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Former XFL Players Shine Bright In The CFL’s 109th Grey Cup

XFL 2023 is on the horizon. Last week, the league added 464 players through their player selection process. Sixty-nine of them were returning players from the league two years ago.

Over 50 players from XFL 2020 are currently on NFL and CFL rosters.

On Sunday night, some of the XFL’s standout players from two years ago were a part of the 109th CFL Grey Cup. An exciting game that saw the Toronto Argonauts win their 18th Grey Cup by besting the back-to-back defending CFL champion, Winnipeg Blue Bombers, 24-23.

The CFL title game featured multiple XFL 2020 players and some coaches.

XFL 2020 Players In The CFL 2022 Grey Cup

On the Winnipeg side of the fence. The Blue Bombers have five former XFL players on their roster, and three of them started on Sunday night on defense in the Grey Cup.

DB, Deatrick Nichols (Houston Roughnecks), DB, Des Lawrence (D.C. Defenders), DT, Casey Sayles (St. Lous Battlehawks), DT, Ricky Walker (Tampa Bay Vipers), & WR, Carlton Agudosi (St. Louis Battlehawks)

In two years since starring for Houston in the XFL and leading the league in interceptions. Deatrick Nichols has become one of Canada’s best defensive backs. Nichols has been named a first-team CFL All-Star for the last two years. Defensive Linemen Casey Sayles has also had a strong two-year turn in Canada as a starter. Sayles led the Bombers with six tackles and a sack in Grey Cup 109.

A New Football Life In Canada

The newly crowned CFL champion Toronto Argonauts have six former XFL 2020 players on their roster who were key contributors in their Grey Cup victory over the Blue Bombers.

DL, Shawn Oakman (Los Angeles Wildcats), DT, Dewayne Hendrix (St. Louis Battlehawks), DB, Tarvarus McFadden (Tampa Bay Vipers), DB, Robert Priester (Tampa Bay Vipers), O, Dejon Allen (New York Guardians), & WR Cam Phillips (Houston Roughnecks).

WR Cam Phillips was arguably the most explosive-skill position player in the XFL two years ago. Teaming up with uncrowned league MVP and current Carolina Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker.

It took Phillips a while to make his mark in Canada as primarily a practice roster player in 2021. But in 2022, despite battling some injuries, he broke through as a starter with Toronto, registering 515 yards receiving with three scores. In the Grey Cup, Cam Phillips led the Argos with four receptions for 96 yards.

OT Dejon Allen has been a two-year starter for Toronto. This year, he made the East All-Star team and was nominated as the Argos’ most outstanding lineman.

DT Dewayne Hendrix has also made a significant impact as a starter up North. The versatile edge rusher has transitioned nicely as a run-stopping DT for Toronto.

The Argonauts also have two prominent coaches on their coaching staff that were assistants in XFL 2020. Quarterbacks coach Mike Miller (New York Guardians) and Defensive Backs coach William Fields (Tampa Bay Vipers).

Mike Miller did a phenomenal job of helping guide league-leading passer McLeod Bethel-Thompson this season. While also aiding Grey Cup hero Chad Kelly in his first year north of the border.

William Fields and Joshua Bell were instrumental in coaching up one of the CFL’s best secondaries in 2020. Fields two players in the XFL back in 2020, Tarvarus McFadden and Robert Priester were both key contributors in the Boatmen’s secondary this season.

Each one of the players listed above has found new life in their pro careers playing in Canada. But perhaps no one has quite the comeback story of former Baylor standout Shawn Oakman.

The 6’9, 287lb behemoth was given a second chance in the XFL two years ago after his entire life was turned upside down in college. It took a while for Shawn Oakman to get his personal and professional football life in order.

Once upon a time, Oakman was the next big thing, literally and figuratively.

After his breakout sophomore year at Baylor in 2014, where he finished the season with 25.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks, Scouts and experts alike began projecting Oakman as a potential first-round pick in the NFL.

But a senior season that didn’t live up to heightened expectations, combined with legal issues off the field stemming from sexual assault charges, took Shawn Oakman completely off the NFL radar. Oakman went undrafted and was unwanted.

He would eventually be found not guilty of all charges. But by then, Oakman was left looking for a new path on the field other than the NFL.

He finally found it with the XFL. But Oakman’s career was almost sidetracked again when Winston Moss and the LA Wildcats released him in camp for not following instructions from coaches and being overly aggressive in practice. The rookie didn’t know how to be a pro and was overzealous in trying to prove himself.

Oakman’s pro journey was almost over before it started. However, Winston Moss and the Wildcats would bring Oakman back a month later. And he would go on to have a successful five-game run with L.A.

Fast forward to today, and at 30 years of age, Shawn Oakman is now a fully-fledged professional football player and has become an All-Star and champion with the Toronto Argonauts. He has also become a team leader and beloved figure for the Boatmen.

At his age, Shawn Oakman may never find his way back to the NFL. But even if he doesn’t get the opportunity. Oakman has found himself and redemption after getting his second chance. That’s what football leagues not named the NFL are all about.

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I am a pro football writer who has extensively covered and reported on multiple leagues over the years. I started covering the XFL back in 2001. You can follow me on Twitter @byMikeMitchell

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