Four things we need to happen when the XFL returns

With the XFL kicking off on 8 February, we’d like to point out four things XFL fans would love to see happen in conjunction with the kickoff. Of course, innovative spring football is the topmost desire of all fans, and it seems  this is something they are about to receive. However, getting these four additional things to come to fruition would be the icing on the cake.

1. Vince McMahon needs to say, “This is the XFL!”

Vince McMahon has to go on the field to introduce the XFL. The previous time McMahon did this on 3 February 2001, at the XFL debut game between the NY/NJ Hitmen vs Las Vegas Outlaws at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, remains an iconic moment of the the first XFL, and has actually become a meme for the league’s identity.

YouTube video

 

Of course, McMahon doesn’t have to hype the league the same way. He could easily talk about the two years of work Alpha Entertainment has done to build his new league.

However, he has to say, “This is the XFL!” in his signature gravelly voice. This part is mandatory.

2. Trot out the old XFL football heroes

The league needs to bring out some of the old XFL heroes. Players like Tommy Maddox, Rod Smart, Jeff Brohm and John Avery should be brought out to comment on the new league. This would serve to make a decent connection between the old league and new in a positive way.

Players like Maddox and Smart, who had great success in the NFL after their XFL playing time, would serve to point out that the XFL is about great football, and nothing else.

3. Make sure people know the “X” does not stand for “Xtreme”

The fact is that the “X” in XFL never really stood for anything, and that fact remains true in the 2020 version of the league.

History lesson: When the first incarnation of the league was envisioned, it was originally thought XFL would stand for “Xtreme Football League.” However, since there was already a league in formation with that name, for legal purposes the league decided that the “X” did not stand for anything.

However this did not stick.  Even a true XFL fan like Homer Simpson thought the “X” stood for “Xtreme.” In fact, this animated gif meme is often seen when people are referring to the XFL on social media.

So, the XFL needs to work hard to ensure that people know the “X” doesn’t stand for anything.

In a Sports Illustrated interview with XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck, the league’s name was discussed. In describing the origin of the league’s name, it was stated, “The F and the L act to indicate, if only indirectly, a football league. But the X is a variable. It could mean anything.”

Let’s go with that.

4. Someone needs to tell Homer Simpson the XFL is back

YouTube video

 

The last time the “XFL” was mentioned on “The Simpsons” was in the season 13 episode “The Old Man and the Key” (aired March 10, 2002), where Marge had to break bad news to Homer that the XFL had folded:

Marge:  Honey, I’ve got some bad news for you.
Homer: Not now, Marge. I’m waiting for the new XFL season! Who will win this year’s million-dollar game? Who? Who?
Marge: Honey…
Homer: (Making an X with his fingers) The “X” is for “Xtreme.”
Marge: There is no XFL this year. The league folded.
Homer: Who told you?
Marge: Last year’s MVP. He sweeps up toenails at the beauty parlor.

Don’t you think it’s high time that Marge tells Homer that his favorite football league is back? In fact, this would be a great way to promote the league, especially since memes based on this Simpsons clip are quite predominate on the web. Let’s create a new meme… “Homer is thrilled that the XFL is back!”

Maybe they could do an entire story line where Homer is excited to hear the XFL is returning, and he actually goes to an XFL game. Since The Simpsons is on Fox, a broadcast partner of the XFL, there is a chance such a crossover could actually be a reality.

It’s worthwhile to note, the XFL MVP Marge was referring to was Tommy Maddox, and he actually did not have to “sweep up toenails” after the XFL folded. Instead, he spent three years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the first two as their starting quarterback.

Kicker Garrett Hartley’s XFL Dream Derailed

Garrett Hartley - New Orleans Saints
Garrett Hartley – New Orleans Saints

On Wednesday 22 January, veteran NFL kicker Garrett Hartley tweeted from Tulane University in New Orleans, and said he was excited to say he was signed by an XFL team. In the days after this initial announcement, fans followed Garrett on social media when he revealed he was going to the Seattle Dragons, then when he flew to Seattle, and even when he tried on his white Seattle Dragons uniform pants.

We all remembered Hartley playing for the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, where he went 3-for-3 with field goals from 46, 44, and 47 yards, to become the first kicker in Super Bowl history to convert three field goals of 40 yards or more.

Once in Seattle, Garrett put on a show for the XFL Dragons, making 19 of 20 field goals, the longest from the 55-yard line. For the Dragons coaches, this confirmed the video they had seen of Hartley working out on the field at Tulane. His leg was still in shape, and he was more than ready to kick for the XFL.

