL is in the fun part of league building. Cities and stadiums have been announced, the coaching staffs and front offices are being put together. A TV deal has been announced with two of the very best sports networks, ABC and Fox. The XFL has actually started it’s first run of league events, by working out prospective players in all eight of their markets. They are testing innovative game rules and in-game technologies with the Spring League and their broadcast partners. Team identities will be revealed, players will be signed, teams will draft those players, and then off to training camp and eventually the season.

For all the fun in building a football league from scratch entails, the XFL is going to face many challenges in the lead up to year one. The league is going to have its fair share of doubters and naysayers. Everyone associated with the league needs to embody their founder and have thick skin. Start-ups tend to fail when there is the lack of a dedicated team, and when there is fear of being responsible or being blamed for failure.

Read any article or commentary about the XFL and you will see the same old arguments. The biggest being, whether there is really a market for another pro football league. The question is valid, but has been beaten to death. There are two areas where there really should be very little concern. The first is what ails most startups, a lack of financing. As documented, that’s not an issue with the XFL. The other area, that can be argued is the talent level of the players. This is where I depart from popular opinion. There’s no question in my mind, that there is so much football talent out there in 2019, that a second pro football league is necessary. This is really a result of the quality and evolution of college football programs. There are so many good football players out there,that can’t be fit into just one league.

There are some key areas where I do feel that the XFL will face difficulties. Of course, the big concerns down the road  are attendance, ratings and profitability. How well the leagues does in those areas may be determined by what transpires in the lead up to the February launch. These are what I consider the potential pitfalls of the league leading into year one.

TEAM NAMES/BRANDING

I wouldn’t classify this as an extinction level event, but it has the potential to make or break the league. You could argue that this is the most important and the most difficult decision that the league will make. The XFL can’t afford to get this wrong. The people out there, who have a negative perception of the XFL, expect the team names to reflect the in your face style of the original league. There are people out there who expect the teams to be called the “Dallas Dirtbags” or the “Seattle Psychos.” Those same people probably think that ABC is going to hire OJ Simpson to call the games.

XFL 2020 is certainly not going in that direction. But poor branding could kill the league before it gets off and running. Great branding can really be a difference maker, in not only how the league is viewed, but in how popular the league becomes. Once the names are revealed there’s no going back. How well the names and logos are received will go a long way towards having the league build fan bases in all eight of their markets.

FIRST IMPRESSION

It can be argued that the most important time period for the entire league will be in the months of November and December. For all the talk of how much time the league has in preparing for kickoff in February on ABC and Fox, the area where things will really need to be amped up is teams forming and practicing together in the fall. The XFL’s team rosters won’t be in place until Mid-October. Players are expected to be signed during the summer, and then more predominately after NFL cuts in September. This will be followed by the league’s drafting process. There will be close to 700 players signed and then drafted by the league’s teams. The talent will be there, but the most crucial element towards the league achieving a high quality of play is the time that the league’s eight teams have together in preparing for the season.

All indications thus far are that the fall practices for the XFL’s eight teams will be sort of similar to OTA’s. This will all lead into a league wide training camp, January in Houston. Roughly ninety percent of the XFL’s rules are supposed to follow the NFL, but there are areas of difference. Specifically when it comes to a faster 25 second play clock, a potential all 11 communication system, and some other rule tweaks, like the 3-point conversion, the new kickoffs, among other elements.

The eight teams in the XFL need to spend as much time as possible working together in order for the league to present quality football. It takes time for players and coaches to gel with one another. Everyone in a new league is new to another. This doesn’t only extend to the football teams. Prep time will also be needed for the officiating and broadcast teams. There will be several innovations introduced in those areas as well. You want all these elements to go off without a hitch.

The league can’t afford to struggle early on, with what is presented on the field. As is always the case, with new leagues, there will be a curiosity factor in the early going. If the league struggles early on to work out the kinks, they may lose potential viewers who are not impressed with what should be a ready made product come week one. Lack of preparation and planning could hurt all aspects of the teams and ultimately the league’s potential for success and growth.

