What we can learn from the XFL’s other trademarked team names

Just as some folks had gone through the five stages of grief to reach “acceptance” with XFL team names and logos, which are now baked in to XFL fan consciousness, it was discovered that the league had trademarked five names for each team. One of the five was chosen, leaving four unused. We got a sneak peek at the Seattle team names some time ago, which caused debate amongst XFL fans about which one should be used – Dragons, of course, won out.

Now that the curtain has been pulled back a bit and a little more of the process is revealed, what can we learn about the league’s thinking as team names were selected? Some conclusions I’ve drawn in looking over the abandoned names:

1. Patterns emerge: Each set of names contains at least one nickname without an “s” on the end. The original XFL in 2001 (in)famously featured only half the league using plurals in its team names. This could be mere coincidence, or it could’ve been a concerted effort on the part of the XFL to possibly try the tact again. Perhaps if they had chosen that direction, each team would follow that same pattern; therefore, you can almost identify what each team name would be had they went with that grouping.

Prior to the release of team names, another point fans speculated about was the possible inclusion of alliterative names. Only one was selected in DC Defenders. Out of the 40 names, only two others featured alliteration: Seattle Surge and LA Legion. It wasn’t a complete dismissal of alliterative names, but you can tell it also wasn’t something on which the XFL marketing department focused.

Finally, while some team names are area-specific, others are not. The XFL managed to tie-in all team nicknames to the locality and history of the city. Other possibilities seem like it would be a tougher task. The Surge, for example, is generic enough that it could be used for any city. Same for LA Legion, or New York Grind. I’m sure if these names were selected, the league would’ve been able to make a local connection. With the leftover nicknames, each city had one or two that seemed to apply specifically to that city (St. Louis Archers, for example), with one or two that were not.

2. Safe choices won out: Not everybody was happy with all eight team nicknames at first, but none were extravagantly off-the-wall like those in 2001. That’s not to say none fitting that description were trademarked, however. Houston Roughnecks is unique and wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but Houston Octane? Or Houston Wildcatters? Those may have caused a few more eye rolls.

The St. Louis Battlehawks is another nickname that drew the ire of some. I can’t imagine what the reaction would’ve been had they gone with the St. Louis Greywolves. I’m not saying these names are bad; on the contrary, some of them are quite fun. But in an effort to win over the casual fan, the XFL left more risky choices on the table.

3. Uniqueness was a high priority: Prior to the release of the nicknames and logos, fans weren’t sure what direction the XFL would go with the names, other than the fact they wouldn’t be as in-your-face as in 2001. Would they go the traditional route, with animals and the like? Or would they carve their own path?

The group of trademarked names showed that indeed, the XFL wanted to stand out. Even if the LA Wildcats is a name that has been used before, many of those made public are not. The Houston Comets is the only nickname that not only isn’t unique, but the entire Houston Comets name is lifted from a defunct WNBA franchise that last played in the city in 2008. But that’s the exception.

This was not a list of names that had a lot in common with college teams, former minor league professional teams, or other sports team nicknames. Many were wholly unique to the XFL naming process. And who knows? If the XFL is a success and the league expands within the next several years, some of those trademarked nicknames may come back into play for an expansion franchise. Based on those unused monikers, I’d frame that as a positive.

The hunt for potential XFL talent continues: A list of the deepest position groups for every NFL team (pt. 2)

Part two of my look across the NFL at the deepest position groups for every time continues with the NFC. (Look for part 1 here)

Arizona Cardinals

Linebackers: Arizona’s 3-4 scheme means they have a high number of linebackers in camp. Right now, they have enough to have a full fourth string and then some. But there’s quality along with quantity here. Andre Branch was just brought aboard as a rush linebacker behind the ageless Terrell Suggs. Branch isn’t guaranteed a roster spot. Looking at the third-and-fourth teamers, a couple names stick out: Tanner Vallejo and Hayes Pullard are both special teams mavens. Jeff Holland was recently picked up after being waived by Denver, and he showed well at times last season. Vontarrius Dora and Pita Taumoepenu are youngsters who could attract attention on the waiver wire. Undrafted rookie Dante Booker won’t crack the rotation, but his Ohio State pedigree could give him a practice squad opportunity.

Atlanta Falcons

Defensive Line: Curiously, the Falcons list five starters on the defensive line on their unofficial depth chart, and only two linebackers. Vic Beasley, one of the ends, acts as a hybrid pass rusher. Atlanta has a bit of starting experience among their backups, including Jack Crawford, an 11-game starter last year at tackle, and former Tampa Bay 1st round pick Adrian Clayborn. After a year out of football, 2014 2nd round pick Ra’Shede Hageman returns to try to make an impact. He’s battling with 2018 3rd rounder Deadrin Senat for a backup tackle spot. There aren’t many “name” rookie free agent gems buried here, but instead, a couple of second-year prospects in Austin Larkin (Purdue) and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (UCLA). Given the five starters listed, it’ll be interesting to see how many bodies Atlanta keeps at this position.

Carolina Panthers

Quarterbacks: Cam Newton has been dinged up over the years due to his aggressive style of play, resulting in some significant playing time for backups. Will Grier is a rookie 3rd round pick out of West Virginia, and he’ll almost certainly make the team. Will Carolina keep another backup as insurance in case the rookie isn’t ready to be the number two man? That battle will come down to Kyle Allen and Taylor Heinicke, two former undrafted free agents. Allen looked the part in his lone start last year, while Heinicke saw action in six games in 2018. Allen could have interest on waivers if he gets cut, while Heinicke may not. Either of the two would be solid options for XFL teams looking for a quarterback.

Chicago Bears

Special Teams: We have an honest-to-goodness specialist battle here. The placekicking job will be handled by either Eddy Pineiro, acquired in the offseason from Oakland; or Elliott Fry, who kicked in the AAF. Either man will have a lot of pressure to fill the void after Cody Parkey so publicly doinked the Bears out of the playoffs with his miss last season. On the long-snapping front, Patrick Scales hasn’t been as automatic as one would hope from the position, so he’s being tested by John Wirtel, a rookie out of Kansas. Wirtel was not a highly-ranked long snapping prospect in this year’s draft, but few snappers are challenged in camp and the XFL will need eight of them.

Dallas Cowboys

Defensive Line: There’s a good mix of youth and experience on Dallas’s front four, creating a lot of competition in camp. The Cowboys devoted three draft picks to the position this year. Seventh rounder Jalen Jelks is competing with 5th rounder Joe Jackson for a backup end spot. They’re getting an opportunity with DeMarcus Lawrence and Tyrone Crawford both on the physically-unable-to-perform list. Versatile veteran Kerry Hyder is in danger of not making the team. Two valued rookie free agents in Daniel Wise (Kansas) and Ricky Walker (Virginia Tech) may be battling for one practice squad spot. AAF alum Shakir Soto is also vying for a spot. Preseason game action may determine the rotation and roster spots.

