XFL Draft Invitee Andrew Erbes and his journey to the XFL

Credit. Andrew Erbes (Facebook)

From not even playing football until halfway through high school, to being one of the first players invited to the XFL draft, Andrew Erbes has had a very unique football career. Attending Saguaro High School in Arizona, Erbes did not even play football until his junior year. Instead, Erbes spent his time playing baseball and basketball.

“We knew who he was. We were just wondering what he was doing playing baseball,” said Saguaro High O-line coach Chris Chick. “He had great potential in football because he was 6’1 240 lbs. and light on his feet before he even started lifting.”

Erbes would go on to play football his junior year and start to hit the gym a lot more. He turned into a gym rat, and buffed up to 275-280 lbs. instantly after he started lifting. “He was non-stop in the weight room,” said Chick. “I had to tell him to stop. To go home.”

However, it was not all sunshine and roses for Erbes early in his high school career. Erbes did not start until his senior year in high school, and most of that was due to his lack of football knowledge and experience. Most of the kids at Saguaro had been playing Pop Warner since 3rd/4th grade and some had even been running the same offense as the high school . Erbes, on the other hand, did not even understand zone running concepts, and would often ask very basic questions. “He asked questions like a third-grade kid in Pop Warner,” said Coach Chick. “The whole room would laugh at his questions.”

Erbes did not let this stop him, as he ended up starting his senior year and turned into a pretty good Offensive Lineman per Coach Chick. “You have to have great feet, great technique and have to be nasty,” said Chick. “He had all three.”

Erbes went on to walk-on at Arizona State University followed by a stint at Mesa Community College where he earned all-conference honors instantly. After that, Erbes went to UNLV and graduated with a degree in higher education.

Coming out of college, Erbes did not have a lot of tape, but ended up getting inadvertently scouted by Zen Bliss. Bliss was watching tape of another player at the University of Nevada when Andrew stood out to him. “His aggressiveness and quickness really stood out to me,” said Bliss. “He plays to the whistle and will hit you.” Bliss got Erbes hooked up with coach, former NFL first-rounder Marv Jones, on the IFL team ‘Cedar Rapids Titans’ where he played 3 games against NFL competition and got some better film to give to some teams.

Erbes handed out his film from the IFL at his Pro Day to 15 NFL teams, and a few CFL teams as well. Erbes received interest from the Jets, but ended up going to a Calgary Stampeders mini-camp in Florida. After that did not work out, Erbes played in the Arena Football League, but his ‘big break’ came when the Montreal Alouettes called and signed him to their practice squad. At the end of the season, Erbes got a 2-year contract with the Alouettes and trained hard over the off-season. He came into camp the next year but was cut due to unfortunate injuries that forced the Alouettes to reallocate their American players. This is a rule in the CFL that caps the number of American players on the roster, and Erbes said, “It is rules like this in the CFL that makes guys like me (interior OL) look at the XFL as a much more realistic option.”

However, when one door closes another one opens. Erbes’ agent Brian Brundage urged him to go to the XFL Summer Showcase in Seattle shortly after he was cut, and he took his advice and attended. Erbes was glad he did, as he thought he performed very well at the combine. He was happy with the numbers he got in the combine drills, but he thought the one-on-one portion was where he separated himself. Erbes won all 12 of his reps, getting a few at Left Tackle, Center and both Guard positions. This effort got the attention of Seattle O-Line coach Steve Smith who pulled Erbes aside. Erbes said Smith told him, and a few other O-Linemen, that he was going to advise Seattle to take them in the inaugural XFL player draft in October.

Erbes had a lot of good things to say about Smith as well. “He was awesome,” Erbes said. “I can tell he is a coach that I would love to play for.”

On August 8th, Erbes tweeted that he had received his XFL draft invitation.

Off the Field

On the field we have seen what Andrew Erbes can do, but off the field, Erbes shines as well. Ron Sowers, a friend of Erbes, said, “On the field, he is a mean son of a gun, but off the field he is the nicest guy ever.” He described Erbes as a character, and a real funny dude.

Erbes believes his relentlessness stands out the most, and he certainly has a case. Playing in three different colleges and multiple pro leagues, and not always getting the results you want can be difficult, but Andrew has been patient and is not giving up. That “relentlessness” has led him to the XFL where everything is (of course) uncertain, but he is looking to have a decent shot to stick with a team.