KEEPING COACHES

One of the things that can disrupt the quality of a football team is losing players to injury. The quality of a team suffers as a result. The same can be said for coaches. Losing quality coaches can hurt a football team, especially if you are very close to the start of your season. The XFL is in a unique spot on the football calendar. As the league prepares to play it’s season in February of 2020, the 2019 NFL and College football seasons start winding down. Late December/January is firing and hiring season for NFL teams and NCAA programs.

As the XFL began the process of hiring coaches in February, they benefited from the fact that most coaching positions in the NFL and NCAA had been filled. So they didn’t have to compete for coaches services with NFL or NCAA teams.

While the XFL has language in player contracts that prevents them from going to the NFL once they are drafted in October (according to agents that were spoken to, on the condition of anonymity), there is no such language in the league’s coaching contracts.

The AAF ran into this issue last winter. Atlanta Legends Head Coach Brad Childress, stepped down right before the Alliance’s season started. He ended up taking a position on the Bears offensive staff. Michael Vick, the Legends coordinator, walked away from the job. Vick’s replacement, Rich Bartel, abruptly resigned two days before the teams opener. San Diego Fleet Offensive Coordinator Jon Kitna, left before the AAF season started to become the QB coach for the Dallas Cowboys. Cadillac Williams left the Birmingham Iron for Auburn. Hal Mumme, the current XFL Dallas offensive coordinator, resigned his position as the offensive coordinator of The Memphis Express, after only two weeks on the job.

Now, in the case of some of the AAF coaches, like Mumme and Vick, some left without a job in waiting. Brad Childress took a while before taking a senior position with Chicago under Matt Nagy. Some AAF coaches saw the writing on the wall and jumped ship. So it was more about the league showing bad warning signs, than better opportunities being presented.

However, what’s to stop an NFL team, from reaching out to Bob Stoops before the XFL season begins. Stoops may not be interested in coaching an NFL team in the fall come the 2020 season, because of family considerations, but if the Cowboys have a poor season in 2019 Jerry Jones might be tempted to make a play for Big Game Bob. It’s a mini doomsday scenario that most XFL supporters do not want to even consider.

There may very well be some XFL assistants that receive offers from NFL and college teams before the XFL season starts in February. It comes with the territory, but it would hurt the league if they were to lose any quality coaches, so close to the season starting. There needs to be contingency plans, in case any of the teams do lose coaches.

FINAL SUMMARY

When it comes to the history of football leagues like the USFL, UFL and NFL Europe, the question of “Where did it all go wrong?” usually has several answers to it. In the case of the AAF and the original XFL, the answer usually leads to the period before their seasons even started. If the current XFL truly plans to learn from the mistakes of the AAF, and their very own past, then, unlike the Alliance, the XFL has to be prepared for the difficulties and pitfalls that await them. If they are, they will make it to year two and beyond.

St. Louis Native Kurt Hunzeker Named President of City’s XFL Team

Stamford, Conn., June 25, 2019 – The XFL today announced that St. Louis native Kurt Hunzeker, most recently the Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Research for Minor League Baseball (MiLB), has been named President of the XFL football team in St. Louis.

The St. Louis XFL team will take the field in February 2020 for its inaugural season and play its home games at The Dome at America’s Center. Jonathan Hayes is the team’s head coach and general manager.

Hunzeker, a University of Missouri graduate, will be responsible for the team’s fan engagement and business operations, including ticket sales, corporate partnerships, marketing, content, communications, community relations, and the game day experience.

“Vince McMahon, Oliver Luck and I are fortunate to have an executive as accomplished as Kurt join the XFL family as President of our St. Louis team,” said Jeffrey Pollack, XFL President and Chief Operating Officer. “He is a dynamic sports business professional who will put his two decades of strategic leadership, creativity and operational experience to work as we reimagine the game and return professional football to St. Louis.”

“I’m thankful for this incredible opportunity to be part of the team that is bringing football back to town,” said Hunzeker. “The XFL team in St. Louis will be the first modern professional football team born in and exclusively for this great city. Each neighborhood is proud to be a unique subset of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area, and I’ve been blessed to live in quite a few. I pledge to work with Coach Hayes to make this team an integral part of this terrific, sports-loving community and look forward to bringing reimagined football and fan-centric fun to the Dome in 2020.”

