Kicker Ernesto Lacayo feels blessed to have played for the XFL Seattle Dragons
Lacayos experience won him the job as the Seattle Dragons placekicker.
If you ask placekicker Ernesto Lacayo how he felt when he was asked to join the XFL’s Seattle Dragons, he might say he felt “blessed.”
Truly, though, it was his own blessing of hard work and experience that won him the job.
Ernesto took a long road to the Dragons. His football journey started out at Tennyson High School in Hayward, California, located in the San Francisco Bay area. From there, he attended community college in San Mateo for two years before going to Hastings College, in Hastings, Nebraska, to complete his college career.
“First I went to a community college, College of San Mateo, where Julian Edelman was my holder, when I knew him as a quarterback,” Ernesto explained. “I was blessed enough to have a full ride scholarship to Hastings College in Nebraska, which, to me is one of the greatest times of my career. I enjoyed every second about the Midwest.”
All the way along his journey, he left a trail of kicking records, many of which still stand today. Ernesto takes pride in his records, but he is more than happy to see his records broken by up-and-coming players.
“One of my records is tied with one of my students. Actually, when I was coaching there, he tied my long field goal of 53 yards. So, him and I share that record,” Ernesto said. “The rest of them. I would like for them to be broken,” he added.
After college, Lacayo was passed over for the NFL entry draft. With a desire to further his kicking career he turned to the indoor leagues for on-field experience.
Ernesto stayed with the indoor leagues for many years, playing for over six teams in the process, namely the 2012 Nebraska Danger (IFL), 2013 Louisiana Swashbucklers (PIFL), 2014 Wichita Wild (CPIFL), 2015 Wichita Force (CIF), 2015 Las Vegas Outlaws (AFL), and 2016 Portland Steel (AFL).
While with the Wichita Wild, Lacayo set an All-Arena/Indoor record of 30 field goals made in a season, and set a Champions Professional Indoor Football League record with a 55-yard field goal against the Salina Bombers.
Even with such a stellar indoor football career, how did it come to pass that Lacayo made it into the Dragon’s starting roster? For Lacayo, it was being in the right place at the right time, and being the right person for the job.
Called up to the Seattle Dragons of the XFL
In late January 2020, as the Seattle Dragons were getting ready for their inaugural season, they brought in NFL veteran Garrett Hartley to shore up their depth at their place-kicker position. However, when Hartley was not approved by the league doctor, it was Hartley himself who recommended Lacayo for the job. Lacayo was called, and he flew up to Seattle for a workout, fully expecting to be looked at and then passed on. He wound up getting the job.
Lacayo recalls that he had to quickly adapt to the XFL ball to win the job, but his veteran experience allowed him to impress the coaches despite the circumstances.
“The one thing that I was told is you have a very long career… I had nine years of experience of playing in game experience,” Ernesto recalls.
— Seattle Dragons (@XFLDragons) March 12, 2020
Apparently, it was experience that won him the job… and Lacayo knows that game experience is a great asset.
“That’s what I tell a lot of young guys who come out of small schools,” Lacayo said. “Make sure you’re playing… you’re doing something whether it’s even semi-pro. At least its game film… they’ll take that individual much more seriously than a person who has not played, and for quite some time, because putting on a helmet and shoulder pads and playing in live situations of game winning field goals, or just an extra point, goes a long way as far as developing the mindset of the athlete.”
Soon, Lacayo found himself on Audi Field in Washington, D.C., getting ready for his first XFL game. The one thing he quickly came to realize was how XFL kickoffs were not supposed to be about hang time. The aspect of directional kicking was far more important.
“We’re all taught with kickoffs you want to have great hang time and put the ball deep into the end zone, whereas the rules were different in the XFL,” he explained. “It’s not about the hang time it’s all about getting the ball down there to the returner as quickly as possible, making sure we’re placing it… get the ball down there, they got three seconds, let our coverage team do the work.”
Despite the change in format, Lacayo felt the XFL kickoff was a great innovation. It did not hurt that it played into his wheelhouse.
“I like the fact that they’re taking into consideration the safety of the player,” he said. “As far as the kickoff itself, I enjoyed it, because it played into the role of the arena kicker. In arena kicks we were always trying to place the ball in different corner pockets of the end zone.”
Lacayo recalls that in his workout for the Dragons, the coaches were impressed that he was so adept at being able to kick off directionally, something that he learned to do in the indoor leagues.
“The kickoff is great,” Ernesto said. “The strategy was awesome, and I think it’s very beneficial for kickers who are really good at directional kickoffs.”
For Lacayo, one of the best memories he had of his time with the Dragons, was kicking off at the first Seattle home game in CenturyLink Field.
“The roar of the crowd, the fans of Seattle are something else. It’s amazing,” he said. “Even though we didn’t even have the upper deck open for the fans… I remember on the first kickoff… I couldn’t hear myself, because when I take my steps back, I count my steps out loud. I couldn’t hear myself count those steps.”
It was a chilling moment for Ernesto Lacayo, and something he claims he will remember for “the rest of my life.”
Lacayo has nothing but good things to say about his time in Seattle, from the exuberant fans to the Dragon’s organization that he describes as “top notch.”
XFL season cut short
Unfortunately, just as things seemed to be getting going for the XFL, Lacayo and the Dragons, the season was cut short due to Coronavirus concerns. But, Lacayo is positive about the leagues chances to return.
“It was shocking, because, for a lot of us we were kind of not aware of what was going on. Every weekend was something different, and we started noticing in Seattle every week it was getting quieter downtown, and by week five, it looked like a movie. It looked like I Am Legend, you know. It was very quiet, very eerie,” Ernesto recalled.
Once league play was cancelled, the players and coaches went home and waited for more news. However, they started to hear strange rumors, and then the news of the bankruptcy was released.
“I remember when the Chapter 11 news came out… wait a minute, I remember in class that meant reorganization. So, it wasn’t a Chapter 9. That gave us hope,” Lacayo said.
Ernesto was right, and the league did not fold. Instead, it was forced to reorganize under the new ownership of Dany Garcia, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and RedBird Capital. Now, we await an announcement of the league to return to play at some point in time, and that gives an optimistic Lacayo something to cheer for.
“Hopefully, we all return to our respective teams, for those who still are playing or not retired or not in the NFL,” Lacayo suggested. “We’d be more than happy, I’m sure, to be able to come back.”
Perfect in Pro Combine Field Goals 8/8 and Avg.77 yards kickoffs! @ChicagoBears @Raiders @49ers @Giants @AtlantaFalcons @Browns @HoustonTexans @RamsNFL @Chargers @AZCardinals @Panthers @Seahawks @Vikings @Buccaneers @nyjets @Saints @Broncos @XFLDragons @steelers @Ravens @Bengals pic.twitter.com/Lf5yhDKmIM
— Ernesto Carlos Lacayo (@ErnestoLacayo89) August 28, 2020
In the meanwhile, Lacayo just attended a “John Carney” NFL pro combine where he crushed the ball, completing a perfect 8/8 on field goals, and averaged 77 yards on kickoffs.
Could this lead to a spot on an NFL roster? Certainly. Especially, with another blessing, and propped up by Lacayo’s extensive game-time experience.
To hear the entire interview with Ernesto Lacayo, check out the XFL Xtra Podcast – Episode 35 – With XFL kickers, experience matters – Guest: Ernesto Lacayo