When it comes to the XFL, Erbes is hoping to get a “full season of film, played against great competition.” A west coast team would be easier for him and his family, but he would be thrilled to play for any of the eight franchises.

Erbes says the final goal is indeed the NFL. “That would be the final validation of all the hard work,” said Erbes. “It is like receiving a PhD in football.”

Right now, Erbes is currently a long term substitute teacher, and is helping former coach Chris Chick coach at Chandler High School in Arizona while he waits for the XFL. Coach Chick raves about Erbes’ coaching. “Ever since I have had him coaching the JV the kids are coming up to me (on varsity) a lot more prepared,” said Chick. “After football, he could really be a good coach.”

Erbes has tons of great opportunities ahead of him, both inside and outside of football. But, that final goal of the NFL is what he is focused on right now, and you better believe he will tear up the XFL to get there.

Paxton Lynch one of the first eyed by the XFL at the NFL cut deadline

Paxton Lynch cut by the Seahawks. Is he XFL bound?

Today is the day NFL teams must cut their rosters down for regular season play, and it is no secret that the XFL plans to take a good look at the crop of available players.

One player that has been touted as an XFL prospect is former first-round pick, quarterback Paxton Lynch. In fact, XFL Commissioner has said he was very interested in the battle between Seattle Seahawks backup quarterbacks Geno Smith and Paxton Lynch. Now we see that Smith won the job and Paxton Lynch was cut. Could an XFL contract or draft invitation be coming soon? Will Lynch end up as a starter or backup with the Seattle Dragons? We will see.

Other than this particular situation, there could be plenty more XFL contracts and draft invites in the coming days.

“When we look at the guys fighting for roster spots who might get released, we see incredible talent,” XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck recently told USA Today. “These are guys that fans will recognize.”

When it came to quarterbacks, Luck was especially hopeful for the XFL’s prospects. “You now have incredibly talented quarterbacks at the position for 15 to 20 years. One of the results of that is that you have a bunch of college guys who are very gifted but they find it difficult to make an NFL roster.”

The XFL Commissioner is upbeat about the XFL’s chances, and so are the fans.

At XFLBoard, where the hottest discussion is about NFL cuts, Mike Mitchell has weighed in with, “The XFL will be in contact with players who were cut all weekend. Invites will be extended this weekend to players and agents through correspondence and verbally. They are not going to be made public.  There’s an outside chance that we hear of a top tier signing or two in the next week or so but even those may be closer to the draft. Those are the only real players that will be signed to contracts.”

Now that the team names and logos have been released, it looks like XFL fans can look forward to some “team building.”

Seattle Dragons to host fan meetup

The Seattle Dragons have announced they will host a fan meetup this Wednesday 28 August, at Elysian Fields, 542 1st Ave S, Seattle, Washington between 5-7pm. The event will be located at 98104).

This will be the first chance for Seattle fans to meet the Dragons staff in person.

Introducing the Seattle Dragons

YouTube video

 

The XFL has named their Seattle franchise, the Seattle Dragons.

“Rising from the turbulent sea. Beneath the darkening skies of their weather-hardened home. Relentless, ruthless, ravenous. Not of mythology, but of muscle and might. Not of folklore, but of football. This is your darkest fantasy…in cleats. The Seattle Dragons. Breathing fire. February 2020.”

Under head coach Jim Zorn, the team will begin play in CenturyLink Field in February 2020.

More high-powered hires for the XFL including NBC Sports Veteran Len Mead

On Wednesday, the XFL shared the details of four new staff hires, one at XFL headquarters, one in Dallas and two in Seattle.

XFL Headquarters

Len Mead has joined as Vice President, Media Partnerships in the league’s headquarters in Stamford, CT. He will manage the day-to-day relationships with the XFL’s broadcast partners FOX Sports and ABC/ESPN as well as exploring potential new partners in TV, radio, and other platforms. Len joins the XFL after nine years with NBC Sports Regional Networks where he was initially hired as VP Production & Programming for then Comcast Sportsnet New England before moving west to be General Manager of NBC Sports Northwest. Prior to NBC, Len worked in programming at NESN and ESPN where he was on the original launch team of ‘ESPN360’ (now ESPN3) and conceived the ‘Megacast’ concept which ESPN continues to use around major events.

