If you watched (if not memorized) Season Four of The Office – wow, 15 years ago – you may remember the scene where Michael Scott conducts the exit interview of the hapless HR Guy, Toby Flenderson. The questions he asks are: “Who do you think you are?” and “What gives you the right?”  (Then he proceeded to give Toby a rock as his going-away present, only to blame Dwight, but we’re already way off track now.)

Point is, you are probably asking yourself, “who is this Josh Lewin guy who’s going to be writing blogs and recording podcasts for the XFL???”

Let’s get this out of the way off the top: My resume looks more like that of Larry King than Peter King. I cut my teeth as a TV and radio play-by-play guy and still love what I do as Voice of the UCLA Bruins.  However, I also have a fierce passion for pro football and 15 years’ experience as an NFL play-by-play man, mainly with the Chargers before they bolted for LA (pun intended). Somewhere in my storage unit I have journalism degree from a halfway decent school. (Although to be fair, I also have things like Hungry Hungry Hippos and some old Hootie and the Blowfish CD’s in there too.)  And finally, I have a strong admiration for the commitment to quality football this league will provide, not to mention its always-open mind. Starting from the leadership way up at the top, this thing is a cranial 7/11.

I don’t have the writing pedigree of a Peter King, Albert Breer or Clark Judge. Or Adam Schefter, Vic Carucci or Bill Barnwell. Or Jim Trotter, Jason LaCanfora or Doug Farrar. Or Jay Glazer, Pete Prisco, or Dan Wetzel. Or Judy Battista, Ian Rappaport or John Clayton (RIP). I could go on and on. But rather than do that, I’d like to simply thank the league for allowing me the privilege of being the conduit between the players/coaches/executives and yourself. What I love just as much as good football is good old-fashioned storytelling.  Shining the light on players and coaches who have spent their entire lives honing their craft. Connecting fans with their franchise of choice. Amplifying all that is good (and sometimes even amazing) about this wonderful game that truly is America’s Pastime (sorry, baseball. I still love you too but check the metrics.)  My hope is that this will be, in the words of Humphrey Bogart, the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Full disclosure: Like you, I still enjoy the NFL. In fact, I hear there was some sort of big game played in Phoenix this past weekend. Saw that on the interwebs. The question that gets logically lobbed out there: Can a person really have two simultaneous loves and not be thought of as a jerk? Sure, this isn’t 90 Day Fiancee.

For example, I like both chicken noodle and minestrone. Both are soups. As a kid, I liked both Bon Jovi and Van Halen. Both are bands. On the big screen, I liked both Garner and Alba. Both are Jessicas. I don’t know about you, but I certainly plan to maintain my love of great football through the NFL, since nobody’s ever done it better. I’m simply ready for what’s next – high-quality football that fills the void once the Super Bowl ends, and before spring camps begin.  


Okay, so now we’re about to dive in and swim around in what makes this iteration of the XFL so special and worth the investment of your time. Yes, this is now the third version of this league that starts with an X, and I love the description both Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson have provided – in this one, the X is the “intersection of dreams and opportunity.”

No one is suggesting versions one and two of the XFL should be vaporized and forgotten. Some of you may remember the “He Hate Me” era (final game: Los Angeles Xtreme 38 San Francisco Demons 6 with Tommy Maddox slingin’ it around the LA Coliseum). Some of you will hopefully remember where things left off when the pandemic submarined the more recent era (final game: LA Wildcats 41 Tampa Bay Vipers 34 with Josh Johnson throwing for nearly 300 yards and Boogie Roberts returning a fumble for the game-winning score.) There were magical and even spectacular moments, and we shouldn’t zap-fry them from your memories like in that Will Smith movie.  Those players, teams and version of the XFL were all quite real, and you’re welcome to slather them in amber and remember them forever.

But as of February 18, to borrow a phrase, THIS… is the XFL. Fueled by Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson, who are amazing business partners with what seems like 20/10 vision. Gerry Cardinale’s RedBird Capital joined in. The league was resurrected. A giant was procured as the media partner (hi, Disney!) Tentpoles were staked into the ground in Arlington, Texas which may well have been the epicenter of the sport even before the XFL showed up. The idea of the “XFL HUB” was launched – I see it as more of an incubator than anything else – it’s the location of the petri dish that will host all kinds of cool experiments for years to come.