In his position with MiLB, which he held since 2015, Hunzeker identified potential commercial partners and developed brand-building campaigns, fan engagement strategies and innovative strategic marketing plans for the organization and on behalf of 160 teams. During his tenure, he developed MiLB’s 10-year strategic marketing plan, including its first-ever national campaign, “It’s Fun to Be a Fan®”, and the Spanish-language version, “Es Divertido Ser Un Fan™”. He also managed the creation of Copa de la Diversión™ (the “Fun Cup”), a season-long event series celebrating the unique heritage and contributions of each team’s respective Hispanic communities that will include more than half of MiLB’s franchises by 2020.

Hunzeker joined MiLB after spending five years with St. Louis-based Rawlings Sporting Goods as Senior Director of Brand Marketing, where he directed the company’s global brand marketing and media buying efforts. He also spearheaded the integration of sabermetrics into the Rawlings Gold Glove Award selection process, its expansion into other professional leagues, and the creation of the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award national fan vote initiative.

Hunzeker was an adjunct professor at Maryville University’s John E. Simon School of Business in St. Louis (2014), and served as a member of the St. Louis University Sports Business Advisory Board (2011-2014).

He graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in May 1999 with a Bachelor of Journalism. He currently resides in Tampa, but he and his family will soon return home to the St. Louis area.

XFL Names Fred Harner to Lead Content and Media Initiatives

The XFL today announced that Fred Harner, most recently Vice President and General Manager of Digital Media at SportsNet New York, has been named Senior Vice President of Content and Media.

Stamford, Conn., June 17, 2019 – The XFL today announced that Fred Harner, most recently Vice President and General Manager of Digital Media at SportsNet New York, has been named Senior Vice President of Content and Media.

In his new position, Harner will lead the XFL’s content strategy and all digital and social media initiatives for the league and its eight teams. He will also work closely with the XFL’s broadcast partners – ESPN and FOX Sports – to help drive tune-in and fan engagement, and manage the development of new programming initiatives.

“Vince McMahon and I are delighted to have a recognized and seasoned media executive like Fred join the XFL and help us offer fans fresh and compelling football content,” said Jeffrey Pollack, XFL President and Chief Operating Officer. “Fred’s career has been marked by two decades of innovation and transformation, and he will help us connect with our fans through new points of access to the game they love.”

“I’m so grateful to Vince McMahon and Jeffrey Pollack for this truly unique opportunity,” said Harner. “Launching and leading digital operations at YES and SNY was both challenging and exhilarating. I see many similarities with the new XFL, and look forward to reimagining the digital aspects of fan engagement as we drive to our February launch.”

As head of SNY’s digital operation from 2007 to 2019, Harner oversaw business development, sales, sponsorship, live streaming, multi-platform content creation, social media, VOD, partner relations, analytics, and digital products. He drove SNY.tv traffic and revenue to all-time highs, and introduced live-streaming of New York Mets games and University of Connecticut basketball games. Harner also led business initiatives with partners such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, NBCU sports properties, MLB Advanced Media, Adobe, Yahoo Sports, Bleacher Report, and The Score.

Before joining SNY, Harner spent six years as the digital media director at the YES Network, helping to launch the most-watched regional sports network in the U.S. and quickly establishing the network’s web site as a prime resource for Yankees fans around the globe. He also spent five years as a senior editor for ABC Sports Online and ESPN.com, managing ABC Sports’ Monday Night Football, Bowl Championship Series, Triple Crown, and Indy 500 digital coverage.

Harner has won multiple N.Y. Sports Emmy and Telly Awards, and was selected to participate in Comcast/NBCU’s exclusive INVEST executive leadership development program. A regular on the speaker circuit, he has appeared on several panels, including the SXSW Technology Conference and BlogWorld & New Media Expo.

Harner earned a B.S. in Journalism from the University of Maine in 1993 and a Master’s in Athletic Administration from Ohio University in 1995.