Detroit Lions

Tight Ends: All six tight ends on Detroit’s camp roster are NFL-caliber players. Jesse James, a free-agent recruit from Pittsburgh, and 1st round pick TJ Hockenson are locks. The Lions will either keep three or four, depending on how numbers work out elsewhere on the squad. Logan Thomas is a converted QB who is still learning the position. Jerome Cunningham is a journeyman block-first guy, as is Austin Traylor, who can also double as a fullback. Isaac Nauta could end up being a steal as a 7th round pick this year; he tested poorly but produced in college. If the Lions like his long-term outlook, they may try to keep him either as the third or fourth tight end.

Green Bay Packers

Defensive Line: The starting three are set here; it’s now a competition for the final two or three spots. Speedy Fadol Brown, late of Oakland, is squaring off with practice squadder James Looney and 2019 5th rounder Kingsley Keke for one or two backup end positions. Keke has the advantage there. At backup nose tackle, it’s likely Tyler Lancaster’s spot to lose after he impressed as an undrafted free-agent last season. That means two large men will be on the street: 332-pound second-year man Deon Simon, and 331-pound rookie Olive Sagapolu (who is athletic enough to do a standing backflip). You can’t teach size.

Los Angeles Rams

Defensive Backs: The Rams boast a top cornerback tandem in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Troy Hill and Nickell Robey-Coleman, two former AFC East denizens, back them up. Darious Williams and Donte Deayon duke it out for the backup nickel job behind Robey-Coleman. This year’s 3rd rounder, David Long, may end up getting a redshirt year due to the depth. At safety, Eric Weddle and John Johnson patrol the backfield, while heralded Taylor Rapp and Marqui Christian fight for playing time. Penn State 7th rounder Nick Scott may make it as the final safety, beating out Oklahoma alum Steven Parker and Iowa rookie free agent Jake Gervase. A team could keep up to three DBs on the practice squad.

Minnesota Vikings

Offensive Line: Three draft picks spent by the Vikings along the line are in three very different spots on the depth chart after the first preseason game. Center Garrett Bradbury, a 1st rounder, is already entrenched as a starter. Dru Samia, a 4th rounder, is on the third team, but has some upward mobility and will make the roster as a backup. And 6th round pick Oli Udoh has the look of a practice squad player at this point. Samia’s presence could spell the end of the line for third-year man Danny Isidora and former starter Dakota Dozier. Longshots like John Keenoy, Cornelius Edison, and Storm Norton also have some upside to their game.

New Orleans Saints

Running Backs: Rookie free agent Devin Ozigbo out of Nebraska has already made his way to second-team all-purpose back behind Alvin Kamara. He has passed Jacquizz Rodgers for that role and may put Rodgers out of a job. Fourth-year man Dwayne Washington is a valued special-teamer and if he makes the club, it’ll be via that route. Kerwynn Williams has bounced around the league and is another set of legs on the New Orleans roster. They may only keep three true running backs. This position is so deep that there’s even a battle at fullback between incumbent Zach Line and former Detroit Lions draft pick Mike Burton.

New York Giants

Linebackers: Once a sore spot, this position has been built into a strength by general manager Dave Gettleman. It’s expected the Giants will keep eight linebackers. On the inside, 5th round pick Ryan Connelly looks safe as a backup, leaving former starter B.J. Goodson and special teams stalwart Nate Stupar battling for the last spot. That would put former Bear Jonathan Anderson out as well. On the outside, there may not be as much competition. Rookie free agent Jake Carlock impressed in the first preseason game. Edge rusher and former 5th round pick in 2017 Avery Moss may not be locked in. Joey Alfieri and Keion Adams are also quality depth players who may find themselves without a home in September.

Philadelphia Eagles

Running Backs: Some were surprised the Eagles spent a 2nd round pick this year on Penn State’s Miles Sanders, given their treasure trove at the position. The Eagles truly use a committee approach with their backs. Sanders and Jordan Howard are in. Corey Clement has been brought along slowly due to injury this summer, but he’s expected to make the team. Darren Sproles is also back for another year; hard to see Philly cutting him. They may be able to sneak one more in, but those four also might be it. That leaves Josh Adams, who led the team in rushing last year, off the roster. He’d be joined by Saints 2018 6th rounder Boston Scott, 5’9” Donnel Pumphrey (the all-time leader in Division I rushing yards), and 2016 5th round pick Wendell Smallwood. Those are some quality credentials to be without a home.

San Francisco 49ers

Defensive Line: As noted by The Athletic’s Matt Barrows, the 49ers may keep as many as 10 linemen here because three are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents next spring. Even so, some talent will end up getting cut. One name that stands out is Damontre Moore, currently listed as a fourth-team end. Moore was a 3rd round pick in 2013 and played in the AAF this spring. Tackle Jordan Thompson is already in the XFL’s rolodex after participating in one of the Summer Showcases. This will be a tough group for him to crack. Kevin Givens was a top undrafted signing at the tackle position. Sixth-year vet Jay Bromley and second-year man Jeremiah Valoga are in danger of not making the squad.

Seattle Seahawks

Defensive Backs: The Legion of Boom they are not, but Seattle still has talented depth in its secondary. While most of the attention of XFL fans is on the QB race in Seattle, former Miami 2nd round pick Jamar Taylor is battling to make the roster, just to show how competitive this unit is. Jeremy Boykins and Simeon Thomas are fringe NFL talent at the position. Longtime Seahawk DeShawn Shead was brought back this summer, but it’s not a lock he makes the team. Shead will try to leapfrog Shalom Luani, who was acquired in a trade with Oakland last season; and Jawuan Johnson, a rookie free agent from TCU. Most of the other spots on the depth chart seem set; just one or two corner and safety jobs may truly be on the line.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Quarterbacks: New head coach Bruce Arians was brought in to straighten Jameis Winston out. That remains a work in progress as does the battle to be Winston’s backup. Veterans Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin could both end up making the roster if Arians chooses to carry three QBs. At this point, though, having both Gabbert and Griffin seems redundant. Neither has practice squad eligibility left, and neither are likely to cause other teams to run to their to their phones to sign them. The wildcard here is Nick Fitzgerald, who has spent the preseason on the Non-Football Injury List. Once thought to be a top prospect at Mississippi State, Fitzgerald went undrafted. If healthy, his skillset could match what XFL offenses are looking for. Tampa could also decide to stash him on injured reserve for the year.

Washington Redskins

Wide Receivers: The Athletic’s Ben Standig reports that starter and 2016 1st rounder Josh Doctson is in danger of not making the team. He’d likely be in demand from other NFL teams, but it shows how fluid the receiving corps is in Washington. This year’s draft picks Terry McLaurin and Kelvin Harmon are up to the second-team on the depth chart. Trey Quinn mans the slot. Brian Quick has never lived up to his 2nd round potential but could find new life in the XFL. Jehu Chesson and Robert Davis are interesting young size/speed guys and it’s likely one but not both will make the team. Steve Sims Jr. from Kansas is an interesting rookie free-agent making up the back-end of the position.

The hunt for potential XFL talent continues: A list of the deepest position groups for every NFL team (pt. 1)

The first wave of invitations have gone out for the XFL Draft pool, mainly featuring players who participated in the league’s Summer Showcases. Players have begun posting those letters on social media, so we’re getting a look at who will eventually be eligible for selection by XFL teams in October.