However, there was still the matter of medical clearance. Unfortunately, Hartley was soon told that an XFL physician would not clear him for game play, since he had undergone spinal surgery where one of the original discs in his neck had been replaced by an artificial disc.

Not passing his medical was the last thing on Garrett Hartley’s mind, as he said over the phone from New Orleans on Thursday evening.

“I’ve already been cleared medically through my world-renowned spine surgeon, Dr. Watkins Jr., and as well as cleared through another surgeon at Tulane, through my MRI reports,” Garrett said. “I would never put myself in jeopardy to play a game if it meant I can ultimately suffer lifelong consequences because of it.”

The medical snag was also a surprise to the Seattle Dragons’ coaches that had coaxed Garrett to come to Seattle.

“That is 100% correct,” Garrett confirmed. “From everyone that I spoke to there, everything was mutual and they were happy to have me, I was happy to be there, and I was going to be their guy. No questions asked.”

It was the league’s medical official that put an end to Hartley joining the Dragons.

“I was told that the risk of the unknown from my surgery was why they would not clear me,” Hartley explained. “Since I have an artificial disc in my neck and not a fusion, there isn’t enough evidence for them to medically say that I would be cleared.”

“In the XFL, there’s no waivers to be signed, since there’s not a collective bargaining agreement, and all the decisions go to the XFL, and not the individual teams like it would be in the NFL,” Hartley explained.

What this really means to Hartley is not only is he restricted from playing for the Dragons, he is restricted from playing for any XFL team.

To top that off, there isn’t any way to reverse the decision, because, as Hartley pointed out, the XFL doesn’t have an appeal process in place.

“Unfortunately, they don’t have anything in place set up as far as appeals goes,” Hartley said. Still, he remains optimistic that the decision is not final.

“There are some potential meetings that might take place early next week that will definitely bring me back up in the conversation,” he said.

Not to mention that Hartley feels strongly that his artificial disc should not be considered to be a liability.

“The frustrating thing for me was the fact that I never had any surgeon other than a primary care doctor overlook, or look at me physically in person to see how strong I am.”

“Knowing that the artificial disc is the future of fusions, anyway. I have more mobility, it’s longer lasting. You know, we have professional athletes across the world that have these in, just none of them happen to be a football player. They’re professional soccer players. There is military active personnel with an artificial disc in their cervical neck. Unfortunately, like I said, they wouldn’t give me the green light.”

Hartley confirmed that he never saw any surgeon or orthopedic specialist while he was in Seattle.

“They were going off some assumptions from their own research of the disc,” he said.  “I know that they had spoken to my surgeon, which operated on Peyton Manning as well as other high priority athletes that obviously came back to play, even though he had a different procedure than me.”

“Having that reassurance through a top ranked doctor is all the assurance that I need as a player, in the confidence, knowing if he feels it’s safe, that obviously I believe that it will be (safe) for me to be on the field.”

Hartley retains hope that this decision will be overturned and he will be allowed to play football for the XFL.

We can’t disagree. After all, it would be great to see him kick another game winning field goal, such as the one that allowed the Saints to play in Super Bowl XLIV.

You can hear more of the interview with Garrett Hartley in this Sunday’s XFL Xtra Podcast. 

XFL LA Wildcats trade Luis Perez to the New York Guardians

Three months after being assigned to the Los Angeles Wildcats as their Tier 1 quarterback, Luis Perez was traded to the New York Guardians for quarterback Charles Kanoff.

After the Los Angeles Wildcats acquired veteran quarterback Josh Johnson, it has become rumored that Perez was not in the running for the starting quarterback job.

Head Coach and General Manager Winston Moss said of the Perez trade:

“We respect Luis. He is a first-class person and a first-class player. We felt as though the development of Josh Johnson and Jalan McClendon would give us the best chance to have success this season.”

Charles Kanoff played college football at Princeton. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, and also spent time on the  practice squads of the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers before signing with the Guardians on January 5, 2019. He only spent two weeks with the Guardians before being moved to the Wildcats.

The New York Guardians have not indicated how Perez will figure into their quarterback depth chart.

Anthony Johnson is focused on Seattle Dragons training camp

Anthony Johnson (91) – Credit XFL.com

Since coming to Houston to attend an XFL Seattle Dragons pre-season training camp, Anthony Johnson is focused on one thing…  having a successful training camp.

In fact, his insistence that he was not thinking past the training camp to the Dragons opening XFL inaugural game against the DC Defenders on 8 February was proof enough of his mindset.