New York XFL Summer Showcase Recap

Originally unwanted and undrafted by the NFL, Sam Mills became a star in the USFL and eventually became a star in the NFL from 1986 to 1997,

Since last year, there have been several steps taken to set the XFL on course for 2020. From the financial commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars, to the brilliant hire of Oliver Luck, to all the credible coaching and front office hires, to the league’s breakthrough TV deal with ABC, Fox and ESPN, but it wasn’t until these player showcases began, that the XFL starting feeling like a real football league. The league is being built brick by brick. That’s the feeling I got as I was standing on the sidelines of Sprague Field, at Montclair State University. There are still some kinks to iron out, and it’s not quite the well-oiled machine, that it can become, but the foundation has been set up very nicely so far.

As I was watching the players and coaches work together, through several different drills. It was hard not to notice, a huge banner facing the end zone, honoring perhaps Montclair State’s greatest football alum, the late great Sam Mills. It’s rather fitting that on a day, where talented players, who are NFL caliber, but for varying reasons haven’t made it, that the epitome of that type of player would be hovering over the field, in name and in spirit. Sam Mills was a 5’9″ linebacker from Montclair State who ended up becoming a five-time pro bowler in the NFL, had his number retired by the Carolina Panthers, and is in the New Orleans Saints Hall of Fame. Where he ended up was legendary, but the journey is what made him a legend. No major colleges wanted him because of his size. He went undrafted, signed by the Cleveland Browns, and then cut. Off to the CFL, then cut again. Sam Mills ends up trying out for the Philadelphia Stars of the USFL. The rest is history. He ends up not only making the team, but winning two championships and becoming one of the greatest players in the history of the United States Football League.  If not for the USFL, a great player like Sam Mills, may have never become a legend and inspiration, for so many players that followed, and the many who played with and against him. The USFL may not have lasted, but it helped the game of football and its players.  Leagues like this are made for the greater good of football. It’s the thing that XFL CEO Oliver Luck reiterated yet again on Friday, how he is most excited about the fact that the XFL will produce 1,000 football jobs for players, coaches, referees and others.

It was an extremely eventful day in Montclair. There’s so much to digest and go over. A big thanks to Stephanie Rudnick, Lou D’Ermilio, Scott Parker,  Brentan Debysingh, and some many others associated with the XFL, for being so hospitable and friendly. The league rolled out the red carpet for not only the players, but the fans and media members as well. Thanks for letting me annoy Oliver Luck and others with so many questions. It was also a pleasure to meet up with other media members. I had a chance to go down memory lane with longtime sports reporter and broadcaster Peter Schwartz. Peter called XFL games for NY/NJ back in 2001, while I covered the team. We both shared in the differences between the XFL, that was and the XFL that is being realized today. As we watched the great athletes on the field.  Schwartz pointed out the stark differences between what the XFL looks like now, and what it was. He brought up a funny story, about an unnamed Hitmen offensive lineman, that was near death and severely out of shape, in halftime of game one on NBC.  Oh by the way… Darren Rovell is a good guy, and thanks to his 6.41 sec 40 yard dash, I won a side bet. I took the 6.0 over.

It was also great meeting up with other members of the XFL community. Like Alan from the ‘This is The XFL Show’ podcast. The show itself has become a huge hit in XFL circles. So much so that, people in the league office listen to the show at home, while watching their kids. The community is very important. It’s one of the things that really hurt so much about the demise of the AAF, the USFL, and the original XFL. Fans get attached and take real ownership of these types of leagues. They become so deeply invested in it, and end up living and dying with these leagues, similar to how a fan would with his favorite sports team.

There are several different items to go over, from Friday’s Showcase. Let’s start with the players;

There were several standouts on Friday. The league’s football operations department has their work cut out for them, deciding which of these players to sign to XFL contracts. One thing’s for certain, in my view, Hakeem Nicks is going to be a premium player in the XFL Draft come October. That’s if he doesn’t sign on with an NFL team. He showed that, he could still be playing in the NFL. Injuries forced him out, and once a veteran is slotted as a #4 or #5 WR, if he doesn’t bring value on specials. He doesn’t make the team.  I must admit, that I was skeptical when I saw his name on the list of Showcase participants. It’s been a few years since he stepped on a football field, and a few before that, where he produced at a high level. Through no fault of his own. Hakeem was an elite and clutch receiver, when he was healthy. He’s always had a tremendous catch radius and great body control in the air. That was on display on Friday. He looked like a new man. Hakeem was smiling from ear to ear, he was genuinely happy to be on the field working out. He ran all the drills. Hakeem didn’t play the veteran card, and just skip certain drills. He decided to go all in. Where Nicks really shined, was in 1 on 1 drills. It was an overcast day with plenty of wind, and Nicks made some highlight receptions on throws that were off the mark because of it.