So please feel free to remember, reminisce and roll the Sara McLachlin music as you recall the likes of Cory Ivey and Mike Furrey in 2001. P.J. Walker and Landry Jones in 2020. But this blog represents mile marker zero on the road to new horizons. I am humbled and flattered to have been chosen to be your tour guide and can only hope to come within a few zip codes of those NFL columnists I mentioned several paragraphs ago. (Shout out: NO ONE has ever done better work than Peter King, who remains in good graces forever by keeping his allegiance to the Mets and good beer.)

Another shout out: To the many writers and bloggers around the country who continue to churn out terrific and passionate content, all of you doing it as a true labor of love. Huge hat-tip to ALL of you. As in, a hat the size the one Norm McDonald wore as “Turd Ferguson” when Will Ferrell played Alex Trebek on SNL. Here’s hoping you keep walking the same path, because the more noise we all make about this league, the farther the pollen spreads across the globe.

As for as this space goes, I’ve been chosen to be the narrator of this great XFL adventure on the league’s own website, here’s what you can expect:

Once the season kicks off, every Thursday morning, you’ll get a breakdown of what to look for on the field during the coming weekend. (The XFL Week Ahead.) I’ll walk you through the storylines of each of the four games on the schedule and sprinkle in some quotes, some updated news and notes and some occasional opinions.

Every Monday morning, you’ll get a review of how the games went, from tip to tail. (The XFL Rewind.) Also on Monday mornings, I’ll post a podcast that gets a little more in-depth and will include some actual post-game sound from the players and coaches. (The XFL Week In Review.) Lord knows, you’ll learn more from them than you ever could from me! (And besides, it’s tough to read a notes column while you’re sweating all over your apartment flooring from your Peleton.)

Tomorrow, I’ll post a North Division preview (D.C., St. Louis, Seattle and Vegas. Live it, learn it, know it.)  Wednesday, I’ll follow up with a South Division preview (the three Texas teams and Orlando.) If you don’t yet have a team of choice, no worries. In fact, I think that’s part of the fun right now. If you’re living in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Boston… not to mention Terre Haute, IN, Taos, NM or Bacon Level, AL), you’ll need to “choose your fighter” so to speak. Hopefully, as the identities and personalities of these teams emerge, you’ll be drawn as if by some invisible magnet to one of the eight organizations.

It could be the coach that captures your attention (and man, there are some fascinating names on that list; from Hall of Famer Rod Woodson to the iconic Wade Phillips to the Dancing With the Stars stud Hines Ward.) It could be one of the players that tractor-beams you in (former NFL standouts like Martavis Bryant and Josh Gordon or up-and-coming “no names” from a D3 college of which you’ve never heard.) Heck, it could be the logo that speaks to you, or the color scheme, or uniform. Number of judgments given: Zero. Just figure it out, stake your claim, and join the party!

And although this league will feel very much like a party much of the time, there’s also an undercurrent of focus and commitment. These players want to play in the NFL someday if they haven’t already. Everyone is striving to either get back there or get there in the first place.  Having seen all eight teams practice in person last week, I can tell you full stop that the “spirit of competition” needle is running well into the red.  The yin and yang of “good time football” and “seriousness of purpose” was the element most intriguing when I first arrived in Arlington.

Wait, hold up. Josh. We just met, and already I’m confused. All eight teams are in Arlington?

CHAPTER TWO: The Geography

The answer to that question: Yes and no. The league headquarters is In Arlington, which by the way, has come quite a way since I first arrived there as voice of baseball’s Texas Rangers in 2002. Back then, the best restaurant near the ballpark was the Trail Dust Steakhouse, where if you wore a tie, they’d ginsu it right off your neck and staple it to the wall as a monument to your big-city idiocy.  Arlington, which sits squarely in between the thriving bigger cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, is now its own self-contained party zone with Texas Live, dozens of great cafes and bars, the Cowboys’ Stadium and the Rangers’ new ballpark… not to mention the old ballpark that serves as the home of the Renegades for these next ten weeks.

