From Arena to the XFL – Shawn Oakman makes an impact

The West Virginia Roughriders were champions of the American Arena League in 2019. The team was loaded with a plethora of talented players who are now playing in the XFL. Shawn Oakman is one former Roughrider who made a direct impact on the game.

In June of 2019, Oakman signed with the Roughriders and contributed immediately. Oakman and the Roughriders then advanced to their third straight league championship game, again at home, and beat the Carolina Energy 55 to 29 to win their first AAL championship. Oakman destroyed the Energy’s offensive line and sent the quarterback running for his life.

Oakman played collegiately at Baylor in Waco, Texas. In his debut with the LA Wildcats, Oakman blew through the Houston offensive line and delivered a nasty blow to the Roughnecks quarterback. The sack was seen by thousands at the game and all over who were tuned in watching the game on FOX.

When asked about Oakman, West Virginia Roughriders Owner/General Manager Gregg Fornario said, “He had a sack. He is a beast on the field.” The Roughriders continue to produce talent and have had former players advance to a higher level of football. Oakman is just one of many. His contributions on the field were impressive even in a loss. The Roughriders campaign will begin with the inaugural Kickoff Classic on Saturday, Apr. 4 in Wheeling. The contest will match the West Virginia Roughriders and the defending champion Jacksonville Sharks in a “Champion vs. Champion” encounter. Kick-off will be set for 7 p.m. ET from the WesBanco Arena. You can catch the game on YouTube.

Kicker Ernesto Lacayo goes from arena football to the XFL Seattle Dragons

Ernesto Lacayo

For veteran kicker Ernesto Lacayo the opportunity to play in the XFL came through hard work and determination.

Lacayo played collegiately at Hastings College where he holds all kicking records in the history of the program. Ernesto went undrafted in the 2011 NFL Draft and signed with the Nebraska Danger of the Indoor Football League (IFL) after the draft.

After one year with the Danger, Ernesto then signed with the Louisiana Swashbucklers (PIFL) in 2013. This is where I met Ernesto. I was heavily involved with the Swashbucklers and I got to know my team very well. I would travel in from Houston to Lake Charles to see them play. Lacayo contributed in many ways to the team. After the Swashbucklers folded in 2013, Ernesto then signed with the Wichita Wild (CPIFL) in 2014. Ernesto set an All-Arena/Indoor record of 30 field goals made in a season, and set a CPIFL record with a 55-yard field goal against the Salina Bombers. Ernesto also kicked a 51-yard game-winning field goal against the Dodge City Law to put the Wild in the CPIFL Championship.

In 2014, Ernesto then signed with the Wichita Force (CIF) for the 2015 season, where he played only 10 games before being called up to play for the Las Vegas Outlaws (AFL) in 2015. In 11 games with the Outlaws, Ernesto led the league point after touchdown percentage connecting on 54-of-59 (91.5%).

In 2016, Ernesto signed with the Portland Steel (AFL). After the Steel folded, Ernesto still kept in shape and worked on his craft.

In 2019 Ernesto signed with the newly formed San Diego Strike Force who are members of the Indoor Football League. During the 2019 season Ernesto and Long Snapper Jackson Dallas shattered the old consecutive PAT record of 28 in the Indoor Football League. For the season, Ernesto led the league in field goals made (10) and was named Special Teams Player of The Week in Week 8.

When asked about how it felt, Ernesto told me that he “Put in countless hours in my arena career and living in my van these years and training is what got me here.”

Ernesto is thankful and looks to contribute with the Seattle Dragons immediately.

The Dragons will be on the road and travel to Washington D.C. to battle the Defenders on Saturday, February 8, 2020. Kick-off is set for 2 p.m. ET on ABC.

For Renegades DE Winston Craig the Journey Continues

Winston Craig – Richmond Spiders

Winston Craig made waves during his time in college and now has brought his talent to the XFL. Craig is a defensive end for the Dallas Renegades and he is ready to “raise hell.”

I witnessed Craig play firsthand when he was with the Richmond Spiders. I saw Craig manhandle offensive lines as he blew through them getting to the quarterback. During his time at Richmond, he appeared in 52 games and recorded 166 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks and two interceptions.

After his time at Richmond, Craig went undrafted but signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017. He spent time during the 2017 and 2018 seasons on the Eagles practice squad.

In late 2018, Craig signed with the now defunct San Antonio Commanders. After the Commanders suspended football operations Craig signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a fan of the Steelers this had me overjoyed with excitement. While his time with the Steelers was short, I was proud of him. Seeing him perform in person at Heinz Field was simply amazing.

The Dallas Renegades of the XFL selected Craig in their inaugural draft. This elated me. During their training camp in Houston, I got a chance to visit with him. I reiterated how pleased I was to see him in this newly formed league. He performed well enough during camp and made the 52 man roster. This was not surprising to me.