Another wave of invitations will go out in September, after NFL rosters are trimmed prior to the start of the regular season. Players on the street will have to decide whether to accept an XFL offer or hope for an injury or the natural churn of NFL rosters and practice squads opens a spot for them.

With the NFL preseason under way, there are many intriguing camp battles to keep an eye on for future XFL players. Below I’ve highlighted one deep position group per team, featuring roster battles that could result in quality players being cut and ending up in the XFL.

A couple of caveats: First, some players who are cut from these position groups may have NFL practice squad eligibility and could be stashed there. In 2014, the NFL increased the size of practice squads from eight to ten and increased the amount of NFL experience a player eligible for the practice squad can have, thereby opening spots up to a wider group.

Second, injuries are a part of life not just in the NFL but in football in general. An injury or two during the preseason can make these deep position groups shallow in a snap (quite literally). Even for die-hards, the NFL preseason can be a slog; hopefully with this handy guide, even third and fourth quarters of these games will hold some interest for XFL fans once you know for whom to be on the lookout.

Part One will look at the AFC teams. Part two in the coming days will look at NFC teams.

Baltimore Ravens

Defensive Backs: No undrafted rookies were signed to stock the back end of Baltimore’s defensive backs position group. That’s how deep this section of their roster is. Hard-hitter Chuck Clark was second on the team in special teams tackles last year, but he may be pushed out this year. Like Clark, there are a number of defensive backs who will win or lose a job based on their special teams play, including Cyrus Jones, Bennett Jackson, Brynden Trawick, Maurice Canady, and Stanley Jean-Baptiste. All have NFL experience to some degree, which could disqualify them from a practice squad spot.

Buffalo Bills

Wide Receivers: The Bills don’t have one standout receiver, but they run eight-or-nine deep. Teams tend to keep about six, so talented players on the back end will be looking for work. Among them: Ray-Ray McCloud and Isaiah McKenzie are two diminutive slot receivers fighting to back up Cole Beasley. Second-year man Cam Phillips has potential, as does 2019 undrafted rookie David Sills V, who was projected by some to be a mid-round pick. Victor Bolden Jr. and Duke Williams are veterans looking to make their mark on special teams. Buffalo could carry up to two receivers on their practice squad from this group, but even then, someone is going to get away.

Cincinnati Bengals

Wide Receivers: The wildcard here is John Ross, a 1st round pick in 2017 who has yet to get untracked. He has nursed more injuries during this training camp, something that has dogged him during his short pro career. Perhaps he’ll get more time with a new coaching staff in place. A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd are firmly entrenched as starters, with Alex Erickson likely safe as one of the league’s top kick returners. After Ross, there’s Josh Malone and Cody Core who had up-and-down 2018 seasons. Auden Tate is a 6’5” target and 7th round draft pick in 2018. Stanley Morgan Jr. (Nebraska) and Ventell Bryant (Temple) are two intriguing rookie free agents. Because Cincinnati starts three receivers in their base offense, they could conceivably keep as many as seven on the final roster.

Cleveland Browns

Quarterbacks: There’s no doubt that Baker Mayfield is the man in Cleveland, injecting new life into the moribund franchise. The question is, who backs him up? Drew Stanton has acted somewhat as a mentor to Mayfield and would give Cleveland an experienced and able number two. But challenging him is Garrett Gilbert, the best QB in the AAF. Gilbert could make the team as a number three, but Cleveland may decide they need numbers elsewhere and only keep Mayfield and Stanton. Gilbert would likely be a top passer in the XFL. Don’t sleep on David Blough, a rookie free agent out of Purdue: While he’s unlikely to crack the roster, he led the Boilermakers in their upset win over Ohio State last season.

Denver Broncos

Quarterbacks: Denver has their quarterback of the present (Joe Flacco) and their quarterback of the future (Drew Lock). Will Denver feel comfortable enough by the end of the preseason to situate Lock as the primary backup to Flacco? If so, the Broncos will likely keep those two only, freezing out veteran Kevin Hogan and rookie free-agent Brett Rypien. If not, Hogan could make the team as a backup with Lock as the third string. Hogan has shown he can be an effective backup in the league. Rypien was given a large signing-bonus to sign with Denver after the draft and was a favorite of some in the online draft community. Rypien would likely be sought-after on the waiver wire from QB needy teams.

Houston Texans

Tight Ends: There are five players fighting for what will likely be three spots here, and all five can make a case during the preseason for being on the opening-day roster. Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas, two 2018 draft picks, have a leg up, as does 2019 3rd rounder Kahale Warring. That would theoretically leave Darren Fells and Jerrell Adams on the outside looking in. Fells is a seven-year NFL veteran, making him an attractive XFL candidate if he doesn’t make the Texans. Adams impressed at the NFL Combine in 2016 and was a 6th round draft pick of the New York Giants that year. Younger than Fells, Adams too could be what the XFL is looking for at this position.

Indianapolis Colts

Defensive Line: The Colts run a 4-3 defense under coordinator Matt Eberflus, so they’ll likely keep eight or nine linemen. The team’s depth is such that 2nd round pick Ben Banogu is still stuck on the third team (though admittedly depth charts this time of year mean little). Caraun Reid and Grover Stewart are two young nose tackles at risk of not making the team, and both have a fair amount of NFL experience. Sixth-round pick Gerri Green is trying to fight Kemoko Turay and XFL Summer Showcase participant Obum Gwachum for one end spot. A couple of ‘tweener end/outside linebackers, Carroll Phillips and Dadi Nicolas, will likely need an injury or two to make the squad, but have pass rush skills.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Running Backs: After Leonard Fournette, it’s going to be a battle royal to see who gets touches. Alfred Blue and Ryquell Armstead are the most likely at this point. The fourth back spot is where the competition really gets tricky. Veteran Benny Cunningham is in the mix, along with Roc Thomas, who will be suspended for the first three regular season games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. Thomas Rawls, who previously made an impact in Seattle, is another name to keep an eye on. Specifically, Cunningham and Rawls would presumably not have practice squad eligibility and therefore the XFL may be an option for them if they don’t break camp with the Jaguars.

Kansas City Chiefs

Quarterbacks: Two young quarterbacks could become available after cut-down day. Second-year man Chase Litton spent last season on Kansas City’s practice squad. If the Chiefs like him well enough, they could make room for him as their third QB on the 53-man roster. Chad Henne is Kansas City’s backup, so they could be looking toward the future in keeping a third quarterback behind long-term starter Patrick Mahomes. Competing with Litton is Kyle Shurmur out of Vanderbilt, the son of New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur. As a coach’s son, Shurmur has the intelligence to succeed at the pro level. Will that be in the NFL or elsewhere?

Los Angeles Chargers

Special Teams: Not as many teams carry “camp legs” anymore, partly because of the restrictions put on practices in the most recent collective bargaining agreements – they’re just not needed. After finally finding a long-term solution at kicker in Michael Badgley, the Chargers now have a punting competition in camp. Ty Long, a kicker-turned-punter who made his mark in the CFL, is battling rookie Tyler Newsome out of Notre Dame. Newsome may be best known for putting up 30 reps on the bench press at the NFL Combine this year, more than some linemen. In addition, long-time Charger Mike Windt could have to fight to keep his long-snapping job over Cole Mazza, who snapped at the highest level of college football at Alabama, as well as in the AAF.