The Renegades train in Arlington and will actually stay put. The other seven teams train in the DFW area as well but fly out each weekend to play somewhere else. Ten regular season games, five home and five road.  Interestingly, when they fly out, they will do so in tandem with their opponent on the very same aircraft. It reminds me of summer camp when everyone heads out on day trips together on the same big bus, but the rest of the time, it’s cabin vs. cabin, as clans and loyalties and rivalries are formed. “We’re all in this together… except for when it’s time for Capture The Flag. Then that #$%@ is ON.”)

The other seven teams, as you may know by now, have their homes in San Antonio, Houston, Orlando, Washington D.C., Seattle and Las Vegas. Vegas has grabbed the Vipers nickname that served Tampa Bay so well in 2020 – and it works, since the Las Vegas Valley is the Northwest limit of the Western diamondback rattlesnake’s natural habitat. (I’m no zoologist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.)

Florida State legend Terrell Buckley will keep it Unbelievably Real as the Guardians set up shop at Camping World Stadium.

The L.A. Wildcats dissolved and the league awarded a franchise to football-starved/football-worthy San Antonio. “Brahmas” were selected as the team’s nickname – not so much as a salute to the Hindu concept of the transcendent and immanent ultimate reality, although there’s an element of that in play. Yes, the name references the American Brahman bull, a hybrid species cross-bred from sacred Zebu and American cattle… it’s what Dwayne Johnson has long used as a personal mascot. The since-refined tattoo used to be much more prominent on that huge right bicep, and as the XFL owner explained on his Instagram nearly six years ago: “I’ve engrained this bull in my DNA for two decades. My core. Humbly, it’s also become a symbol of strength, resilience, heart, power and defiance to so many people around the world. I got this tattoo when I was just a kid. Now I need it to reflect me as a man.”

Now that omnipresent Brahma logo has a home in the XFL, under the roof of the Alamodome.

The other five teams stay, in the words of The Talking Heads, “same as it ever was.” The Houston Roughnecks are still alive and well, but their executives and coaching staff are mostly in Seattle now, running the Sea Dragons.  Seattle will play where the Seahawks play, the noise vortex known as Lumen Field – the Roughnecks will return to TDECU Stadium, home of the University of Houston Cougars.

The Renegades are still playing at Choctaw Stadium but will now correctly be known as the “Arlington” Renegades as opposed to “Dallas.” Choctaw Stadium is indeed in Arlington; Dallas is a separate city 18.3 miles East on Interstate 30.  Residents of Arlington are rarely thrilled when TV bump-backs show the Dallas skyline on NFL broadcasts. They are a prideful bunch who are happy to finally have their community represented.

The St. Louis BattleHawks will once again call the Dome at America’s Center home and they’ll return maybe the most passionate fan base of the 2020 XFL iteration. The ‘Hawks of three years ago led the league in Twitter followers, Instagram followers and average attendance.  The St. Louis media market led the nation in television viewership for the opening week of 2020, posting a 7.4 Nielsen rating for their first-ever game.

The D.C Defenders play in the made-for-soccer Audi Field, which has the friendliest sightlines for fans you could ask for (not to mention a killer beer snake situation with the empties in those stands.)   They’ll keep their striking red and white color scheme but not much else – the only returning player from the 2020 team who was even on the roster these past couple months was WR Simmie Cobbs, but he was a late cut this past week.

St. Louis and D.C. by the way are training partners during the pre-season and will be in-season as well. Those two franchises are headquartered due south of Arlington in the suburb of Mansfield, playing at perfectly maintained Vernon Newsom Stadium, homefield of the Mansfield High School Tigers. (Mansfield Independent School District is what’s abbreviated in the end zones, so yes, kickers have to line up their field goals looking at the word “MISD.”)

The bunkmates up the road at Choctaw Stadium are the Renegades and Roughnecks meaning yes, the Hatfields and McCoys are sharing space. So far so good, by the way: It’s like Chris Rock and Will Smith having a beer together.