The journey for Craig is not over and I know that he will perform well with the Renegades.

The Renegades host the St. Louis Battlehawks at the reconfigured Globe Life Park on Sunday, February 9. Kick-off is set for 4 p.m. CT and the game will be carried on ESPN.

From the University of Houston Cougars to the New York Guardians

D’Juan Hines & NT Joey Mbu
Former Houston Cougars D’Juan Hines and Joey Mbu

Two former University of Houston Cougars are now Guardians of the XFL. Both have spent time in the NFL. LB #45 D’Juan Hines & NT Joey Mbu make the 52 man roster of the New York Guardians in the XFL.

Mbu was signed by the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He also spent time with the Washington Redskins, Indianapolis Colts, Green Bay Packers, and the Miami Dolphins. Mbu also was a member of the now defunct San Antonio Commanders in the AAF. While with the Commanders Mbu contributed to the defensive line.

Hines was signed by the Los Angeles Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Hines was signed off the Chargers’ practice squad by the Cleveland Brown to their active roster on September 22. He made his NFL debut on September 30, 2018 against the Oakland Raiders. Hines played in 13 games during his rookie season and contributed on Special Teams. To date, Hines has 4 tackles in the NFL. Look out for both this season.

The Guardians will host the Tampa Bay Vipers on Sunday, February 9 at 2 P.M. ET. on FOX.

Taylor’s Snaps

Colton Taylor Virginia Tech
Colton Taylor Virginia Tech Credit: Virginia Tech Athletics

From Virginia Tech to the Houston Roughnecks. The journey of Long Snapper Colton Taylor starts in Virginia.

During his tenure at Salem High School he lettered three times. Taylor was an invited walk-on for the Hokies. During his redshirt senior season in 2016, he appeared in all games for the Hokies. During his time at Virginia Tech, Taylor made numerous plays on Special Teams. While playing against West Virginia on a spectacular punt that took a friendly roll Taylor darted after the ball and recovered it inside the five of the West Virginia. This was one of many plays that Taylor made during his time at Virginia Tech.

His same athleticism has transitioned over now to his time with the Roughnecks. After being drafted by the Houston Roughnecks in the inaugural XFL Draft, he has spent time with his fellow specialists. They have formed a unique bond. Kicker Sergio Castillo and Taylor have continued to work on their timing. Taylor continues to show why he played and started at Virginia Tech. Each snap that I’ve seen has been on target.

During the Roughnecks scrimmage against the LA Wildcats, Taylor was part of the reason why the Roughnecks got points on certain drives. As Taylor hiked the ball, punter Austin Rehkow held the ball and Castillo was successful on his field goals.

Taylor is constantly trying to improve his game and is very humble. Taylor appreciates all the support.

Be sure to catch him and the Roughnecks in action on Saturday, February 8, 2020. Kick-off is set for 4 p.m. CT from TDECU Stadium in Houston, Texas. If you can’t make the game, watch the game live on FOX.

Jeter shines with the XFL Seattle Dragons

Colin Jeter Seattle Dragons
Colin Jeter (81) – Credit XFL.com

There is a saying, “Once a Ranger, always a Ranger.” For former Ranger, Colin Jeter, the Seattle Dragons are home.

Jeter, a Tight End who had his beginnings with the Kilgore College Rangers went on to play in the SEC with the LSU Tigers. Jeter was a two-year starter and three-year letterwinner at tight end for the Tigers. He played in 35 games in LSU career, starting 17 times. As a Tiger he finished his career with 23 receptions for 289 yards and 2 TD’s. He was a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll.

After succeeding in college at one of the highest stages, Jeter went on to be a member of the Indianapolis Colts and Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL.

Jeter was then drafted by the Seattle Dragons in the inaugural XFL Draft. While with the Dragons, Jeter has made plays throughout training camp. Jeter offers the Dragons skills in both blocking and receiving.  Be sure to look for him make plays all this season.

The Dragons will battle the DC Defenders on Saturday, February 8, 2020. Kick-off is set for 2 pm ET and the game will be broadcasted on ABC.

Related: Colin Jeter Looks to solidify his pro football career with the Seattle Dragons

LA Wildcats claw the Roughnecks in XFL test game

Photo: Justin Kelm

The Houston Roughnecks battled the LA Wildcats on Tuesday, January 21 at TDECU Stadium in Houston.

The Roughnecks came out with the typical June Jones explosive offense. Kicker #7 Sergio Castillo blasted two successful field goals. Perfect snaps from Long Snapper #58 Colten Taylor made it easy for Castillo to connect on a 47 yard field goal. This is nothing new as Castillo was an CFL All-Star last season in BC.