Miami Dolphins

Defensive Line: This position just got deeper as the Dolphins signed Arizona Cardinals bust Robert Nkemdiche, stashing him on the Physically Unable to Perform list for the time being. If he gets healthy and shows out, that will knock another player off the roster. Miami has talented tackles and ends on their third-team depth chart, including prized undrafted rookie Jonathan Ledbetter out of Georgia. Looking for a nose tackle? Plugger Joey Mbu (313 pounds) could fit the bill. Former draft picks DE Tyrone Holmes (has shined as a pass rusher) and Adolphus Washington (athletic 2016 third rounder) are also on the bubble in South Florida. They’ll be pushing second-teamers Jonathan Woodard, Vincent Taylor, and Akeem Spence.

New England Patriots

Cornerbacks: Depending on special teams needs, teams usually keep five-to-six cornerbacks on the roster. Either way, New England will have difficult decisions in that department. Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty are the starters, with Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson currently the backups. The last spot or two will come down to Keion Crossen, who was a 7th round pick last year and played special teams; Obi Melifonwu, a converted safety and Raiders 2nd round pick in 2017; rookie Joejuan Williams, who New England took in the 2nd round this year; and athletic Ken Webster, a 7th round rookie currently on the PUP list.

New York Jets

Defensive Line: Long the strength of Jets teams, the defensive line is again a deep position for Adam Gase’s squad. They stick with a 3-4 alignment and add a 1st round draft choice this year to the room. A couple 2018 draft picks could be pushed for a roster spot in DE Nathan Shepherd (3rd round) and DE Folo Fatukasi (6th round). The Jets have four undrafted rookie free agents on the defensive line this year, so if one makes the team and one other makes the practice squad, that means two more will be available. Perhaps the most intriguing are Tennessee’s Kyle Phillips and Appalachian State’s Myquon Stout.

Oakland Raiders

Defensive Backs: There’s a lot of competition in the defensive backfield in Oakland. Karl Joseph and Erik Harris are battling over the starting strong safety job. Former starter Jordan Richards, a 2015 Patriots 2nd round pick, could be on the outside looking in at that spot. At corner, Nevin Lawson’s four-game suspension for PEDs opens up a short-term spot. Nick Nelson, a 4th rounder last year who perhaps played before he was ready in 2018, could be the beneficiary. Three defensive back draft picks could push names like Curtis Riley (a 16-game starter with the Giants last year), Tevin Mitchel (a former nickel back with Washington), and DJ Killings (a well-traveled reserve corner) off the team.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Linebackers: Traditionally a strong spot for Pittsburgh, that’s once again the case in 2019. Three 2019 draft picks are listed at linebacker, though Sutton Smith, a Northern Illinois product converting from DE, has already been tried out at numerous spots. Special teams ace Tyler Matakevich will be pushed by one of those draft picks, 6th rounder Ulysses Gilbert III. Oli Adeniyi seems to have solidified a backup job with his play in camp. Third team ILB Robert Spillane has seen NFL action. Tegray Scales was a surprise undrafted player in 2018 who spent some time on the Indianapolis Colts practice squad. The Steelers are so deep here that Scales is relegated to fourth team OLB.

Tennessee Titans

Offensive Line: With LT Taylor Lewan suspended the first four games of the season, the Titans will be able to keep an extra lineman, one who may be available again after those four weeks are up. A couple backup jobs are being contested this summer. Giant 6’7” Tyler Marz and six-year vet Austin Pasztor are battling for swing tackle until Lewan comes back. Only one of Aaron Stinnie and Jamil Douglas could end up making the team. Some interesting deep reserves: OT Cody Conway, a rookie free agent from Syracuse; OT David Quessenberry, who overcame non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma to return to football; and C Hroniss Grasu, a 2015 3rd round pick of Chicago out of Oregon.

Connecting the dots: Finding the commonalities among Tampa Bay’s coaching staff, and with Summer Showcase players

XFL Tampa Bay Head Coach Marc Trestman has hired a bevy of coaches familiar to him. How is this cadre of coaches connected to players that tried out in the Tampa Summer Showcase?

In the football coaching profession, networking is critically important. Taking time out to introduce yourself to a colleague at a high-school coaching clinic could, years down the line, lead to a job in the college or professional ranks.

This fraternity of coaches was at play when each XFL Head Coach and General Manager was assembling his staff. It was likely difficult enough attracting experienced leaders of men to a start-up football league after the Alliance of American Football had flamed out in such spectacular fashion; then take into account trying to put together a staff of assistants after most college and NFL teams had already set theirs for the upcoming year.

In Tampa Bay, Head Coach and GM Marc Trestman drew from many of his stops to hire assistants. He took advantage of his knowledge of the Canadian Football League and shopped there, the next-best place to find assistants after Division I college and the NFL.

Below I’ve taken a deep dive into Trestman and his assistants hired thus far, to see where their paths have crossed. I’ve also attempted to cross-reference their coaching stops with names listed from the XFL Summers Showcases.

While not always the case, familiarity can be helpful when building a team from scratch. Some of the player names that appear across multiple coaching stops would be something to file away for when XFL contracts are handed out and the XFL Draft commences in October.

Head Coach: Marc Trestman: The offensive mad scientist will attempt to outwit fellow outside-the-box offensive minds like June Jones and Kevin Gilbride in the XFL. Trestman’s travels have taken him from the college ranks (University of Miami and North Carolina State) to the NFL (five offensive coordinator jobs and head coach of the Chicago Bears) to the CFL (head coach of Montreal and Toronto).

Much of his staff in Tampa Bay comes from the Great White North. His quarterbacks coach, Josh Neiswander, was a player for him when Trestman was head coach in Montreal. Running backs coach Josh Moore served that same position with Trestman in Toronto and was his assistant head coach with the Bears in 2014.

Offensive line coach Jonathan Himebauch worked under Trestman in both Montreal and Toronto. Offensive assistant Justin Poindexter and linebackers coach Mike Archer both coached with Trestman in Toronto. And offensive coordinator Jamie Elizondo was an assistant for Trestman in Montreal in 2008.

Interestingly, all of Trestman’s offensive assistants in Tampa have a connection to him, while only one defensive assistant does. Clearly, he knows offense will be key in the XFL and hired those already familiar with his concepts.
One player connection that has already been made is QB Ryan Mallett, who was in Baltimore when Trestman was offensive coordinator there in 2015 and 2016. While Mallett was a backup, he had the best completion percentage of his career and best passer rating (in a year with more than 16 pass attempts) in 2015.

Trestman also crossed paths with XFL tryout players S Will Hill, S Matt Elam and WR Chuck Jacobs while in Baltimore. As head coach in Chicago, Trestman coached RB Mike Ford, FB Tony Fiammetta, LB Khaseem Greene, DT Will Sutton and WR Rashad Lawrence.

Will Trestman feature a fullback in his XFL offense? While in the NFL, he had access to Fiammetta, more of a blocker, in Chicago. In Baltimore, he had do-it-all Kyle Juszczyk. While NFL offenses are making that position extinct, Trestman has a history of utilizing it in different ways.

