Running Back Nico Evans sees opportunity in the XFL

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In 2018, during his senior year at the University of Wyoming, Nico Evans rushed for a total of 1325 yards over ten games. That works out to an average of 132.5 yards per game. It was a standout season, where he was selected “First Team” in the All-Mountain West Conference.

This was when pro-football scouts began to take notice.

However, despite being highly rated, as the 2019 NFL draft ended, Evans found himself undrafted. But, he didn’t have to wait long for a team to be interested, as he was quickly picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles and invited to their rookie training camp. Then, Evans quickly encountered another setback when the Eagles waived his contract and sent him home.

“It was a weird situation, going into a team that already had eight running backs,” said Nico. “They decided they needed an Offensive Lineman. That’s kind of how the NFL works. It was a numbers thing. So, I was the last one in at running back, so I was the first one out, and an O-Lineman was signed.”

Since then, other NFL teams have shown interest in Nico’s talents, as he has had workouts with the Jaguars and the Packers.

This is a typical example of the “yoyo” game so many young football players go through as they work to get a job playing the game that they love.

Now, the most recent opportunity to present itself to Nico is an invitation to the XFL draft, which will be held in October.

“I am blessed to get that invitation and be part of the XFL draft pool,” Nico said.

If the XFL needs a running back with youth and talent, Nico Evans might be just what they are looking for. Nico describes his style as a one-cut back. “I don’t like to make too many moves, but when I see the hole I hit it as fast as I can.”

Nico has stats to back up his claims. According his website, nicoevansfootball.com he consistently runs the 40 in the 4.4s, and was was chip-timed running greater than 22 mph. Evans pointed out that it was in the “Boise State game” where he hit this mark.

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When asked which XFL team he hoped would draft him, Nico said he would be happy with any team that would give him the best opportunity to play. “Los Angeles, Florida, Texas… it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where I play, as long as I get to play this game that I love,” he said.

“My story is not finished,” Nico added. “I am grateful for this XFL opportunity.”

It would be great to see Nico Evans on an XFL roster in February 2020.

Hear more about Nico Evans in our Podcast

XFL Xtra Episode 2-2019 – From LA to New York – Nico Evans and Mike Mitchell

We go to Los Angeles to talk to Nico Evans, an extremely talented young running back who has just been invited to the XFL draft. Then, we travel to New York City to speak with Mike Mitchell, and get special insight on how the XFL hired their coaches, the upcoming draft, and about how successful the league has been so far.

Music: Are You Ready – Free music archive.

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Bob Stoops’ autobiography discusses his decision to join the XFL and more

Bob Stoops’ autobiography, “No Excuses: The Making of a Head Coach,” is now now available at bookstores and online at Amazon.com.

In the book Stoops discusses subjects such as now-Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon, his heart disease, and the decision to join the XFL. Stoops talks about his decision to not cut Mixon after a misdemeanor assault charge.

“I could have cut Mixon loose in 2014,” Stoops said. “In 2019, that’s the only choice that would’ve been acceptable. If I were faced with the same situation today, my decision would be much different than the one I made in 2014.”

Book summary:

When Bob Stoops took over as football coach in 1999, the Oklahoma Sooners were in disarray with back-to-back losing seasons. But in just two years’ time, Stoops achieved the seemingly impossible: winning a national championship and returning the struggling Sooners to their powerhouse status, churning out NFL talent, Heisman Trophy winners and conference championships, bowl wins and national title runs on a regular basis.

During his 18 seasons at OU, his record was a remarkable 190-48. At only age 56, at the peak of his career, he stunned the college football world by walking away.

For the first time, Bob opens up about his career alongside the evolution of the game itself. From his unlikely emergence as a star player at the University of Iowa, to his coaching apprenticeships under giants like Hayden Fry, Bill Snyder, and Steve Spurrier, Stoops recounts how the game he fell in love with as a boy has evolved into a billion-dollar business often compromised by recruiting wars, aggressive agents, overzealous boosters and alumni, and the emergence of the CEO head coach rather than mentor and teacher. Bob holds nothing back while explaining why it was time to step away from the game–and players–he still loves.

Told with a rare combination of sincerity, vulnerability, and pure heart, No Excuses is both an engaging and eye-opening football memoir and an unprecedented portrait of a coach of one of the greatest legacy programs in the history of the college game.

XFL games will feature premium sideline seating

Speaking at the VenuesNow Conference in New York, Elevate Sports Ventures chief executive Al Guido has revealed that XFL games will feature premium sideline seating that will give fans a bold new version of a front-row view.

Guido did not announce how how much these seats would cost. As far as safety is concerned, he clarified that “fans in these seats would remain safe.”

Earlier this year, the XFL signed a two-year partnership with Elevate Sports Ventures to help guide and support ticket sales for the league’s eight teams ahead of its launch in February 2020.

Elevate – a joint venture of the San Francisco 49ers, Harris Blitzer Sports and Entertainment, Ticketmaster, Live Nation, and the Oakview Group – will use “data-driven sales and digital marketing strategies and applications” for the XFL.