Further up state highway 360 to 121 and 114, you make your way to Southlake’s Dragon Stadium, home of the Carroll Dragons, a longtime in-state powerhouse in high school football. (When the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl 13 years ago, both the kicker and his holder were former Dragon teammates, Chase Daniel and Garrett Hartley respectively.)

Finally, out by the NASCAR racetrack in Justin, your training camp tour lands you at Northwest ISD High School where the Guardians and Vipers are in the buddy system.  “It’s a fairly long bus ride from the hotel, but it’s been used for team bonding,” San Antonio coach Hines Ward told me with his trademark high-wattage smile. “The set-up is so solid here, no one minds a little time getting to and from. We’re telling lots of stories, having lots of laughs and talking a lot of football.”

Should we run through this fascinating roster of head coaches since we’re only at 3,000 words so far? As John Belushi burped to Tom Hulce in Animal House, “why not?”

CHAPTER THREE: The Head Coaches


One of the best-blocking receivers in the history of the sport is now carving his own path instead of springing someone else’s. The four-time NFL Pro Bowler is also a two-time Super Bowl champion but has poor Super Bowl memories here in the Metroplex: 12 years ago, his Steelers lost to the Packers in a week that was marred by snow and ice on the local roads, just like the XFL had to deal with last week. (Five years later, Ward would be Super Bowl MVP when the Steelers beat the Seahawks in Detroit. He had 123 yards receiving on only five catches; one of them a TD from fellow WR Antwaan Randle El.)

The Steelers all-time leading receiver has also been a multi-media darling: beyond Dancing With the Stars (he edged the late Kirstie Alley for the title with a perfect score on the samba), cameos in The Dark Knight Rises and The Walking Dead, and more conventionally a studio analyst for NBC’s Football Night in America.

“This might be my only chance to be a head coach,” he mused on a rainy practice day in Justin. “I love teaching young men not just the game of football but the game of life. I don’t sleep a lot. I want so badly to give them an opportunity to win then get to the next level. It’s my passion.”


The affable T-Buck met with me on a blustery morning, grey hoodie zipped up high, sunglasses glistening, talking about his goals and dreams. So many have already been realized on the field for the former Florida State college star. He had a 13-year NFL career that netted him 50 picks and had at least one interception in 13 consecutive seasons. He had a huge post-season pick in the Patriots’ win over the Steelers in 2001 on a pass intended for… wait for it… Hines Ward. He won a Super Bowl ring one week later in their win over the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams.

The last 15 years he’s been a position coach in the college ranks, and now finally, he gets the keys to his own brand-new car as opposed to being a passenger in someone’s else’s rental.

“This is a league of opportunity, not just for players, but for coaches,” he said in his deep Mississippi baritone. “I’m forever grateful for this chance, and this team has a chance to get noticed.  In this league, special teams will be huge and we will be good there. Hopefully great there. We will also be first class. No swearing no fighting in practice. No naughty words in the music we play at practice.  We will know the rules cold. We won’t get caught napping. We will be ready.”


The still-in-shape 50-year-old has been coaching at HBCU schools the last 12 years, most recently the Virginia State Trojans. He’d starred in college at Alabama State and coached the Hornets 20 years later; by then he was wearing the Super Bowl ring he’d earned with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

A return specialist in his 8-year NFL career, he was one of the best the Jacksonville Jaguars franchise has ever had, leading the NFL in punt return yards in 1998.

“I love the development of young men and this game correlates with life,” he told me. “There’s adversity that goes on in it and it can teach you life lessons. I wanted into this league. And now that I’m here, I’ve got a team that’s going to be fast furious and physical. We’re going to play fast offensively defensively. We’re gonna get guys delirious out there because we’re gonna be playing so fast, and then we’re gonna be extremely physical and we’re gonna attack and be aggressive.”


Another first-time head coach, the former NFL tight end was a first-round pick of the Jets back in 2000, 172 spots ahead of Tom Brady, wink wink. His NFL career lasted 12 seasons including a stop in St. Louis where he teamed with his former college quarterback Marc Bulger during a forgettable 12-loss season in ’08.  Becht ended up in the NFL post-season five times, dabbled in assistant coaching four years ago for Mike Martz in the old AAF, and now has the keys to the kingdom in St. Louis.