While the QB group didn’t have great cache to them. They all performed fairly well. Chattanooga’s Alejandro Bennefield made some great throws. Alek Torgersen looked great.

Joe Callahan also really stood out. The former Division III superstar, who won the Gagliardi trophy at Wesley college, which is the equivalent of the Heisman trophy at that level, Callahan showed great accuracy and ability to throw on the run. He made some big time throws in small windows. It was a very good showing for him.

The best action came in 1 on 1 drills. Several standouts during these sessions. On the receiving side, it was  former AAF star Mekale McKay, Texas Tech receiver De’Quan Bowman, Stony Brook Tight End Connor Davis, Temple Tight End Colin Thompson, amongst others. As far as defensive backs, the speedster Kendall James from Maine looked very good, as did DB’s Max Redfield, Titus Howard and Dante Redwood. In the trenches, some players who stood out were offensive lineman Kirk Barron from Purdue and Andrew Tiller from Syracuse. On the defensive line, Kristjan Sokoli, the former Seahawks draft pick, looked very good coming off an ACL tear, that cost him the 2018 season. You have quite a few players like Sokoli, who are on a mission to salvage their careers.

Andre Williams had a really good showing for himself. The former Doak Walker and Jim Brown award winner, was similar to Hakeem Nicks. He’s been out of the NFL for a couple of years, and had a little extra pep in his step. Missing in action was Dexter McCluster. He was originally advertised for the showcase, I received no official explanation for his absence.

Now let’s get to some news and info. I was able to get 1 on 1 time with XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck, on two separate occasions. and several other top figures within the league. On a side note, here’s hoping that the XFL’s chalk talk session makes it way to social media. It’s a great vehicle for the league to create awareness for what they are attempting to do, to enhance the awareness of the product. It’s sort of like XFL 101, for those who are not up on the league. A lot of what the league is doing, in terms of research and development, is still a work in progress, and will be completed at the Spring League by the end of July. Oliver Luck and Kevin Gilbride were very engaging during the day’s outdoor Chalk Talk session.

In reference to that, expect the league’s official game rules to be released in August. Some of the concepts are nearing the finish line. Specifically, the tiered point system after touchdowns, and the overtime aspect. On that note, one thing that Oliver Luck mentioned was that the league was actually discussing aspects of the tiered extra points, in relation to gambling. You could see how a game could be affected, in terms of the spread, and over/unders with 3-point conversions potentially in play.

On team names. It is a topic every fan wants to know, and that every media member dances around when talking with someone in the league. Everyone in the league is fully aware of how it is the most pressing issue for followers of the XFL. It sounds like team names will be coming in July, and the plan is to unveil them all at once. Nothing finalized yet, but there could be some type of press conference/media event to make the announcement.

I asked Oliver Luck about an official uniform outfitter for the league. There’s nothing close on that front yet. It’s important to note, that while team names and logos will come first. It might take some time for the actual uniforms to be released. The real need for uniforms, will come once the teams are formed and begin practicing. So that could be a hint of a timetable. The league has had preliminary talks with companies about the design for their helmets. Nothing has been finalized on that end either. The footballs that have been displayed thus far, are not the final versions. Most of the players had positive reviews about the prototypes, that have been used at the showcases.

On the back burner, for now, is team schedules. While the entire TV schedule has been released ahead of time. The actual team schedules may take some time to formulate. Depending on the schedule of the league’s 8 venues. Individual ticket sales would most likely coincide with the team schedule release. Also, the XFL also doesn’t anticipate any delays in the retrofitted Globe Life Park for XFL Dallas.