“It is an exciting feeling,” he said. “But, right now I think we’re just focused on trying to get through camp. Trying to get everything finalized and get us ready for that game.”

Anthony pointed out that the Dragons were preparing for a pre-season matchup against the DC Defenders Monday, a game that would serve to be a “dress rehearsal” for the real game that will take place in three weeks.

Other than the job at hand, Anthony is positive about the Seattle Dragons.

“This is a great team. Everybody has come together pretty quick in just in a short period of time. I’m excited to see where this team goes.”

“We have a great coaching staff around us,” Anthony said. “Coach Lopez has a great mind. I love listening to him, and I love hearing the things that he has to say. Just all of his concepts, and the same thing with coach Johnson, you know, he’s a great coach and he’s helped me a lot with my game since I’ve been here, just changing different things up on how I play.”

We look forward to seeing Anthony on the field for the Seattle Dragons on February 8th.

To hear the entire interview with Anthony Johnson, check out the XFL Xtra Podcast – Episode 20
[buzzsprout episode=’2523742′ player=’true’]

Running Back James Butler is picked up by the XFL Houston Roughnecks

On January 8th, the Houston Roughnecks announced the addition of running back James Butler to their roster.

A native of Wheaton, Illinois, and a graduate of the St. Francis High School football program, Butler started his college career playing for the University of Nevada Wolfpack. In Nevada, he was named All-Mountain West honorable mention in 2015 and 2016 and earned his team’s Outstanding Offensive Player Award in 2016. In his time at Nevada, he had two 1,000-yard seasons and rushed for 3,316 yards and 27 touchdowns, in addition to hauling in 49 passes for 438 yards and three more TDs.

YouTube video

 

After a stellar career at Nevada, Butler transferred to Iowa for his senior season and was a backup. He had 91 rushes for 396 yards and a touchdown.

After College, Butler landed in the Oakland Raiders organization, playing in the pre-season and then relegated to the practice roster, despite showing brilliance when he was put on the field.

In 2019, in a bid to get actual playing time, Butler went to the pre-season training camp of the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. When he was waived by the Roughriders, he wound up returning to the Raider’s practice roster.

In a span of two seasons, Butler was cut four times by the Raiders. They must have liked something about him, because they kept bringing him back.  It seems there was wide interest in his football skills, but Butler was looking for on-field playing time.


This is when the XFL came into the picture.

Butler was recently in Green Bay airport, returning from a workout with the Packers, when he received the call from the XFL.

“I was in Green Bay when I got the call and I was like in the Green Bay airport and they, they were like, can we get you on a flight tomorrow? And I wasn’t even back in Chicago yet.”

On the 8th of January, the Houston Roughnecks reported that Butler had been added to their training camp roster.

Soon after joining the Roughnecks, Butler began to enjoy the type of offence they were building.

“It was a different offence. It reminded me a lot of the offense they ran in Nevada, like a true spread offence,” he explained. “I was talking to coach Estes and he was saying you’re not going to see a lot of eight, nine-man boxes in this kind of offence.”

“I would say this is a pass-first team,” Butler said. “But, incorporates a lot of that with run, so I like it. It’s different. It really utilizes a running back’s talents.”

Despite the intriguing nature of the offensive scheme, and since cut down day is fast approaching, Butler’s main incentive is to make the team.  His motivation even extends to making any XFL roster at this point in time.

“Any roster, honestly,” he clarified.

It’s not just Butler who is pulling for himself to be successful in this league. Back in Illinois, Pat Calcagno the coach of Butler’s former high school team is also pulling for him.

We hope Butler’s hard-working attitude carries him into the regular season of the XFL.

To hear the entire interview with Jame Butler, check out the XFL Xtra Podcast – Episode 20
[buzzsprout episode=’2523742′ player=’true’]

Wide Receiver Dontez Byrd gets an opportunity with the XFL Seattle Dragons

They call him “Speedy” Byrd and he’s a wide receiver that started out in Ballard High School in Louisville, Kentucky. In fact, he wanted to play pro football nearly his whole life. When he was young, he wrote a letter to his mother telling her so:

However, like many footballers, there would be many hurdles to cross before Dontez’s “legacy” could be achieved.

When he graduated from high school, Dontez did not have an offer to play at the college level. However, he walked on at Louisville and earned his way onto the team. It worked out, and Byrd made a name for himself on special teams.

In 2017, his senior season, Byrd transferred to Tennessee Tech, where he had a stellar year as a wide receiver where he caught 78 passes for 1,003 yards, and six TDs.

