The XFL has long been a breeding ground for gridiron talent in the NFL. Although it was established as NFL’s faster, more dynamic cousin, many XFL stars have sought to try their luck in the NFL and all the riches it entails.
Within this article, we look back at some of the most celebrated XFL athletes that made the switch to play in the NFL for the 2020 season and discover whether the moves were worth it.
Kahlil McKenzie – Cincinnati Bengals
Kahlil McKenzie recently joined XFL’s Los Angeles Wildcats, making the move from D.C., only to pick up a frustrating injury which would keep him on the injured reserve list for several weeks. McKenzie would go on to appear for the Seattle Seahawks before being waived in late July 2020 and snapped up by the Cincinnati Bengals the following month. The defensive tackle moved up to the active roster in the New Year, making seven appearances and eight tackles, with one tackle for loss. McKenzie has a clean slate in the offseason given that the Bengals were the fourth poorest defensive team by yardage given up last season
Storm Norton – LA Chargers
26-year-old offensive tackle Storm Norton is a man mountain. Standing at 6ft 7” and weighing in at over 320lbs, Norton was an integral part of the L.A. Wildcats’ offensive line in the XFL. Norton was rapidly snapped up by the LA Chargers just hours after the XFL season came to an abrupt end. Norton exceeded most fans’ expectations, appearing in five of the Chargers’ 2020 regular season games. It’s unknown whether Norton will get similar game time in 2021 after head coach Anthony Lynn was relieved of his duties at the end of 2020. There’s no doubt that he will have a back-up role to play in a franchise that’s unfancied to make a bold bid for the Super Bowl in 2021, having been priced as +3300 outsiders in the futures NFL betting for Super Bowl LVI with FOX Bet.
Colin Thompson – Carolina Panthers
Tight end Colin Thompson fled the Tampa Bay Vipers in search of cementing himself in the big time of the NFL once again. After failed attempts with the Giants and Bears, Thompson kept with the animal theme by signing for the Carolina Panthers for the NFL 2020 season. The Panthers’ head coach, Matt Rhule, coached Thompson previously at his college team at Temple and was promptly given 15 games by Rhule for the Panthers in 2020. He impressed enough to get a one-year contract extension for 2021 and there is every chance he will play an integral role for the Panthers again with Rhule sticking around.
Hunter Niswander – Dallas Cowboys
26-year-old punter Hunter Niswander was recruited by the DC Defenders for the inaugural XFL season and after having his contract terminated in April 2020, Niswander would go on to enter the Cowboys’ practice squad in the NFL. He became part of the active roster in November, following injury to Chris Jones. He would go on to punt for Dallas’ last eight regular season games. He was rated ninth in the league thanks to a 47.2-yard average. There is every chance that Niswander could get game time in 2021 if the Cowboys have to make a financial decision, with his contract less than a third of Chris Jones’ $2.5-million-a-season deal.
Jarron Jones – Pittsburgh Steelers
Offensive tackle Jarron Jones was destined to become a focal point of the New York Guardians’ offensive line in the XFL. He was a first-round draft pick by the Guardians ahead of the XFL’s inaugural season, having spent time with various NFL training camps and practice squads in recent years. After his contract termination in the XFL, Jones was recruited by the Steelers onto their practice squad. It’s looking likely that Jones will be in a head-to-head battle with former Guardians teammate Anthony Coyle for a back-up role in the Steelers’ offensive line for next season.
With the XFL not expected to return to action until 2022, there is no doubt that this quintet will be desperate to keep their NFL dreams alive and kicking for another 12 months at least.
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