Moving north, in Toronto, Trestman was a part of Argonauts teams that featured LB Khalil Bass, S Marcus Ball, LB Terrance Plummer, G Brandon Washington, DE Rakim Cox, WR Dexter McCluster, and QB Greg McGhee.

Offensive Coordinator: Jamie Elizondo: Elizondo started his career as an assistant with Montreal of the CFL in 2008, soon after his playing career ended. He had a couple of short stints in college with Syracuse (WR coach) and Columbia (OC/QB coach). He was last offensive coordinator for the Ottawa Redblacks.

Tampa Bay has yet to announce a wide receivers or tight ends coach. Those positions could be filled internally, with Elizondo a candidate to coach WRs in addition to his coordinator duties. Despite coaching for three different CFL teams, Elizondo’s path has not crossed anyone else on the Tampa Bay staff besides Trestman.

His connection with Summer Showcase players is nearly as sparse: He was a coach in Ottawa when LB Khalil Bass was on the roster in 2017, and when LB Quentin Gause played for them in 2018.

Defensive Coordinator: Jerry Glanville: The man in black returns to pro football in the states for the first time since he was head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 1993 (not counting a stint for the Hartford Colonials in the UFL in 2011, where the team folded before he could coach a game).

Glanville began his coaching sojourn at Western Kentucky in 1967. Most recently, he had returned to the game after nine years away, becoming the defensive coordinator of the CFL Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 2018.  Glanville was able to pluck DBs coach William Fields from that same Hamilton staff, bringing him along to Tampa. Special teams coach Frank Gansz Jr. was also in Hamilton and is now a part of Trestman’s Tampa staff.

LB Khalil Bass is a name that pops up quite a bit throughout these coaching stops, and while he never played for Glanville, he interestingly attended Portland State after Glanville was head coach there from 2007-2009. Small school…small world.

WR Rashad Lawrence, LB Lucas Wacha, and FB Nikita Whitlock were on Hamilton’s roster in 2018 while Glanville coached there. Because Glanville is on the defensive side, his connection to Wacha, a linebacker, may matter a little more for this exercise than the offensive players. But I thought it was worth noting.

Special Teams Coordinator: Frank Gansz Jr.: Junior followed his father into coaching special teams, as Frank Gansz Sr. worked in the NFL for almost 25 years. Gansz Jr. attended The Citadel and coached at the US Military Academy beginning in 1990. He was special teams coach for the NY/NJ Knights of the World League in 1992-1993, which was the precursor to NFL Europe.

He coached special teams in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders (1998-2000), Kansas City Chiefs (2001-2006), and Baltimore Ravens (2006-2008). He’s also coached elsewhere at the college level with the University of Houston, UCLA, and SMU. Gansz Jr. coached tight ends for five years in Houston, which makes it possible that he could coach tight ends in Tampa in addition to his special teams duties.

Like most others on the staff, Gansz Jr. also coached in the CFL, but only one year, with Hamilton in 2018, where he coached with Fields and Glanville. In addition to those players listed with Glanville in Hamilton, Gansz Jr. coached at SMU while DE Taylor Reed was there, and at UCLA while S Rahim Moore was a player. Perhaps the most useful connection is that he was special teams coach at UCLA while Jeff Locke played. His work with Locke got the punter drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.

Quarterbacks Coach: Josh Neiswander: Neiswander has the thinnest coaching CV of anyone on Marc Trestman’s first XFL staff. He played quarterback at Angelo State college, then later with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL from 2011-2013. I couldn’t find any record of collegiate or professional coaching experience for Neiswander after his playing career ended.

Neiswander played for Trestman when Trestman was head coach of Montreal in 2011 and while Jonathan Himebauch was the offensive line coach there.

Running Backs Coach: Josh Moore: Another veteran of the CFL coaching ranks, Moore comes to Tampa having last been Toronto’s RBs coach for the 2017 and 2018 seasons. He has worn many hats in the coaching game, from college recruiting coordinator, running backs coach, and tight ends coach, to high-school offensive coordinator, to pro assistant to the head coach and RBs coach.

Moore crossed paths with offensive assistant Justin Poindexter and linebackers coach Mike Archer while in Toronto. He was RBs coach for Trestman there, following him from the Chicago Bears, where Moore was the assistant to the head coach in 2014. Moore has many of the players in common with those listed under Trestman from their time together.

Offensive Line Coach: Jonathan Himebauch: This has to be a little strange for Himebauch, who played in the only season of the original XFL back in 2001 for the champion Los Angeles Xtreme. Since then, coach Himebauch has bounced from college to the CFL and earlier this year, to the AAF.

The one constant has been his job as offensive line coach, aside from a high-school stop-over in 2005 as head coach. He coached under Trestman in both Montreal and Toronto, assisting him along with the others previously mentioned.

Himebauch saw a lot of familiar faces at the Summer Showcases. He coached at Wake Forest when FB Nikita Whitlock played there in 2012-2013. While in Edmonton in 2014, he was joined by RB Kendial Lawrence, S Dexter McCoil, and S Robert Sands. Add in the players who also played for Trestman, et. al. in Toronto in ’17-18.

Then you have the AAF alum, many of whom were invited to the Showcases. It’s a long list of San Antonio Commanders, the team for which Himebauch coached. In the interest of brevity, I’ll note specifically the offensive linemen, since those would be whom Himebauch would be most familiar: C Dillon DeBoer, C Brian Folkerts, OT Fred Lauina, OT Andrew McDonald, G Cyril Richardson, and OT Maea Teuhema.

Offensive Assistant: Justin Poindexter: A graduate of Howard University, Poindexter began coaching in 2010 at Gonzaga High-School. He moved on to become a tight ends coach and assistant offensive line coach, a recruiting assistant, a game charter for the Cleveland Browns, and a defensive quality control coach. He too could have a hand in coaching the tight ends. Poindexter was set to become Toronto’s running backs coach this year before being hired by Trestman for the XFL.

While at Howard, QB Greg McGhee played there. They’d meet up again when Poindexter was in Toronto with the Argonauts. He coached at Southern University where DE Aaron Tiller, DT Trae Tiller, WR Willie Quinn, RB Lenard Tillery, and TE Dillon Beard played. Poindexter was a recruiting assistant at Northwestern while DT Jordan Thompson and WR Flynn Nagle plied their craft.

In Cleveland with the Browns, he was familiar with CB Trey Caldwell, WR Rannell Hall, RB Raijon Neal, S Rahim Moore, LB Scooby Wright, TE Connor Hamlett, WR Matt Hazel, CB Najee Murray, and WR Kasen Williams over the course of two seasons.

Defensive Line Coach: Lawrence Hill: Not much is known about Hill. He was a high-school head coach at one time, as well as West Texas A&M defensive line coach. We may have to wait for the Tampa Bay media guide to come out to learn more.

Linebackers Coach: Michael Archer: Archer has spent a lot of his coaching career in the college game. He was a linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers for seven years from 1996-2002, when the Steelers had some phenomenal talent at that position like Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown, Joey Porter, Mike Vrabel, and Jason Gildon.
Archer was brought to the CFL in 2017 to be a part of Marc Trestman’s staff in Toronto. He was promoted to defensive coordinator from linebackers coach for the 2018 season. He has spent a number of years as a defensive coordinator in college, as well as assistant head coach and safeties coach.