In 2018, this led to Dontez being signed by the Atlanta Falcons as an undrafted free agent. After a rookie minicamp, he earned himself a spot on the roster for the preseason. Even though he was waived before the beginning of the regular season, Dontez remains positive about the experience.

“I played in all four preseason games and had three catches for 76 yards,” he said. “it was good to come in and be around all those receivers that I looked up to in college, and having a chance to play with them in the NFL was pretty cool. And now, I use what they taught me today.”

After a switch of agents, his career suffered a slight pause. Byrd’s next opportunity came in 2019 with the Memphis Express of the Alliance of American Football (AAF). However, his playing time was limited due to an ankle sprain.

After the AAF league folded, Byrd returned to the situation where he was looking for a new pro football team. When the XFL came along, he expressed interest in the league and looked for an XFL opportunity.

That opportunity finally came in January when he received an invitation to join the Seattle Dragons at their preseason training camp in Houston. The timing of that call was quite miraculous, as Dontez was waiting for a job interview when it happened.

“It’s crazy because I received a call at 8:30 in the morning, and I was in a job interview,” Dontez explained. “It was actually my first job interview. I’ve been waiting a while to play football, and I just decided I was going to get a job.”

“I left the interview and went home. Then, I got packed up and got ready to go.”

Through his faith, Dontez just knows it was divine intervention.

Now that he is in the Dragons training camp, Dontez is anxious and eager to get on the field, prove himself, and make the Dragon’s roster.

“I know we only have a couple of practices left, and a preseason game Monday. So, I have to get out there and get some good film on tape so I can make this roster.”

Speedy Byrd has his work cut out for him, but we have faith that his skill, determination and drive will lead him to achieve his legacy.

To hear the entire interview with Dontez Byrd, check out the XFL Xtra Podcast – Episode 20
[buzzsprout episode=’2523742′ player=’true’]

XFL Commercial on the FOX NFL Playoff Broadcast makes waves

The first nationally aired XFL commercial was shown at half-time of Fox Sports’ coverage of the NFL playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks. In case you missed it, you may view the ad spot here:

YouTube video

 

Looking at social media, reaction to the XFL spot were predictably mixed. However, no publicity is bad publicity, and many football fans are now aware of the XFL’s plan to kick off on the weekend after the NFL season ends.

The XFL commercial strategically focused on innovative rule changes the league has incorporated, likely in the hope that NFL fans may see the ad and decide this may be a good reason to give the new league a chance.

As well as a nationally aired ad spot, viewers in specific XFL markets also received ads promoting the XFL home openers.

Look for more XFL promotions on Fox, and also on ESPN and ABC, further demonstrating how important these broadcast partners are to the fledgling XFL.

 

 

XFL St. Louis BattleHawks Replace Offensive Coordinator

Today, the St. Louis BattleHawks have announced that running backs coach Chuck Long has replaced Doug Meacham as the offensive coordinator of the team. Also, Reggie Davis has been hired to take over Long’s previous duties as running backs coach.

“We are excited to have someone of Chuck’s caliber move into this new role,” Head Coach and General Manager Jonathan Hayes said. “We are focused on preparing for the upcoming season and I am confident Chuck will have our offense ready to compete for our goal of an XFL Championship.”

Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1999, Long was an All-American at the University of Iowa and was runner-up for the Heisman Trophy after the 1985 season. Long has the distinction of playing in five bowl games for the Hawkeyes and was a teammate of Jonathan Hayes.

The 56-year old Long played eight seasons at quarterback in the NFL before returning to his alma mater of the University of Iowa to begin a coaching career which has included roles as head coach at San Diego State and offensive coordinator at both Oklahoma and Kansas University. Former teammates with the Hawkeyes, Hayes and Long coached together on the 2000 Oklahoma national championship team.

Besides serving as offensive coordinator, Long will also be responsible for coaching the BattleHawks’ quarterbacks.

Reggie Davis has been hired to take over Long’s previous duties as running backs coach. A former tight end with the San Diego Chargers, Davis moved into the coaching ranks with the University of San Diego in 2004 and has been part of the coaching staff with the San Francisco 49ers, UNLV, Oregon State, and Nebraska.

Head Coach Bob Stoops welcomed QB Eric Dungey to the XFL Dallas Renegades

Due to the recent knee injury of Landry Jones, who was once the expected starting quarterback of the Dallas Renegades, the Dallas-based XFL franchise brought quarterback Eric Dungey into their training camp. Dungey is a Syracuse University alum.