Becht admits he went full-on Captain Ahab in pursuit of this gig.   “I wanted this job the day Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson purchased the league,” he smiled as we went for a walk around the periphery of Mansfield’s Newsom Stadium. “That day I pulled a notebook out and I said ‘I’m going to be a head coach in this league.’ I didn’t know who to reach out to, so I started connecting the dots started writing down 50 coaches that I wanted to be a part of my staff, and from there I just started unwinding the six degrees of separation between me and Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson and the one that counted was Russ Brandon, who wasn’t yet president of the league but would be soon. I had to make sure the vision I was selling made sense, selling everything that I had done in my career and why it would make sense for all of us. I’m so glad it worked out.” Yep, that marketing degree from West Virginia came in handy. An under-the-radar candidate now has one of the plum jobs in the league.


Already successful in the 2020 XFL season as the coach of the 5-0 Houston Roughnecks, Haslett now heads to the Pacific Northwest. His long and winding football road started at Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania, before working his way to a second-round draft pick by Buffalo in 1979 and became NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. A leg injury shortened his playing career, but he became an assistant coach soon after, including a stint as Bill Cowher’s defensive coordinator in Pittsburgh.  He got his first head coaching opportunity with New Orleans in 2000, working with then-GM Randy Mueller, who is now the Sea Dragons’ Director of Operations.

Haslett and Mueller are longtime friends and confidants, and they both say one wouldn’t be in Seattle without the other. Mueller describes himself as the brake and Haslett as the motor, and that arrangement is perfect for both men.

“I actually retired from football for about a month,” he told me on a windy morning in Southlake. “Then I got bored. Took four weeks. And this opportunity came along and I thought it was a perfect – to work with Randy again and then also put a team together with veteran guys like Ron Zook and June Jones and I basically just decided hey why not. It was fun in 2020 in Houston, it’ll be fun in Seattle now. Let’s go.”


The longtime highly successful college coach brings both smarts and name recognition to the Metroplex, as he did in 2020 for the franchise. He joked that he’s already begged out of an invitation to Augusta National Masters Weekend since it’s XFL Week 10. The league’s only coach from 2020 returning to his prior location for ’23, he’s got a national championship ring from his days at Oklahoma. He nailed that in just his second year on the job in Norman, when his Sooners won the Orange Bowl against Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles (would you believe that final score – of a national championship college football game – was 13-2?)

Stoops is the winningest coach in Oklahoma’s proud football history, with a 191-78 (.799) all-time record. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last season, but has his sights set squarely now on the XFL.

“I think for all of us, it’s a love of this great sport,” he told me from what used to be the home baseball manager’s office at Choctaw Stadium. “These players have a love of the game and for me, that’s what it should be about, plain and simple. Just football.  There aren’t any compliance meetings I have to attend, there aren’t any academic meetings, no recruiting meetings … it’s all just football. I enjoy working with these older players who have a great understanding of the game coming in.”


Where else should the son of the legendary Oilers coach Bum Phillips hang his cowboy hat? Wade grew up under the watchful eye of his dad in Port Neches, outside of Houston where he starred as a linebacker and QB. He moved onto the University of Houston where he set the school record (since broken) for career assisted tackles.  Wade and wife Laurie had met in high school; their son is now a professional coach, and their daughter is a choreographer and dancer in LA.

Phillips’ coaching resume is almost too much: He has been the head coach of the Broncos, Bills and Cowboys as well as interim head coach for the Saints, Falcons and Texans. His career NFL winning percentage is .546.  In addition, he’s long been considered to be among the best defensive coordinators in the history of the game. Multiple players in his system have won defensive player of the year from Reggie White to JJ Watt. So what’s he doing still coaching at age 75 with nothing at all to prove?

“It’s the family tradition,” he smiled through his thick South Texas drawl. “I mean, my dad’s a coach, I’m a coach and my son’s a coach, so yeah it’s something we just do and try to do well.  I was blessed to have my father as a dad and a coach. I got to coach with him for 11 years, and he taught me, well… everything. He taught me right and wrong. He taught me to enjoy life.” Which he’ll have a chance to do starting this weekend on the site of old Robertson Stadium where he made all those tackles in college.