XFL Dallas

Rob Carolla will head up communications for XFL Dallas after spending nearly 25 years as a sports administrator. He recently served as President of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) – the national organization for communicators in college athletics – concluding a six-year term on the Board of Directors in 2018-19. During stints at the College Football 150th Anniversary, Big 12 and Big East Conferences and Conference USA, he has handled various external duties on national, regional and local levels. He is a graduate of the University of Connecticut and was born and raised in New Jersey.

XFL Seattle

Michelle DeLancy has joined XFL Seattle as senior director of marketing, and will be responsible for building the XFL Seattle fan base, creating awareness campaigns, engaging fans across platforms including the game day experience and operations while driving business performance. A Seattle native, she most recently was the general manager at ABC Creators where she oversaw all aspects of the business including brand management, event operations, sponsor sales, athlete relations and development, marketing and communications. She spent the majority of her career with Virginia Mason Medical as executive director of the Boeing Classic, a PGA Tour Champions event held annually in the Seattle area where she oversaw all aspects of the event and the relationship with the PGA Tour.

Pete Tenney, also a Seattle native, joins as director of content production and operations, and will lead the team’s content and production department, overseeing the creation of all XFL Seattle digital content (video and graphics for web, app, etc.), use content to engage fans through storytelling and develop a social media strategy and execution for all XFL Seattle social accounts. He joins from the NFL Players Association where he served as creative director and produced an athlete content series teaming with Amazon, Spotify, EA Sports, and Warner Bros. Before his time with the NFLPA, he was a senior producer at Bleacher Report where he created athlete video franchises and live content.

Energetic former WSU player takes on the XFL

Former Washington State University cornerback Marcellus Pippins.

With the XFL starting up again, hundreds of former collegiate athletes from across the country are coming together. The Seattle XFL team, coached by former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn, recently held a summer showcase at the Seattle Memorial Stadium. This was one of eight showcases held around the country.

As music played and drills raged on former Washington State University (WSU) and Canadian Football League (CFL) cornerback Marcellus Pippins stood on the sidelines dancing. According to Pippins’ Twitter, “Having fun is the best part.”

Pippins’ personality has not gone unnoticed by former teammates. “As long as we’ve been teammates, I’ve never seen him get tired,” former WSU and CFL teammate Paris Taylor said. “Every TV time out you can catch him dancing on the field.” “[Pippins] needs his own TV show or YouTube channel.”  Both Taylor and another former teammate, Robert Lewis, used “energetic” as a way to describe Pippins. Lewis’ favorite memory of Pippins is when he came out of a store and saw the spirited football player dancing in front of it.

Early years Pippins attended El Cerrito Highschool just outside of Richmond, California. While Pippins said he is proud to be from Richmond, it was not always to the best area to live in. In his early years, Pippins said he stayed away from parties to focus on school and sports. “Richmond, California is the city of pride and prejudice,” Pippins said. “That’s exactly how I carry myself in life and my decisions.”

Pippins scored ten touchdowns and seven interceptions as a junior in high school. During his senior year, Pippins was a three-star recruit and ranked 75th in the country in his position. In both his junior and senior year, he received All-East Bay first-team honors.

While Derik Calhoun, Pippins’ high school coach said physical talents came second to none, he was more impressed with the other facets of his game. “The best part about coaching him was simple: he was a coachable kid that understood the game from a mental perspective,” Calhoun said.

Understanding the game from a mental perspective was something that Pippins said he learned from coach Calhoun. Calhoun instilled in Pippins the popular saying, “The game is 80% mental, 20% physical.”

For awhile, Pippins said he didn’t know what that saying meant. “But playing at the highest level and living life,” Pippins said. “It all goes hand in hand.”

Collegiate and professional career

After his high school career, Pippins played football at WSU. According to wsucougars.com, Pippins was a four-year letter winner playing in 42 games over his four years and starting in 31 of them. Pippins recorded 104 tackles (6.5 for loss), one sack, five picks, 14 pass breakups, two forced fumbles and three recoveries. Pippins said his most memorable collegiate play came on his brother’s birthday when he picked off NFL pro-bowler Jared Goff.

In the spring of 2018, Pippins graduated from WSU with a humanities degree and immediately moved into the CFL. Pippins was on the practice squad for the Montreal Alouettes in 2018 and record two interceptions and a touchdown in the 2019 preseason before getting cut in week two.

Off the field

Off the field, just about everyone in his family described Pippins as absurdly competitive. His brothers, grandma and mother all talk about how Pippins is always competitive at family game nights, especially when “Uno” is involved.