In addition to the usual suspects he coached, along with others aforementioned in Toronto, he crossed paths with WR Tobias Palmer while at North Carolina State in 2011 and 2012. He was at Virginia when DT David Dean was there in 2014 and 2015.

Defensive Backs Coach: William Fields: Fields not only coached in the CFL, but he played there as well. He started as a pro scout for the B.C. Lions, then moved into the high-school and college ranks. He came back to B.C. in 2014, then jumped to Montreal, Hamilton, and finally Edmonton. At most of those stops, he was an assistant DBs coach, whereas in Tampa he’ll be leading the room.

In 2015, he was coaching DBs as well as defensive quality control in B.C. when RB Timothy Flanders and QB Greg McGhee were on the roster. When he moved to Montreal in 2016, he worked with CB Khalid Wooten. In Hamilton in 2017, Fields encountered S Will Hill, DE Ryan Mueller, DT Jason Neill, FB Nikita Whitlock, and Wooten again. Whitlock, Wooten, WR Rashad Lawrence, and LB Lucas Wacha were part of the Hamilton roster in 2018 with Fields as assistant DBs/special teams coach.

Strength & Conditioning Coach: Darren Krein: No member of Marc Trestman’s Tampa coaching staff has more NFL coaching experience than Krein. He has been an assistant or head strength and conditioning coach in the league since 1997, save for the year 2000. During that time, he coached RB Marcus Thigpen, LB Josh Kaddu, OT Andrew McDonald and RB Jonas Gray in Miami in 2012, then Thigpen and Kaddu there again in 2013.

Sticking with Miami, WR Matt Hazel and WR L’Damian Washington were roster members in 2014, with Hazel and LB Jeff Luc a part of the team in 2015. Krein moved to Indianapolis where he coached DE Kristjan Sokoli, LB Antonio Morrison, and LB Deiontrez Mount in 2016, then RB Matt Jones, Morrison, RB Christine Michael, and G Isaiah Williams in 2017.

Just because coaches are familiar with players doesn’t mean they’re an automatic fit. But we’ve seen that in building a staff, Marc Trestman prefers an air of familiarity, mixed with new faces. So if names like QB Greg McGhee, FB Nikita Whitlock, LB Khalil Bass, WR Rashad Lawrence or others who pop up frequently in this column end up in Tampa’s camp this fall, you’ll know why – I’ve connected the dots for you.

Names you may know, names you should know from the XFL Summer Showcases (pt. 2)

Former former Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook. (Credit: Spartan Playbook)

Part two of my two-part series looking at some familiar names and not-so-familiar names from the eight XFL Summer Showcase events:

Los Angeles

Names you may know:

S Rahim Moore: A highly decorated defensive back from UCLA, Moore led the country in interceptions as a sophomore. He declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season and was selected by the Denver Broncos in the second round. Moore intercepted eight passes in four seasons in Denver before playing what ended up being his final NFL games in Houston in 2015. He made a comeback with the AAF this spring.

DT Will Sutton: Sutton made a major jump his senior season at Arizona, from 5.5 tackles for loss as a junior to 23.5. His sacks also skyrocketed from 2.5 to 13. The Chicago Bears took a shot on that promise by drafting Sutton in the third round in 2014. He couldn’t live up to his senior numbers, however. Sutton too found refuge in the AAF in 2019.

TE Fred Davis: At USC, Davis won the John Mackey Award in 2007 as the top tight end in the nation. He was a second-round pick of Washington the next spring. A six-year contributor in the nation’s capital, Davis caught 162 passes for 13 touchdowns over that time. In 2014, Davis was suspended for about a year from the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He never regained his footing thereafter.

P Jeff Locke: Only about two or three punters are drafted each year. In 2013, Locke was one of them. Minnesota spent a fifth-round pick on the kid from UCLA. He punted for the Vikings for four years, struggling the last two after his first two years were solid. He was the third punter Detroit used in 2017, filling in for five games while the other two were injured. After being cut by the San Francisco 49ers after training camp last year, he latched on with Arizona of the AAF.

K Nick Novak: In terms of NFL games played, Novak has the second-most experience amongst those invited to the Showcases. He has played for five teams over an 11-year career in the league, in between stints in NFL Europe and with the United Football League (both now defunct). His career field goal percentage stands at a respectable 82%. Returning from a back injury, he kicked for Birmingham of the AAF in 2019.

Names you should know:

S Stavros Katsantonis: Turns out, they play football in Canadian colleges, too. Katsantonis is one of the few players from the Great White North to try out for the XFL at these Showcases. He isn’t eligible for the CFL draft until 2020 due to a drug violation attributed to an over-the-counter supplement. Katsantonis, who also punted in college, was a three-time All-Canadian player (equivalent to an All-American in the states). The CFL’s loss could be the XFL’s gain.

LB Jerimiah Spicer: XFL’s Twitter account helped to tell Spicer’s story better than I could: https://twitter.com/xfl2020/status/1151234057000443905

WR John Santiago: The XFL’s Summer Showcases were a place for coaches and personnel to uncover hidden gems from smaller colleges. Santiago may be just that. He attended the University of North Dakota, where he was listed as a running back. But he was more than that, catching passes, returning punts and kicks during his four years as a Fighting Hawk. He left the school with 6,562 all-purpose yards and 32 touchdowns. Santiago attended the NFLPA Bowl this year prior to the NFL Draft.

RB Ja’Quan Gardner: To get noticed at the small school level, you must be dominant. At Humboldt State, Gardner dominated Division II. He led that division in rushing as a sophomore with 2,266 yards and 26 touchdowns. As a sophomore and senior, he was the GNAC Offensive Player of the Year. As a pro, Gardner proceeded to rush for 100+ yards in two of the first three weeks of the AAF season.

TE Johnny Stanton: For most players, the position they are listed at tells all. For Stanton, that may not be the case. While at UNLV, Stanton played both quarterback and linebacker, also blocking a kick on special teams. He arrived at UNLV after stints at Nebraska and Saddleback College in California. When he signed with the Minnesota Vikings after the 2018 NFL Draft, his position was simply listed as “athlete.”

Seattle

Names you may know:

LB Hau’oli Kikaha: Hau’oli means “happiness, joy” in Hawaii. As a linebacker, Kikaha more likely prefers to bring fear and pain. Kikaha was a bit of a defensive end/linebacker ‘tweener coming out of Washington, landing in New Orleans in round two of the 2015 NFL Draft. A torn ACL and ankle injury were among the maladies Kikaha had to fight through in his three seasons on the Saints. He’ll look to restart his career in the XFL after being waived by New Orleans at final cuts last September.

RB Bishop Sankey: Sankey scored 20 rushing touchdowns as a senior at Washington, garnering second-team All-American honors. He blazed a 4.49 40 at the NFL Combine, which led the Tennessee Titans to take him in the second round of the draft. He ended up playing in just 29 games over two seasons, though he showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He averaged almost 4.0 yards per carry in the AAF.

