Ever since the XFL in 2020 ended prematurely due to COVID. Much of the focus has been on its former players and their journey in their post-XFL playing careers. Here at XFLNewsHub, many of the team’s writers like the late great Josh Davis, Anthony Miller, Matt Lyons, Jai Nokes, Matthew Shapiro, and others have covered and chronicled the path of the league’s former players.
It’s become sport for many of us who genuinely believe in this concept to tout the over two dozen XFL players currently on NFL rosters like P.J. Walker, Taylor Heinicke, Donald Parham Jr., Kenny Robinson, Josh Johnson, Tyree Jackson, and many others.
Even standouts in the AAF like Cleveland Browns, RB D’Ernest Johnson, John Wolford, Greg Ward, Mike Pennell, and others have been followed closely and cheered on since that league folded.
When players from alternate pro football leagues make it and thrive in the NFL or CFL, it’s an affirmation that not only do leagues like the AAF and XFL matter but that they are great for the entire pro football ecosystem. For fans, executives, employees, players, and coaches included.
The existence of leagues like the XFL gives players an avenue to continue their pro careers, but a specific group behind the scenes helps facilitate that possibility.
Life After The XFL For Coaches
The one group that is constantly overlooked are the assistant coaches who coached in leagues like the XFL.
Everyone can watch college football on FOX Saturdays and see former Dallas Renegades head coach Bob Stoops or you may have seen or heard of the stellar work that former DC Defenders head coach Pep Hamilton has done in the NFL since the XFL prematurely ended.
In the XFL and AAF. Both leagues hired high-profile head coaches with name recognition like Steve Spurrier, Bob Stoops, Mike Singletary, June Jones, and many others like them, who were paid handsomely in the high six-figure range to take a chance on an upstart league. These were legacy head coaches with name value who already made their bones and money in the pro and college football world.
However, The coaches who made the most significant sacrifices in the AAF and XFL were the assistants who came along for the ride and subsequently brought their families with them. Many of them shared the same journey as the players they coached. Selflessly trying to help players extend or, in many cases, start their pro careers. While at the same time trying to keep their own dreams and professional careers alive.
Assistant coaches often do not get the recognition they deserve. PJ Walker became a better pro football quarterback in the XFL, thanks to playing time and the coaching he received from former NFL QB Chris Miller. Kenny Robinson went from a West Virginia player in the transfer portal to an NFL draft pick, thanks to coaches on the St. Louis BattleHawks staff like veteran Tim Lewis. There are many examples of assistants under the radar that go unnoticed for their efforts.
Some assistants who have worked in the AAF and XFL, have broken through the glass ceiling and have continued their careers. Lori Locust and Jennifer King are trailblazers for women in football coaching. King coached with the Arizona Hotshots and is now coaching RB’s with the Washington Football Team. Locust (Birmingham Iron) is on a fantastic staff in Tampa and has been an assistant defensive coach with the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
Other assistant coaches like Kenny Perry (Dallas Renegades) are succeeding on the college level as coordinators (SMU). But unfortunately, cases like Perry and others are the exception, not the rule.
Assistant coaches in smaller-sized leagues like the AAF and XFL have a much more complex and thankless task than assistants in the NFL and college do. For several reasons, notwithstanding the fact that they are paid much less and have less job security, simply because there are no guarantees that these alternate leagues will last.
And in the case of the XFL and AAF, unfortunately, neither league lasted an entire season.
Beyond all that, assistants in XFL-type leagues are asked to multi-task and assume several roles at once. Because the staffs are smaller. As a result, coaches end up coaching more than just the players in their position group. Sometimes, assistants are also tasked with executive and scouting roles to help fill gaps on a team.
Not only do players develop and evolve because of their experience in leagues like the XFL, but coaches do too. They get better at their jobs, but when the smoke clears. Some are left stranded looking for a new home to ply their trade.
Former NFL/College/AAF/XFL Coach/Executive Ty Knott
Former LA Wildcats assistant head coach/executive Ty Knott has been a jack of all trades in the football world. One glance at his resume and experience level will amaze you. It reads like the ultimate journeyman assistant.
