The XFL’s MVP PJ Walker proved his value to the league in 2020 and its overall value in 2022.
One could argue that the XFL and PJ Walker‘s greatest moment took place this past weekend at Bank of America Stadium. In many ways, it’s a shared victory for both Walker and the XFL. One that sees both a player and an entire league vindicated and validated.
It was also a victory for players just like PJ Walker and for all the people that believe in the concept and spirit of what the XFL stood and stands for.
Walker’s performance in his first-ever NFL start was far from perfect. (24/34, 258 yards passing, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions) but he proved that he belonged in the NFL, and by doing so. As a result, PJ proved that the XFL belongs as well.
There’s no better selling point for the XFL in 2022 than PJ Walker.
Is it possible to be named MVP twice? An honor that PJ deserves for the 2020 XFL season but also quite possibly as MVP for the XFL in 2022.
Even if PJ Walker does not start another NFL game, he showed why the XFL is valuable, why it needs to exist, and how great it can be for the entire football landscape.
A Dream Within A Dream
This past Sunday, PJ Walker saw his dream realized. In many ways, the XFL made it all possible.
It’s a dream that Walker’s mother, Tamicha Drake saw first. Drake had a dream of her son playing for the Carolina Panthers over a year and a half ago.
Right around this same timeframe, the XFL was also embarking upon its own dream. One that would lead Walker and the league to each other.
By now, everyone knows about the PJ Walker/Andrew Luck connection that helped lead Walker to the XFL. Something that was chronicled here at NewsHub, long before it became public knowledge.
But the thing that was kept private knowledge behind the scenes was the recruitment of players by the XFL’s top brass. The league knew that its overall quality would be determined by the type of quality quarterbacks they signed.
XFL Quarterback Recruitment
Behind the scenes in 2019, XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck, Director of Player Personnel Eric Galko, Doug Whaley, and many others, including coaches and team personnel, worked extremely hard to recruit quarterbacks to join their league.
One of the selling points used to accomplish the recruitment of QB’s was salary. However, the full details have never been made public. Many of the XFL’s top quarterbacks made over six figures. Some of them were slated to make over a half-million dollars per season. A salary that was comparable or better than what practice squad quarterbacks were making.
Ultimately, the most significant selling point for Quarterbacks was playing time.
It’s something that nearly led a quarterback like the Pittsburgh Steelers Devlin Hodges to sign with the XFL. Hodges was all systems go to become an XFL quarterback, before the trade of Josh Dobbs to Jacksonville, coupled with the injury of Ben Roethlisberger, these circumstances led ‘Duck’ to fly his way back onto Pittsburgh’s roster.
Hodges ended up starting NFL games in the 2019 season. Interestingly, one of his backups with the Steelers, former first-round pick Paxton Lynch landed an active roster spot with Pittsburgh.
The XFL was after Lynch as well, and if Hodges and Lynch were practice squad mainstays, they might have chosen the XFL instead.
XFL Quarterbacks Josh Johnson and Cardale Jones chose the league over the NFL last year.
Jones, the former fourth-round pick out of Ohio State, spent three and a half seasons in the NFL as a third-string QB or on practice squads. The XFL came calling with an opportunity to start and play for Pep Hamilton in DC.
Working with a great QB tutor like Hamilton was a strong drawing card. Hamilton is currently tutoring one of the NFL’s best young signal-callers in the Chargers, Justin Herbert.
After being released by Seattle, the XFL continued its hard sell to Jones. Cardale turned down NFL practice squad spots to sign with the XFL. It didn’t pay off for him but at this stage of his career, it was a gamble worth taking.
In 2019, Josh Johnson had a spot waiting for him with the Detroit Lions, and last Thanksgiving, they came calling. However, Josh Johnson signed a contract with the XFL, full well knowing that the contract terms would prohibit him from signing with an NFL team.
Johnson wanted to play. And with the Los Angeles Wildcats, he excelled and was the XFL’s highest-graded quarterback by Pro Football Focus. Johnson is now back in the NFL yet again, this time back with the San Francisco 49ers.
A True Win-Win Situation
As a starter, PJ Walker is used to winning. He’s done it now six times in 2020 as a pro, and in his last seven, college starts at Temple. But his biggest victory on Sunday might be what he just did for the credibility of the XFL moving forward. And Walker’s path and example is something that will pave the way for others to follow.
PJ Walker passed on an NFL practice squad offer in September of 2019 to sign with the XFL. It was a bold decision. Walker took a risk and gambled on himself. He could have easily flopped in the XFL, and reaffirmed the beliefs of his doubters.
Instead, the XFL gave Walker the chance to play and he played like the star he was in college. The XFL believed in PJ, and most importantly, he believed in himself.
The fact is that most pro football players are PJ Walker. A great many of them are undrafted college stars who struggle to get in the NFL door and stay there. (Walker was cut twelve times in his first three years in the NFL).
Less than two percent of all college football players make the NFL. The majority of the players that do, struggle to find playing time. Eventually, a large number of these types of players wash out of the league. Spending years on the fringe, hoping for a shot to play or a way back in.
The intention of the XFL in 2020 was not to be a developmental or feeder system for the NFL. But by default, any non-NFL pro league is. The truth is that it’s not just about getting into or back in the NFL. It’s about getting a chance to play. To prove your worth.
The XFL provided that for over 400 players earlier this year. Despite a pandemic, which cut the XFL season short, nearly 30 of those players are currently on NFL rosters. Some of those players are on the fringe as practice squad players. A place that PJ Walker spent a lot of time on.
When the XFL returns in 2022 with Dany Garcia and Dwayne Johnson leading the charge, those players will have a place where they can finally show how good they are. PJ Walker just showed them the way.
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