Guido, who is also the president of the San Francisco 49ers, said if the initiative goes well the National Football League may consider taking it on.

XFL names Mali Friedman Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs

Mali Friedman
Mali Friedman

Stamford, Conn., Sept. 9, 2019 – The XFL today announced that Mali Friedman has been named the league’s Vice President of Legal and Business Affairs.  Most recently she was Assistant General Counsel of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and, before that, Senior Counsel at the National Hockey League.

“Mali is a star and we’re thrilled she’s on our team,” said Jeffrey Pollack, XFL President and Chief Operating Officer. “Her judgment, savvy and experience inside two world-class sports organizations make her the perfect leader for our legal department.”

“This is an exciting opportunity and I’m grateful to Vince McMahon and Jeffrey Pollack,” said Friedman, who will report to Pollack. “Like most people throughout the sports industry, I’ve been watching the XFL’s development and have been impressed by the vision and early execution. Our February launch is coming fast and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves, getting to work, and helping build the league and its teams.”

As Warriors Assistant General Counsel since 2017, Friedman managed a wide range of legal matters and business affairs — helping the organization transform from a basketball team to a diversified sports and entertainment company; negotiating multi-million-dollar corporate sponsorship agreements; supervising the leasing process for retail spaces at the new Chase Center; and providing day-to-day counsel to the team’s marketing, digital, technology, and game operations business units, and the Warriors Community Foundation

Friedman was Senior Counsel at the NHL from 2014 to 2017, where she focused on media partnerships, international business, and technology initiatives.

Friedman was an associate at Covington & Burling LLP. She earned her J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2006, and an A.B. from Princeton University in 2002, graduating summa cum laude with a concentration in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and played on the tennis team.  Friedman serves on the U.S. Board of Directors for Right to Play, an international organization dedicated to protecting, educating, and empowering children to rise above adversity using the power of sport and play.

XFL Draft invitee Trovon Reed is ready to play

Dec 11, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; San Diego Chargers cornerback Trovon Reed (38) on the sidelines in the fourth quarter. The Panthers defeated the Chargers 28-16 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

If you ask XFL Draft invitee Trovon Reed which XFL team he hopes to play for, he will tell you that it doesn’t matter.

“Wherever I go I’m going to be happy. I’m going to be ready. They’re going to get a player who is still hungry and knows the game of football,” Trovon explained.

Trovon just wants to play football.

Growing up in Thibodaux, Louisiana, Trovon graduated from Thibodaux High School in 2010. In high school he initially took to the basketball team, but when he stopped growing, he turned to football, eventually chosen as a “High School All American.”

He is still closely attached to Thibodaux. In fact, June 29th is “Trovon Reed Day” in Thibodaux, Louisiana. On this day, Trovon holds a celebrity basketball game where he raises money for single mothers and cancer patients. This gives Trovon a chance to honor his mother, who he lost to cancer when he was 17-years old.

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After high school, Trovon attended Auburn University in Alabama. Initially a wide receiver, Trovon switched to cornerback in his senior year. He entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent and went on to a few NFL rosters, including the Seahawks, Rams, Dolphins, Chargers and 49ers.

Trovon still cherishes his college career, as he identifies himself as a, “War Eagle.”

“Without a doubt I’m an Auburn guy. I bleed orange and blue,” Trovon is proud to say.

When it comes to being a ball hawk, Trovon feels hard work and instincts are the key to success. “I think it’s god given. It’s something you can’t teach. If a coach tries to teach it to you, you’d be robotic,” Trovon explained. “I have a few different techniques I use, but I can’t spill all the beans,” he added.

In 2018 Trovon was signed to a contract with the Birmingham Iron of the Alliance of American football, and he soon discovered that many of his former Auburn teammates were also part of the squad. “It was nice, we had a blast, man. I wish that league was still going.”

Like many players, Trovon laments the loss of the AAF. “We were headed for the playoffs. It was just getting good. Then boom, it ended like that.”

When asked about his recipe for staying in shape, he pointed out that he combines cardio sessions with weightlifting sessions.

“You never know when an NFL team might call,” Trovon pointed out. “I’ve got to stay ready. I’ve got to stay sharp. I’ve got to keep my feet sharp. Keep everything sharp. You never know. I was in this position before and got the call. I’ll never be not ready.”

Today, Trovon Reed is ready to play his brand of football.

“I just play football. I play within the rules. I listen to my coach, and I just go out there and play my game.”

We hope to see Trovon Reed on an XFL squad this February.

XFL Xtra Episode 1-2019 – Trovon Reed and Greg Parks

Inaugural podcast. We talk with Trovon Reed, a talented cornerback who has been invited to the inaugural XFL draft taking place next month in October. Second, we talk with Greg Parks, an XFLBoard.com reporter who has been tracking players that have received draft invitations and making it public through a google docs spreadsheet.

Music: Are You Ready – Free music archive.

The St. Louis BattleHawks win our XFL Team Logo Bracket

Yes! You all knew it was going to happen. The St. Louis BattleHawks have won our XFL Team logo bracket.