“Don’t play any board games with [Pippins], you will no longer like him,” Trache Darwin, Pippins’ sister said.

XFL future

Pippins said he’s currently working on sharpening his technique and staying in shape for the XFL draft in October. Players for XFL teams will be selected from a pool of players who are signed by the league. Even though Pippins attended the Seattle XFL showcase, this has no relevance on where he could end up.

“The main thing that excited me about the XFL is I can have my folks watch me in the states,” said Pippins. “Not everyone can get a passport and travel to Canada.” There is an XFL franchise located in Los Angeles which is less than ten hours from his home town in California. “I want to be noticed and be given a fair chance to excel and show people that I am as good as I seem on film,” Pippins said.

Pippins does have some goals while in the XFL. Pippins said he wants to become a “no brainer shutdown nickel/corner” for a team and be an all-star as well.

“I want to shoutout my family, Coug Nation and my dog Saint,” Pippins said. “I could not have gotten here without them.”

The XFL Registers Trademarks for its Seattle Franchise

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle (2225  total votes)

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

Plenty of positivity for Jim Zorn as he is welcomed into the XFL

XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck welcomes Jim Zorn into the XFL.

Monday saw XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck welcome former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn into the XFL as Head Coach and General Manager of the Seattle franchise, which spawned a torrent of positive messages to be sent in Zorn’s direction.

First from Oliver Luck himself:

Then from ESPN analyst Matt Haselback, a former Quarterback who was coached by Zorn.

Former Seahawks player Walter Jones weighed in,

As did Romeo Crennel from the Kansas City Chiefs,

and, John Harbaugh, Head Coach of the Baltimore Ravens.

Oliver Luck announces the hiring of Jim Zorn as the head coach and general manager of XFL Seattle

Jim Zorn introduced as the head coach and general manager of the XFL team in Seattle.

Replay press conference on YouTube:

YouTube video

At the press conference, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck lauded Zorn. “I watched Jim Zorn play for the Seahawks, an expansion franchise, and I was totally captivated with his style of play. He was innovative. He was creative. He did all those things as a player that we want to do as a league.”

“He’s a great individual, and a man of high caliber,” Luck added.

Zorn is best known as the starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks for their first eight seasons. Afterward, he was the quarterbacks coach for the Seahawks before being hired by the Washington Redskins to be their head coach starting in the 2008 season. After leaving Washington, Zorn was hired as quarterbacks coach of the Baltimore Ravens, and later as the quarterbacks’ coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Seattle takes an important step toward spring football

Jim Zorn’s name and position on the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor. (Source)

If there is a place where spring football may thrive, it’s Seattle. After all, February weather in Seattle can be downright “spring like,” an important consideration for the potential quality of both the game and the fan experience.

Seattle has the weather, the fans, and a fabulous stadium, and on Monday the Emerald City will be given the name of the first Head Coach and General Manager of Seattle’s XFL franchise.

  • Event: Monday February 25th at 1:00PM Pacific Time. CenturyLink Field, Seattle, WA

The biggest name rumored to be débuted as Head Coach of XFL Seattle is Jim Zorn.  Zorn will be forever connected to Seattle as he was the first starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks, a position he filled from 1976 to 1984. If Zorn is the one who is named on Monday, be sure they will talk about his career in Seattle and his name and position on the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor.

Zorn’s past coaching career includes a less than successful stint with the Washington Redskins, but don’t think that will dissuade Seattle football fans from embracing him. When it comes to football, Zorn will be a welcome sight for Seattleites when he is seen on the sidelines at CenturyLink Field.

Ever since the venerable Kingdome was imploded in March 2000, Seattle’s new gem has been CenturyLink Field. Home to the Seattle Seahawks it will now host Seattle’s XFL team. CenturyLink is an open-air stadium with a capacity of 68,000 under its overhangs that cover about seventy percent of the seating area. It’s perfect for football.  Will the XFL crowd fill the seats? Doubtful, especially in the first season. However, 25,000 fans in the lower bowl would be more than respectful.

CenturyLink Field is notorious for its crowd noise. It twice held the Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at an outdoor stadium, first at 136.6 decibels in 2013, followed by a measurement of 137.6 decibels in 2014. It will be interesting to see how an XFL fan crowd will attempt to match these levels.

Monday is an important step to bring spring football to Seattle next February. Soon, Seattle’s team name, logo and colors should be ready to be revealed. Another important step in the process, especially for fans to begin to rally around their new team.