RB Terron Ward: The quintessential backup running back for three seasons in Atlanta, Ward held on to third-string duties behind Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman from 2015-2017. He had to prove his value on special teams to keep that roster spot. Ward played for the AAF in 2019. A jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, Ward entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State.

LB Korey Toomer: Special teams was Toomer’s ticket to a roster spot during his five-year NFL career. Voted Team MVP his senior season at Idaho, Toomer’s entry to the NFL was via the draft as a fifth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2012. He has made 124 defensive tackles in his career and has returned an interception for a touchdown. Toomer was signed by the B.C. Lions of the CFL last month.

DT Alameda Ta’amu: Another Washington alum, Ta’amu is a mountain of a man at 6’3” and 348 lbs. It’s no wonder the Pittsburgh Steelers saw him as a NT fit in their vaunted 3-4 defense, selecting him in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Ta’amu was waived during his rookie season, a rarity for a fourth rounder. He played 14 of his 21 career games in Arizona in 2013, as they ran a defensive system similar to the Steelers. He is one of many Spring League alums invited to the Showcases.

Names you should know:

LB Peyton Pelluer: An ultra-productive sixth-year senior in 2018, Pelluer set a Washington State record for most games played and left the school fifth on its all-time list in tackles. He fills run gaps well and plays downhill. He made the Pac-12 All-Academic team five times. Thought to be too small (6’0”) and too slow (a 4.83 40 time) for the NFL, he did receive a minicamp tryout with the Cleveland Browns after the draft.

RB Dominck Bragalone: Bragalone’s ascent began in high-school where he holds Pennsylvania’s single-season high-school rushing record and comes in second nationally in that category. He attended Lehigh University and continued his rushing tear, finishing his career as the school’s all-time leading rusher. He had a down year as a senior, which hurt his stock, and his size (5’10’, 233 lbs) has led to whispers about him becoming a fullback.

RB Taku Lee: Just as the original XFL had a player from Japan, LB Shin Yamada, so too could the rebooted version. While in college, Lee was the leading rusher in Japan two years in a row. Lee was a part of the Obic Seagulls of the X-League of professional football in Japan before coming to America to participate in The Spring League this year.

LS Tanner Carew: Thought by many to be the top long-snapper in the 2018 NFL Draft (with some mocks predicting him to be selected, a rarity for the position), Carew instead was signed by the Seattle Seahawks as a free-agent. He showed the ability to cover as well as snap while at Oregon, making six special-teams tackles. Carew was invited to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl before the draft, where top seniors show their wares for NFL scouts.

DE Chase DeMoor: Central Washington’s DeMoor shined at the Division II level, earning an invite to the FCS National Bowl game, an all-star game for smaller colleges. He did so well there he was “promoted” to the subsequent FBS All America game. Perhaps DeMoor’s greatest claim to fame is his ability to block field goals; he led all levels of college football with six blocked kicks as a senior in 2018.

Tampa Bay

Names you may know:

QB Ryan Mallett: There was talk of Ryan Mallett being a first-round draft choice in 2011. Instead, he fell to the New England Patriots in round three. He had terrific TD:INT ratios his junior and senior years at Arkansas, and his completion percentage jumped almost ten points as a senior. Mallett was second-string to Tom Brady for three years in New England, until a trade to the Houston Texans in 2014. He had a strong showing against Cleveland before tearing his pec muscle, then losing the starting QB battle to Brian Hoyer in 2015. He managed to carve out a seven-year career as a top backup.

TE Kellen Davis: No one at the XFL Summer Showcases had more NFL experience than Davis, who played in 125 games across nine seasons. He was drafted in the fifth round by the Chicago Bears in 2008. Davis was the starting tight end in Chicago for two years, 2011 and 2012, but never caught more than 19 passes in a season. That may have been more attributable to Chicago’s offensive design at the time than Davis’s skills. He brings a huge body to the position, at 6’7” and 265 lbs.

S Matt Elam: After a college career in which he garnered first-team All-American accolades in 2012, Elam was selected by the Baltimore Ravens with the final pick of the first round in 2013. Elam struggled with ineffectiveness and injury in his three years in Baltimore. Heading into free agency in 2017, Elam was arrested for possession of marijuana, likely scaring away any potential suitors. His career continued with the CFL in 2018.

WR Stephen Hill: Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense makes it difficult to project offensive players from that school to the NFL. But it’s not difficult to project 6’5”, 209 lbs, and a 4.36 40 time to the NFL. Those numbers belonged to Hill, a second-round pick of the New York Jets in 2012. Hill didn’t have eye-catching college stats because of the Yellowjackets’ offensive system. Unfortunately for Hill, that lack of productivity continued into the NFL. He only lasted two seasons with the Jets, catching a combined 45 passes. He was recently cut by the Atlanta Legends prior to the AAF season.

FB Tony Fiammetta: Fiammetta is attempting a football comeback after last having played in the NFL in 2014. Best known for his time in Carolina, Fiammetta played for four teams in six seasons, seeing action in 51 games. He only touched the ball 23 total times, so he was a block-first guy. With the expectation of wide-open offenses permeating the XFL, one wonders how many teams will even carry a fullback.

Names you should know:

S Jonathan Crawford: While Crawford left Indiana eighth in program history in interceptions, perhaps the most telling statistic is that he started every game he played in beginning when he was a true freshman. A team captain as a senior, Crawford will miss some tackles and get his feet stuck in the ground in coverage, but the accolades speak for themselves: The three-time All-Big Ten Honorable Mention selection signed with the Tennessee Titans after this year’s draft.

DT Nikita Whitlock: It’s one thing to play multiple positions in college; it’s another to do that in the NFL. But that’s just what kept Whitlock around for three years. A defensive tackle in college, he was immediately switched to fullback upon signing as an undrafted free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2014. As a member of the New York Giants practice squad later that year, he practiced at both fullback and linebacker. The next season, he won the fullback job from a veteran based in part on his special teams play. The XFL may favor smaller, quicker athletes on the D-Line given the expected pace of play, which should favor Whitlock’s chances.

G Terronne Prescod: The online draftniks couldn’t come to a consensus on Prescod: Some had him as a future NFL starter, others as a fringe player at best. He was a favorite of Pro Football Focus, garnering their highest grade among all offensive lineman during his senior season of 2018. They named him a first-team All-American. Prescod’s athletic limitations led to him going undrafted.

T Bruno Reagan: More and more, scouts are looking for offensive linemen with a wrestling background. Reagan fits that bill. As a high-school junior, he was Tennessee state heavyweight champion with a record of 57-0. He also has a judo background. At Vanderbilt, Reagan manned both right guard and center positions and closed his career starting 40 straight games and helping the Commodores to their best offensive season since the 1970s.

LB Quincy Redmon: As if rising from the ranks of Division II football to earn a contract with the Miami Dolphins wasn’t overcoming a big enough obstacle, for Quincy Redmon, that was the easy part. The hard part? Redmon’s family was homeless at times when he was growing up, staying wherever they could find a roof. Then, at nine years old, he was partially paralyzed from delivering a hit on the football field. Redmon was never expected to play sports again and was in a wheelchair for six months. Football isn’t all that intimidating when you’ve lived a life like that.