Ahhh the sizzle name of the group. A bona fide Pro Football Hall of Famer, inducted into Canton in 2009.  In 2016 he went into the College Football Hall of Fame as well, a salute to his standout career at Purdue.

Widely considered one of the greatest defensive players ever, he holds the NFL record for fumble recoveries (32) by a defensive player, and interceptions returned for touchdowns (12). His 71 career picks are the third-most in NFL history. Of course, none of that matters when it comes to head coaching and he willingly admits that. For the first time since 1987, he’s a rookie.

Sitting in a stately manner on a set of bleachers in Southlake, upright and polite, he said the following last week as his players quietly passed by him on their way to stretch: “Everything I have in my life I owe to football. Playing, commentating, now coaching. Everything that was given to me, I want to give it back and pay it forward, if that makes sense.”  From a coaching internship in 2010 with the Bengals to stints as an assistant with the Raiders and Broncos, the six-time first-team NFL All-Pro is ready for what’s next.

The coaches have the unending and tireless support of league president Russ Brandon who was with the Buffalo Bills’ front office and business operations for 21 seasons, the last several as CEO.

Listen to Brandon as he talks about the XFL culture: “I used to say in Buffalo, the greatest part of the job is the passion, but sometimes the worst part of the job is the passion. Because you want it so badly for the athlete, and when you work in a team sport for the fans. These young men that are out here, watching them push each and every day to succeed, to have that next opportunity, that’s why you do this. And to see those success stories on the field, but also to watch the success stories off the field. We’ve got guys with pelts on the wall, like Rod Woodson from his days on the field and Wade Phillips, Bob Stoops, Jim Haslett, guys like that from their days on the sidelines. We’ve hired Brian Westbrook (as director of player engagement) and he meets with these teams and talk about many different literacy programs that we are putting in place for people to understand as they move forward as well, in life, whether it’s on the field or off the field, and going on to the next chapter.”

Brandon also oozes optimism about how the league will be officiated and regulated. “The command center that we built in Van Nuys (California) is unreal.  And (league executives) Jay Rothman and Dean Blandino will be there each week. Dean will be a part of all 43 game windows. And Dean will be there commenting on what the action is, what exactly is the foul. We will be in direct contact with our officials. We have 15 coach-to-player communication systems that will be going throughout. There’s no cutoff at 15 seconds like in the NFL, to give our athletes even more ‘coach confidence,’ so to speak. Just to see that in the transparency that we want to bring to the broadcast, I think it’s going to be great. ESPN has really leaned in on this. They’re really interested in this. We’ll tweak. We’ll see what works and we’ll tweak things that need adjustments. But to have Dean around this, to have Jay around this, to have Bill McCullough around this and to have the ESPN group as our TV partner, we’re in great shape.”


The unique rules of the XFL probably deserve some attention as well as we gear up for Week 1. No way I’ll subject you to all of them in one blog, but some highlights:


Tiered extra points are back! Teams will have three run/pass only options for extra points following a touchdown: From the 2-yard line = one point. From the  5-yard line = two points. From the 10-yard line = three points. So yes, in theory, you could see a team score 27 points on three touchdowns. (Mind blown emoji.)


The XFL will operate with a 35-second play clock, which begins following the previous play.

The clock will start following incomplete passes and out of bounds plays prior to two-minute warning of either half.  The clock will stop following first downs after two-minute warning of either half.  The first and second half will be split by just a 10-minute halftime. (Quick trips to the bathroom, please.)


Teams begin play five yards apart – kicking team at opponent’s 35-yard line and return team at own 30-yard line. Note that in the NFL, 37% of kickoffs are returned. IN 2020’s XFL, close to 97% kickoffs were returned. Stay alert!

Similarly, the punt rules are very friendly for returners: With coaches like Terrell Buckley an Reggie Barlow, this could get interesting.


Teams will have two options to keep the ball after scoring: The traditional onside kick (any time during game) or a 4th and 15 conversion from their own 25-yard line, beginning in the game’s fourth quarter. (Work on those routes, fellas, you may never be out of a game, no matter the score.)