In their victory, the BattleHawks decimated all comers.

Here is a summary of how the voting went:

Matchup #1Seattle Dragons: 76%  LA Wildcats: 24%

Matchup #2Houston Roughnecks: 51%  New York Guardians: 49%

Matchup #3St. Louis BattleHawks: 76%  Dallas Renegades: 24%

Matchup #4 DC Defenders: 58%  Tampa Bay Vipers: 42%

Semi-Final #1 – Seattle Dragons: 25%  St. Louis BattleHawks: 75%

Semi-Final #2Houston Roughnecks: 63%  DC Defenders: 37%

Final – St. Louis BattleHawks: 75%  Houston Roughnecks: 25%

Thank you to all who participated! Congratulations St. Louis BattleHawks!

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.

Five NFL cuts the XFL needs to invite/sign

This weekend, 1,184 NFL players were let go from the 32 teams in the league. For every player playing this preseason, this is a chance for them to prove that they have what it takes to make a 53-man roster and make an impact on the league. What makes this cut period different from other years? The dream is not dead.

Thanks to the XFL starting play in February, players who were cut have a second to prove themselves and get another shot at continuing their football careers. We saw over 100 players from the AAF get signed to NFL teams after operations had closed in April. They got that shot because of how well they played in their time with the Alliance.

XFL officials met in Houston this weekend to keep track of all the cuts and determine who they should sign or invite to their XFL draft in October. I came up with five players that have impressed me to the point that Oliver Luck and the rest of the XFL should definitely reach out to about joining the league.

Karter Schult, DE
Karter Schult, DE

Karter Schult, DE – No doubt if Karter Schult was brought in by the XFL, he would be one of the most feared pass rushers in the league. He was one of the best defensive players in the AAF as he led the league with 49 quarterback pressures and third in sacks (7) and tackles for loss (11) in eight games with the Salt Lake Stallions. This past preseason with the Minnesota Vikings, he recorded 8 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 force fumble before being cut this past weekend. He has shown great strength and being able to beat offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. He possesses a high motor and shows great technique to get to the quarterback. This would be one player I would have on my list to add young talent on the defensive side of the ball.

Cardale Jones, QB
Cardale Jones, QB

Cardale Jones, QB – Cardale Jones has a rocket arm and with the proper training, can be a really good starting quarterback in the XFL. His story is incredible as it started at The Ohio State when he filled in for J.T. Barrett starting and winning the last three games of the 2014 season against Wisconsin (Big Ten Title Game), #1 Alabama (Playoff Semifinal), and Oregon (National Title). He would lose his job in the middle of the 2015 season to J.T. Barrett and decided to go to the NFL draft early. His NFL career has not been as great as he’s only played in one game playing for the Buffalo Bills and recently with the San Diego Chargers. His play improved this preseason with the Chargers as he completed 68% of his passes for 357 yards and two total touchdowns. He showed flashes of great QB play in the preseason, but with the proper coaching and development in the XFL, I can see Jones being a starter in the XFL day one.

Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, WR/Returner
Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, WR/Returner

Damon Sheehy-Guiseppi, WR/Returner – This is too good of a story for the XFL to pass up on. He was homeless and sitting outside the Cleveland Browns facility prior to their tryout, was able to convince one of their employees that he knew someone in the front office and got his chance to prove himself. Not only did they sign him to the roster, but returned a punt for a touchdown in the first preseason game. You can’t make this stuff up. He possesses blazing speed, but didn’t really have many chances at proving himself as a receiver as he only had three total catches in five targets. He may need some more experience as a receiver, but as a return specialist, this guy could be the Dante Hall of the XFL. The XFL should look at him as a viable option.

Jayrone Elliott, Outside Linebacker
Jayrone Elliott, Outside Linebacker

Jayrone Elliott, Outside Linebacker – Another impressive pass rusher who dominated on defense in the AAF. In eight games with the San Antonio Commanders, he led the league with 7.5 sacks in eight games while also recording 18 tackles and four forced fumbles. His play helped lead the Commanders as one of the best defenses in the league and led the team to a 5-3 record. He also has plenty of NFL experience including three seasons with the Green Bay Packers, then bouncing around the league with the Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins, and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He would make an immediate impact on the defensive side and would be an early candidate for defensive player of the year in the XFL. A no-brainer move for Oliver Luck to invite or sign him to the league.

Elliott Fry, K
Elliott Fry, K

Elliott Fry, K – He was one of the best kickers in the AAF as he has shown in the Alliance and this preseason that he is accurate, consistent, and has a leg on him. In 2019, he has not missed a field goal as he was 14 of 14 in field goals with the Orlando Apollos and was 4 for 4 with the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens in preseason including a 48 yard field goal made in the last preseason game. There is a good chance he gets called on if an injury happens in the NFL, but if there isn’t, the XFL should bring him on as he would be the best kicker in the league as he was proven his worth this year.

Honorable Mentions: Ethan Westbrooks (DE), Donnel Pumphrey (RB), Braxton Miller (WR), Sam Ficken (K), Jeremy McNichols (RB)