On Thursday, Bob Stoops tweeted a photo of himself welcoming Dungey to the team.

It is not just Bob Stoops that is excited to have Dungey on the roster.

“We are very excited to have Eric Dungey join the Renegade family,” Director of Player Personnel Daryl Johnston said in a statement. “He has always been at the top of our list through this process and we didn’t think we would have the opportunity to sign Eric after he joined the Cleveland Browns this fall. It’s a blessing to have him join us after the injury to Landry. He brings great athleticism and leadership to our quarterback position.”

Before coming to the XFL, Dungey enjoyed greats success in his senior season at Syracuse, where he completed 226 of 371 passes for 2868 yards, 18 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. After graduation Dungey was signed by the New York Giants as an undrafted free agent in May of 2019,  but was later waived on July 24th. On October 11, 2019, he was signed to the Cleveland Browns practice squad, and recently released by the Browns on December 19, 2019.

Essentially, Dungey has never received a chance to prove himself in a pro football league. At least by joining the Renegades, he stands a good chance of being on a starting roster and showing off his skills.

Matthew Colburn is ready to contribute 1000 percent to the XFL Guardians

Matthew Colburn
Credit CG Cinema (YouTube)

New York Guardians running back Matthew Colburn grew up in Irmo, SC, where he played for his high school football team, the Dutch Fork Silver Foxes.

It was as far back as his high school career where Matthew specialized as a running back and kick returner.

After high school, Colburn spent four seasons in Winston-Salem, NC with the Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Over the course of his college career, he progressively improved his game, putting up impressive numbers in his sophomore and senior seasons.

In his last season at Wake Forest he rushed for 759 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games. He also came out of the backfield for 10 catches for 96 yards. This performance helped his chances when it came to being considered for the 2019 NFL draft.

YouTube video

 

However, the excitement of being considered for the draft turned to disappointment as Colburn was not chosen. But, he was quickly brought into the LA Rams training camp as an undrafted free agent. By the end of training camp, the Rams had cut Colburn. Still, he recognizes the experience was valuable to him.

“First of all, just being a rather small town, South Carolina boy going all the way over to the West coast… just totally different worlds,” Matthew explained. “Aside from that, it was really cool to be around those guys and those coaches, and I definitely learned a lot about just being a complete football player, and special teams… I’m uber appreciative of my time there, and time spent with players, coaches and all that.”

After the preseason with the Rams, Matthew worked as a landscaper, and waited for another football opportunity. He wouldn’t have to do this for very long, because the XFL would soon come calling.

“A guy’s first initial thought when he gets cut is, ‘who’s going to pick me up next?'” Matthew said.

“I knew about the XFL and I remember I had filled out some paperwork. There were some emails I received before the close of the preseason,” he recalled. “That was something that I did, and you know, thank God that I was granted that opportunity.”

First Matthew was notified that he was a part of the XFL draft pool. Soon afterward, on day two of the October draft, Matthew was notified he had been drafted to the New York Guardians of the XFL.

“I was on lunch break from work,” Matthew said. “When I got the call, I was pretty, pretty excited.”

Last month, Colburn was able to take a break from landscaping when he joined the Guardians at their minicamp. He describes his time at minicamp as a positive experience, and was quite impressed by the organization.

“I was just really impressed by all the coaches, the entire staff… their tenure, and the rapport, and just their background, where they’ve been,” Matthew explained.  “Coach Gilbride, Coach Ingram…  they know what it means to be at the top. They know what it means to be the best.”

After spending Christmas back home in Irmo, SC, Colburn is headed to Guardians training camp in Houston, where he plans to earn a starting job on the roster. In fact, he feels strongly about the role of every player to vie for a starting job, as it makes the team stronger.

“I think every person who plays a game, that should be their mindset is to be the starter and to prepare like a starter,” Matthew said. “One guy prepares his tail off, then then his game elevates and then that creates competition. So then the next guy, he’s going to prepare his tail off, he’s going to get better, and then you know it’s going to be this ongoing competition in the room that’s going to in turn elevate everybody’s game, which will then elevate the position group and then elevate the offense.”

Aside from a starting running back position, Matthew is ready for anything.

“Whatever role that I need to fulfill, I’m going to do that to the thousand percent.”

We wish Matthew Colburn 1000% of good health and good fortune in the Guardians training camp and upcoming XFL season.

The entire interview with Matthew Colburn may be found in Episode 18– Ready
[buzzsprout episode=’2408918′ player=’true’]