St. Louis

Names you may know:

RB Akeem Hunt: Hunt never cracked the 1,000-yard rushing barrier in a season with Purdue, but that didn’t stop the New York Giants from wanting to get a look at him as an undrafted free-agent. He spent his rookie season on injured reserve and after a stop with the Baltimore Ravens, found a home with the Houston Texans. He was on-and-off their practice squad for two years, eventually moving on to Kansas City in 2017. There, he played in 15 games and averaged 24.4 yards per kick return. In the AAF, he was part of a running back by committee with the Orlando Apollos.

TE Clay Harbor: Athleticism was Harbor’s ticket to the NFL, where he was drafted in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2010. After being waived in 2012, he was claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 2014, he caught a career-high 24 passes. In 98 career NFL games, he has 114 catches and eight touchdowns. He was last in camp with the New Orleans Saints in 2017, eventually being placed on injured reserve.

RB Trent Richardson: Although he may go down as one of the biggest NFL Draft busts in history, that wasn’t the scuttlebutt after Richardson’s rookie season. The Cleveland Browns took him number three overall in the 2012 draft, and he amassed 950 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns his first year. He was part of a surprising trade to the Indianapolis Colts during his second season and never got untracked there as his yards per carry average continued to dip. Richardson just wants to play football, which has led him to the CFL and AAF in his post-NFL career.

QB Connor Cook: Cook holds the distinction of being the first quarterback to make his first career start in a playoff game during the Super Bowl era. It did not go well for Cook, who went 18-of-45 passing with a touchdown and three interceptions for the Oakland Raiders against the Houston Texans after being selected in the fourth round in the NFL Draft prior to that 2016 season. A two-time Big Ten Championship Game MVP while at Michigan State, Cook kicked around with a few more teams before being cut by the Detroit Lions in June.

QB Zach Mettenberger: Former LSU Tiger Mettenberger entered the NFL as a sixth-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2014. With the Titans a mess at quarterback that year, Mettenberger ended up starting six games, completing nearly 60% of his passes with eight TDs and seven interceptions. The Titans drafted Marcus Mariota in the first round in 2015, but once again Mettenberger was pressed into duty that year, starting another four games. He saw time in The Spring League and with the Memphis Express of the AAF after a year with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017.

Names you should know:

DT Francis Kallon: In 2017, SteelersDepot.com called Kallon the “Steelers’ most intriguing 2017 UDFA.” While he did indeed go undrafted, Kallon’s athleticism at Georgia Tech’s pro day got him noticed. He ran a 4.97 40 at 6’5” and 295 lbs. Longtime NFL scout Gil Brandt suggested Kallon could have a home at offensive tackle. So why did he go undrafted? After moving to the United States from England, Kallon didn’t even take up football until late in high-school and didn’t crack the Georgia Tech starting lineup until late in his senior year.

WR Kavontae Turpin: A controversial figure at TCU, Turpin was kicked off the Horned Frogs’ team in October of last year due to an arrest for assault. This was the second such charge against him. In a workout for scouts off-campus, Turpin measured in at just 5’7”, but ran a 4.31 40. At TCU, he made hay as a returner, bring back two kickoffs and four punts for touchdowns. His legal situation bears monitoring, as does the XFL’s policy on these types of charges.

TE Carter Kirk: Kirk departed Southwest Minnesota State holding the team’s career record for field-goal percentage (59.2) and rebounds (887). Yes, those are basketball stats because Kirk was a four-year member of the Mustangs basketball team. He only played one year of football there, at tight end, after playing quarterback in high school. He was good enough to start 10 of 11 games in college, nabbing 27 passes for 339 yards. He parlayed that year of work into a minicamp tryout with the Seattle Seahawks.

LB Jordan Harold: The former University of Missouri defensive lineman made headlines in May when he camped outside Carolina’s Bank of America stadium, holding a sign that read “will pass rush for hot wings.” Harold, whose football excursion has taken him as far away as Mexico to play the sport, was just repeating a strategy that had worked once for him already: He got a spot on the Missouri squad by approaching the team’s defensive line coach outside their complex. Coming in from Northwest Missouri State, Harold was eventually put on scholarship and earned a job in the starting lineup.

LB Shaan Washington: Washington gave the AAF its first viral moment, making a monster hit on QB Mike Bercovici in the league’s inaugural game. It wasn’t all-bark, no-bite either, as Washington came up with three sacks in the first two weeks of the season. Washington started for three years on the Texas A&M Aggies and as a senior, was fourth in the SEC in tackles. Aggressive but slow, he fits best in a 3-4 defensive alignment.

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.

It All Begins…Again

For Greg Parks, it all began in 2001. Now, as a newly minted XFLBoard team reporter, Greg points out, it all begins… again.

It seemed too good to be true.

There they were, the architects of the renegade 2001 football league, Vince McMahon and Dick Ebersol, sitting down together to have dinner at the end of ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on the XFL.

“Do you ever have thoughts about trying again?” Ebersols asks McMahon. Without hesitation, McMahon replies, “Yes, I do.”

For XFL diehards like myself, it felt like a tease. I mean, there was NO WAY McMahon, now a billionaire in charge of what has become the WWE media empire, would entertain restarting a football league that bombed more than a decade prior.

Then a funny thing happened: A lot of people watched the XFL 30 for 30. And a lot of people liked it. All of a sudden, like seemingly everything else from that time period, there was nostalgia for the XFL.

That quickly dissipated. Time passed. Then, nine months after the 30 for 30 first aired, a Tweet from reporter Brad Shepard began to make the rounds:

At the time, Shepard was not well-known in either pro wrestling or sports reporting circles, so there was much skepticism. Soon after, the Alpha Entertainment trademark was discovered. At the time, many suspected what was later confirmed: Alpha would be the parent company of the revived XFL.

The news of the XFL’s rebirth was later confirmed, and I can’t tell you how weird it was watching Vince McMahon’s news conference where he officially brought back his most public failure.

The reason for starting his league back up, reportedly to utilize the trademarks of the XFL rather than sell them to Charlie Ebersol to use, was not exactly a way to start on the right foot. Neither was announcing the relaunch with frustratingly few details, doing so only to get out ahead of the Ebersol-led Alliance of American Football’s christening. Since those initial missteps, though, the XFL has made almost all the right moves.

We are now less than eight months away from kickoff. McMahon has largely stayed in the background, allowing CEO and Commissioner Oliver Luck to be the public face of the rebrand. Some of the only mentions of McMahon would come as thanks from head coaches upon their hiring.

We don’t know what the team nicknames will be. We don’t know who the players will be. And we don’t know what the championship game will be called. We do know that this XFL is being built completely different from the original, which gives it a much greater chance for success.

In 2001, I was a sophomore in high school in rural Western New York. I remember posting on the original XFLBoard.com. Today, I’m a middle school teacher in Southwest Florida. Now, I’m writing for XFLBoard.com. I feel the same excitement for the XFL today as I did all those years ago.

With each step, the XFL feels more and more real. After the Summer Showcases wrap up, players will be signed to league contracts, and team names, logos, and colors will be revealed. Then it’ll be the XFL Draft, training camps, and…oh my. Then it’ll be February.

When it all begins…again.