If a team completes a forward pass behind the line of scrimmage, that team is allowed throw a second forward pass, as long as the ball has not crossed the line of scrimmage. Once the ball has passed the line of scrimmage, no forward passes are permitted.  Note that the first pass may fall incomplete rather than becoming a fumbled lateral.


Consists of alternating attempts from opponent’s 5-yard line; three attempts per team (two points per score) or until winner is decided.


Centralized replay with all plays subject to review from the Replay Official.  Replay may correct errors on non-reviewable plays, regarding player safety at any point during the game, and any issue in the last five minutes of regulation plus overtime.  Each Head coach can challenge one on-field ruling per game, including those involving a foul or potential foul.  Final rulings are made by designated members of officiating department in the Van Nuys command center.

That command center will be a lively place to be this Saturday: The first game kicks at 3pm ET, the Vipers at the Renegades (Woodson vs Stoops.) I’ll have a preview of that game and the other three from Week 1’s schedule by this coming Friday morning. But tomorrow we’ll begin the division previews; North then South.

THE EPILOGUE: Are You Ready For Some You-Know-What?

The Super Bowl just ended a hot three seconds ago, and here we are unwrapping a brand-new gift together already. Who knows who will sizzle and pop during these next ten weeks? Some player — maybe multiple players — will break out and dazzle the football universe. The last time the XFL kicked off, P.J. Walker emerged as the pick of the litter. The former Temple product was deemed too short and too slow to make it in the NFL, but he was unstoppable in Houston’s 37-17 win with four touchdowns and nearly 300 yards of total offense. The eyes of the football world stayed on him from that moment on and, yada yada yada, has a winning record now in three years as a part-time QB for the Carolina Panthers.

There are jewels to be unearthed from the dirt here in 2023. The level of talent available for NFL scouts to eyeball is immense. There are 51 players per team, times eight teams, so that’s 408 players with a chance to get noticed beginning this weekend. Some have already been to the top of the mountain and pitched a nice little campsite before tumbling back down. Josh Gordon of the Sea Dragons is a perfect example – the former Baylor star has already gone for 4,284 NFL receiving yards and is poised to get back to the summit again.

Some other guys have had a small portion of success but have yet to truly ring the bell. Luis Perez was a Division II and NAIA player in college who worked as way onto the Rams and Lions three of the last four years.  He showed well in his 2020 XFL stint but now, is still best-known for his 5,000 yard season at Texas-Commerce and his prowess in bowling alleys. At 28 years old, the clock is ticking for him in Vegas. (By the way, did you know Jimmy Buffet recorded “Margaritaville” at that same age? I think Jimmy Buffet was born retired.)

Then there are guys getting their first shot on the big stage. Overlooked and undervalued recent college graduates who slipped through the cracks this past year, like Orlando’s Charleston Rambo. (Check his college stats at Oklahoma and Miami; close to 1200 yards at the U his final year there. A quick audition with the Panthers last preseason netted him nothing, so he’s now a first-time pro player in Orlando.  Experience, of course, can be overrated. The original astronauts had zero experience walking on the moon when they actually did it. If it worked for Buzz Aldrin, it can work for Charleston Rambo; two of the most fun names to say out loud in recent American history.

All these XFL players, from Gordon to Perez to Rambo, have all been friendly and accessible from what I’ve seen so far. The coaches set that tone. (I could have talked football and life with Reggie Barlow for hours.)  It’s a far cry from the famous soccer story about a coach named Gordon Strachan. A reporter asked him “Gordon, can I please have a quick word?” Strachan said “velocity,” and walked away.  There are no Gordon Strachans in this bunch. They collectively have the pep of a gas station energy drink, and that vibe is resonating across the DFW Metroplex.

So as kickoff approaches, it’s time to start thinking about, indeed, “choosing your fighter.”  There are eight teams; one of them will speak to you, and you’ll figure out which one in short order. There are 408 players; one of them will emerge as your favorite for reasons yet to be determined.  However it all shakes out, there’s a championship to be claimed on Saturday, May 13 – a mere three months from now.  I’m ready for the chase if you are. See you here on the XFL web site twice-a-week once the games begin. Thank you again for letting me take this ride with you!

– Josh Lewin

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