Ultimately, the goal of the XFL is to be a huge success in its own right; one able to take a slice out of the NFL’s popularity with its fast-paced action and innovative rules.
But for now, XFL chiefs have made no secret of their delight in acting as something of a feeder league into the NFL for rookies to get their shot at the big time or those that have been on the fringes of major stardom to shoot their shot at redemption.
More than 100 former or current XFL stars have gone on to sign a full contract in the NFL, been called up to a practice squad, or been waived after participating in pre-season, with the class of 2023 already showing up nicely on the big stage.
The Atlanta Falcons indeed have little chance of making Super Bowl LVIII – their current sports betting odds of +8000 are pessimistic, to say the least. The Paddy Power news columns are dominated by those franchises more likely to battle it out for the Vince Lombardi Trophy; be it the Chiefs (+400), the Eagles (+450), or the 49ers (+450).
But for former XFL ace LaCale London, there’s nowhere else he’d rather call his footballing home right now than Atlanta. The 26-year-old has forced his way into the Falcons’ starting ranks, making three appearances and contributing four total tackles – including three in the 16-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in October.
A frustrating knee injury, which saw the nose tackle added to the injured reserve list, has since hampered his progress, but otherwise, London is making fine progress on the NFL stage.
His is a story of second chances – the likes of which the XFL is desperate to replicate and facilitate. London made his NFL debut back in 2021 for the Bears, before being waived the following year. But rather than getting down, London attempted to get even – he signed for the St Louis Battlehawks, helping them to get within a whisker of the North Division Finals.
The Falcons were suitably impressed by the former Western Illinois collegiate, enough that they decided to offer him a practice squad place, which was followed by an active roster contract in October. The rest, as they say, is history.
This is the XFL incarnate: offering outstanding football players a path back to the big time.
In the Spotlight
At the start of the 2023 XFL season, the director of player personnel at the Seattle Sea Dragons – Randy Mueller – sat his roster down and gave them a simple message: “This is a tryout for 32 teams,” insinuating that his players could force their way back into the NFL with a strong campaign.
Defensive end Nikos Lalos must have been paying heed. He made 35 tackles as the Sea Dragons made it to the North Division Final, earning himself a practice squad place with the New Orleans Saints.
Others followed suit. Jack Heflin, named to the All-XFL team in 2023 thanks to his fine performances in Houston, is also knocking on the door of the main roster in New Orleans. Luq Barcoo has swapped the San Antonio Brahmas for the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Jordan Thomas – a 27-game NFL veteran – will get another chance to tie down a long-term future in the big league with a deal at the Carolina Panthers.
Kevin Atkins and Jaryd Jones-Smith are two more members of the class of 2023 swapping the XFL for the possibility of a main roster deal in the NFL. Mission accomplished, then, for the XFL, with the hope that many more will follow the same path in 2024.
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