At one point in his career, Knott was seen as one of the rising assistants in the football coaching world. He was even touted as such in a feature article at Sports Illustrated by Albert Breer. The Monday Morning Quarterback column in June of 2020 focused on the lack of opportunities for minority coaches and the idea that a pipeline should be created to help aid assistants that have been overlooked.
Ty Knott was on the list of coaches who should be highly considered for an NFL opportunity. Here is a blurb of what was written about Knott in SI.
Ty Knott: He was on a staff with Winston Moss and Pepper Johnson in the XFL, and has coached in the NFL on both sides of the ball (defense in New Orleans, offense in Green Bay), while also having two years as a director of player development (in San Francisco).
But unfortunately, like many of the players who play in leagues like the XFL, Knott has slipped through the cracks and hasn’t seen advancement in his pro career.
Ty Knott has worn so many hats and fulfilled so many roles throughout his professional career. He’s been an executive in the NFL as Director of Player Development for the San Francisco 49ers (2009-2010). Knott has also been a defensive coordinator, special teams coordinator, and position coach on offense and defense. (RB’s, TE’s, DB’s).
Knott coached for seven seasons in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, and Jacksonville Jaguars. He has worked under seven coaches who have won Super Bowls as either a coach or player, including Tom Coughlin, Norv Turner, John Harbaugh, Mike McCarthy, Mike Singletary, Leslie Frazier, and Winston Moss.
The former collegiate defensive back Knott has also worked as an assistant at Whittier College, Indiana University, Mt. San Antonio College, and Greenville College, University of Minnesota Crookston, and Texas Southern University.
Ty Knott also has the distinction of having coached in both the AAF and XFL. He watched as both leagues seasons ended prematurely. First as a special teams coordinator and running backs coach with the Memphis Express under the legendary Mike Singletary, and then as an executive/top assistant under Winston Moss with the LA Wildcats.
In the AAF, Knott’s special teams in Memphis were ranked number one in the league in every statistical category. The Express also had the only blocked punt in the Alliance that season.
Ty Knott assumed many roles for the Wildcats in the XFL as an assistant head coach, coaching tight ends, assisting on special teams, and was LA’s manager of football operations.
Ty Knott is also the founder of the Why Knott Dream Big Foundation, which he began in 1997 to raise money for families who have children with autism.
After coaching and working for so many football teams in various capacities, Knott had been left on the outside looking in. The ambiguous status of the XFL put Ty Knott’s coaching career on pause. The XFL, a league that Knott loved being a part of because of the developmental and administrative aspects, is still a ways away from launching again, presumably in 2023.
Although job opportunities have come across his radar, like a potential head coaching position in the Spring League, the stars haven’t aligned yet for Ty Knott until now.
New SMWC Sprint Football Head Coach Ty Knott
Ty Knott has never been afraid of taking chances on players, universities, or leagues. As evidenced by his resume. Knott has always embraced the challenge of being a part of something built from the ground up.
So it’s not shocking that Ty Knott’s next journey in football involves him taking on the lead role in building a football program from scratch.
On Thursday, Ty Knott was named the inaugural head coach of the SMWC’s Pomeroy Sprint Football team. An NAIA college football program in its infancy based out of Indiana.
Sprint football will become the SMWC’s 15th scholarship sport and plans to field their first football team in the fall of 2022. SMWC will compete in the Midwest Sprint Football League as a founding member with five other original league members.
SMWC Athletic Director Ron Prettyman told the press that he came away highly impressed with not only Ty Knott’s background as a football coach but, most importantly, as an administrator. For Sprint Football, Ty Knott will be tasked with recruiting, scheduling, and all football operations from top to bottom.
Knott said in Thursday’s press release, “I am excited to be here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College and to build a sprint football program in the true Pomeroy tradition. I will be hitting the road immediately to begin our recruiting efforts to build a competitive team,”
Ty Knott is taking another leap of faith in his professional career. It’s a road that can be thankless and filled with anonymity and uncertainty. But for people like Coach Knott, who don’t crave for self-recognition, it’s a path of a strong belief that continues. It might not have the cache of an NFL job, but Ty Knott has found life after the XFL by helping to create a new one for others.
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