St. Louis Battlehawks players have been bringing in plenty of hardware this off-season as several members of the team begin to embark on try-outs for NFL teams. While the team saw the XFL honor Darrius Shepherd as Special Teams Player of the Year, they also saw SIX of it’s players be named to the coveted honor of being named of one of the XFL’s premier players.
Wide Receiver Hakeem Butler, Left Tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith, Left Guard Steven Gonzalez, Center Mike Panasiuk
The Battlehawks saw Four Offensive players earn All-XFL honors, led by Wide Receiver Hakeem Butler. Butler’s story to the XFL was one of the more covered storylines in 2023, as the former Iowa State Receiver sent “DM” to Head Coach Anthony Becht petitioning to get an opportunity. Butler would put together one of the XFL’s more dynamic performances, totaling 51 Receptions 599 Receiving Yards and 8 TDs.
Joining Butler was Jaryd Jones-Smith, Steven Gonzalez, and Mike Panasiuk all members of the Battlehawks Offensive Line. Not only did Jones-Smith serve as the stalwart at Offensive Tackle, he also served as the elder statesman for the younger members of the OL serving to be instrumental for players like Gonzalez, Panasiuk and Eric Magwood who was his replacement during his suspension.
Gonzalez was a rookie for the Battlehawks in 2023, joining the XFL after an accomplished career at Penn State. Gonzalez started 10 of 10 games for St. Louis in his first season as a professional. Pansiuk was originally a defensive lineman at Michigan State, Panasiuk began his transition to Center during his time in Carolina. After Jon Toth did not report, the Battlehawks turned to Panasiuk who started 10 of 10 games and played 99% of the snaps.
Lavert Hill Safety
Hill was a late signing for St. Louis joining the team in late January. The former All-Big Ten DB provided a much-needed spark for the Battlehawks, totaling 25 Tackles and 2 Interceptions for a Defensive Backfield that was plagued with injuries throughout the season. Hill is not the only member of his family to being playing spring ball, as his older brother Lano Hill plays in the USFL with the Michigan Panthers.
Darrius Shepherd Specialist
Shepherd was probably one of the more underrated Wide Receivers in the XFL, and could of easily earned All-XFL Honors for his production on Offense as well. The Missouri Native had 37 Returns for 907 yards and would end the season with over 1400 yards collectively. He was named XFL Special Teams Player of the Year, and is currently working out with the Lions, during their rookie mini-camp.
I had the pleasure of talking with Lavert Hill, Jaryd Jones-Smith, and Mike Panasiuk this Monday afternoon, check out the link below to get to know some of these Battlehawks with the link below:
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