There are two team president hires left for Jeffrey Pollack, the league’s president and COO to make. Pollack has been playing catch up. He came on board with the XFL fairly recently.  He’s the lead on all of these hires. The St. Louis team president hire seems imminent and could be revealed this coming week. The Dallas hire may be the final one. Negotiations are still on-going. On a side note, I met with XFL NY Team President Janet Duch. She was very engaging and seems genuinely excited about the team’s prospects of finding an audience in New York. The original XFL fan in me, pointed out to her that the team that was second in the league in attendance back in 2001, was in fact New York with over 28,000 fans per game. I asked Janet, if the league was close on naming a training facility for XFL NY. She said that they are narrowing down the list to a few choices right now.

The league does plan on having exhibition games in January, as sort of a dress rehearsal for the season. These scrimmages will most likely not be available to the public. The purpose of them is to act as almost a dress rehearsal for the players, coaches, broadcasters and referees.

Just some housekeeping on some items, that most diehard XFL followers know. The eight teams will have 45 player rosters with 7 player practice squads. Team 9 will be formed prior to the start of the XFL season, and it will be a group of players under league contract, that train with a select group of coaches in Arlington Texas, and that stay prepared for when there are injuries or a need from the league’s eight teams. Player contracts will include base salary, pay during training camp, incentives in the form of victory bonuses, and full health benefits. The XFL will begin offering contracts to players in July.

All in all, it was a great experience. I am most excited for the players during this process. Who knows, maybe someday, one of these players will have their banner at the stadium of their alma mater, just like Sam Mills.

XFL Springs into Action Again, Testing Rules, Scouting Players

XFL Springs into Action Again, Testing Rules, Scouting Players

Stamford, Conn., June 12, 2019 – The XFL today announced that it will again partner with The Spring League, an elite professional football development league, to scout talent, test potential rule adjustments, and experiment with potential in-game technologies it as prepares for kick-off in February 2020.

The Spring League (TSL) will take the field with the XFL this summer to conduct two four-day scouting events in Southern California, the first of which will take place June 17-20 at Mission Viejo High School. The second will run July 28-31 at a location to be announced soon.

These events provide players with opportunities to display their ability in front of XFL head coaches and their staffs, and other professional football scouts. At the same time, TSL coaches will work closely with the XFL football operations team to test on-field and rules adjustments the league has developed and may adopt when it launches next year.

“We’re in an important phase of our development and The Spring League gives us the perfect platform to continue our effort to reimagine the game,” said Oliver Luck, XFL Commissioner & CEO. “We had a great experience and learned so much at The Spring League in April, and feel confident that after these next two sessions we’ll have identified a few XFL-caliber players and be closer to finalizing our rules and gameplay.”

“We are excited to be working with the XFL again and further demonstrate our value as both a platform for player development and incubator for rules testing,” said Brian Woods, CEO of The Spring League. “Our summer events will provide additional opportunities for players to be scouted by XFL coaches and scouts in advance of their 2020 launch.”

ABOUT THE XFL The XFL will reimagine football for the 21st century when it kicks off the weekend of February 8-9, 2020, committed to delivering a brisk, fast-paced game, with a fan-centric, innovative, and affordable gameday experience. The inaugural season will launch with teams in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Washington D.C. Each team will compete with a 45-man active roster over a 10-week regular season with a postseason consisting of two semifinal playoff games and a championship game. Every XFL game – every week – will be nationally televised and easy-to-find for fans coast-to-coast. Starting in February 2020, the XFL will air weekly on ABC and FOX, with games also on ESPN, ESPN2, FS1 and FS2. Vince McMahon, XFL Founder and Chairman, is personally funding the new league, and building the XFL with the same commitment and resolve that he has demonstrated building WWE into a global media and sports entertainment powerhouse. For more information, visit XFL.com and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

ABOUT THE SPRING LEAGUE The Spring League is an elite development league and scouting event for professional football talent. All teams in The Spring League utilize one central location, for both practices and games, allowing NFL scouts, GM’s, and player personnel directors with an opportunity to evaluate players in one setting. Nearly all of the players who participate in The Spring League have spent time on an NFL active, practice, or pre-season roster. Since 2017, over 100 players have been either signed or invited to a camp by an NFL or CFL team. For more information, please visit: https://www.thespringleague.com/.

Media Contact: Stephanie Rudnick – XFL Stephanie.rudnick@xfl.com media@xfl.com