The scoring went in favor of the Roughnecks during the first half. Connor Cook found Kahlil Lewis for the 82 yard score. The Roughnecks bench exploded with cheers. At the half, the score was 18 to 8.

The third quarter begun with the Wildcats coming out seeking a comeback. The comeback came with numerous plays made by Quarterback Chad Kanoff. He found Wide Receivers Kermit Whitfield and Saeed Blacknall for the scores. The Wildcats attempted for a two point conversion attempt and it was successful. The score was 20 to 18 and the Wildcats took the lead.

The Roughnecks continued to fight back but the lead continued to grow. The Wildcats went up 23 to 18 as the final portion of regulation was complete. Penalties caused issues for both teams all game.

Going into the Overtime portion of the game, the Roughnecks needed five points to clearly win the game if this was a regular game. Neither team scored until the fourth attempt when the Roughnecks scored. Each team was given five attempts each to score one point for a successful conversion. The Wildcats did not convert on any of them. The Roughnecks won the Overtime portion 1 to 0.

The Roughnecks will host the Wildcats for the Regular Season Opener of the XFL on Saturday, February 8, 2020 at 4 p.m. on FOX.

St. Louis BattleHawks Safety #44 Joe Powell is known for a lot on and of the field

Joe PowellThis story is going to be one that comes from my own perspective. St. Louis BattleHawks Safety #44 Joe Powell is known for a lot on the field, but it’s off the field I wanted to focus on.

Powell and I met years ago when I was on the other side of one of his explosive plays. Powell at the time was with the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks of the Professional Indoor Football League and I was with the Richmond Raiders. In 2015, he was named the PIFL’s defensive rookie of the year. Powell, a defensive back at the time, made 11 interceptions on the season.

Powell is a product of Globe Institute of Technology in New York. He spent time with the New York Giants and the Buffalo Bills in the National Football League.

Just recently he was a member of the now defunct Birmingham Iron. I drove from Texas to watch him play numerous times. He finished out with the Baltimore Brigade in the now defunct Arena Football League. Powell continued to make explosive plays in whatever league he was in.

When the XFL came around and I saw Joe was going to St. Louis I was excited. Powell does a great job at connecting with his “fans” and loves the game. Off the field Powell always takes time to check in on me and others. It takes a lot in today’s age to actual take time out of your busy schedule to check in.

Bringing the Payne – St. Louis BattleHawks Defensive End Jake Payne is a name that should be known in the XFL

St. Louis BattleHawks Defensive End Jake Payne is a name that should be known in the XFL.

I met Payne a few years back when he was playing with Washington Valor in the now defunct Arena Football League.

Before being a member of the Valor, Payne played collegiately at Division III Shenandoah. While with the Hornets, as a Senior he led the ODAC with seven sacks. He also had 53 tackles, including 26 solo and 14 for loss. He was named first team All-ODAC and Lou Wacker Defensive Player of the Year. He was also named first team All-State by both VaSID and the Roanoke Times.

Payne was also a member of the Birmingham Iron of the now defunct AAF.

Everywhere Payne goes he contributes. Payne plays the run very well and will create mayhem all season with the BattleHawks. Payne and the BattleHawks will travel to Dallas to battle the Renegades on Sunday, February 9 at 4 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.

Houston Roughnecks 2020

On a cool morning in Houston, Texas the Houston Roughnecks welcomed fans and media to see what all the hype was about. The Roughnecks were set to battle the Tampa Bay Vipers. Being a University of Houston alumnus it was nice to see my University be the host of a Professional football team.

The Houston Roughnecks are led by legendary Head Coach June Jones. Jones has spent time at all levels of football, most recently in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Both rosters were full of former NFL players looking at getting another shot. Wide Receiver #10 Sammie Coates is a name many should know. Coates was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2015 Draft.

When asked about what it meant to be in the XFL, Coates stated “It’s a blessing and I am happy to be here.”

While in the NFL, Coates has 29 receptions for 528 yards and 2 Touchdowns.


Quarterback’s Connor Cook and PJ Walker also looked great. Walker is a name known by many in Houston. He played in college at Temple and battled the University of Houston numerous times throughout his collegiate career.

On defense, Defensive Back Robert Nelson looks to continue his professional career. He is also happy to be back in Houston.

The Special Teams unit also looks to be on point. The Roughnecks have 2019 CFL All-Star Kicker Sergio Castillo who adds depth and experience. Long Snapper Colton Taylor, a Virginia Tech alum continues to impress with his ability to do more than just snap the ball, and punter Austin Rehkow can boot the ball far and pin the opposing team deep.

This team is full of good players and I can’t wait to see them in action on Saturday, February 8 as they host the LA Wildcats.