The number of players that make it from the XFL and AAF into the NFL is an affirmation of the value these leagues have and a testament to all the hard work put in by players, coaches, and personnel people.
The dream for many is that one day that the XFL and AAF can merge as one. I would argue that in some ways they already have.
Even if not a single player from the AAF or XFL made it into the NFL. Just the mere fact that these leagues provide an additional avenue for players to play pro football is a good enough reason for their existence.
The numbers game is a killer in the NFL. Only 1.6 percent of all college football players make the National Football League. Once you get into the league, there’s no guarantee that you will stay. As Tampa Bay Vipers Defensive Coordinator Jerry Glanville once proclaimed. “The NFL stands for Not For Long”. Not unless you are 41-year old Eagles Quarterback Josh McCown in Texas and even he went the alternate route playing in the United Football League. Long may he reign.
The average NFL career is less than four years, and part of that is injury-related but also numbers related.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the number of players that have made NFL teams in the last two years from both the AAF and XFL—starting with the current crop of XFL players that made the initial active rosters and practice squads of NFL franchises.
XFL PLAYERS (*-active roster)
Houston Roughnecks QB- PJ Walker- Carolina Panthers *
Los Angeles Wildcats OT- Storm Norton- Los Angeles Chargers *
Tampa Bay Vipers TE- Colin Thompson- Carolina Panthers *
Dallas Renegades TE- Donald Parham Jr.- Los Angeles Chargers *
St. Louis BattleHawks QB- Jordan Ta’amu- Kansas City Chiefs
Tampa Bay Vipers RB- Jacques Patrick- Cincinnati Bengals
Tampa Bay Vipers WR- Antonio Callaway- Miami Dolphins
Los Angeles Wildcats FB/TE- Johnny Stanton- Cleveland Browns
Seattle Dragons- OL- Michael Dunn- Cleveland Browns
New York Guardians OT- Jarron Jones- Pittsburgh Steelers
New York Guardians OT- Anthony Coyle- Pittsburgh Steelers
Los Angeles Wildcats OL/DL- Kahlil Mckenzie- Cincinnati Bengals
Dallas Renegades CB- Josh Hawkins- Atlanta Falcons
Houston Roughnecks LB- Edmond Robinson- Atlanta Falcons
Houston Roughnecks DB– Saivion Smith- Dallas Cowboys
Tampa Bay Vipers LS- Nick Moore- Baltimore Ravens
St. Louis BattleHawks S- Kenny Robinson- Carolina Panthers
As of press time, there are 17 XFL players on NFL rosters. (4 on active rosters, 13 on practice squads)
XFL players had a challenging road in making NFL rosters. Not only were their seasons cut extremely short in the XFL, which eliminated much-needed game film, but the players had to deal with pandemic restrictions.
NFL teams prohibited player workouts until mid-August. They reduced rosters from 90-80 and for the over two dozen XFL players that did make NFL training camp rosters. All preseason games canceled.
Like with anything NFL roster related and particularly this coming season, everything is subject to change but at the moment, considering the limitations and circumstances. The fact that this many XFL players made NFL rosters against all the odds is an achievement.
It’s also a credit to the XFL’s Director of Player Personnel Eric Galko and his team. Galko has been down this road before with the UFL. It is increasingly difficult to navigate the trenches of agent warfare and convince players to take a chance on the XFL. Galko’s job was a thankless one. The reward is seeing players advance their careers.
Orlando Apollos QB-Garrett Gilbert-Browns
Orlando Apollos RB-D’Earnest Johnson- Browns
Birmingham Iron LS- Cole Mazza- Chargers
Birmingham Iron OL- Brandon Greene- Panthers
Salt Lake Stallions DL- Mike Purcell- Broncos
San Antonio Commanders DB- De’Vante Busby- Broncos
San Diego Fleet DB- Kameron Kelly- Steelers
San Diego Fleet OL- Daniel Brunskill- 49ers
Atlanta Legends DT- Bijhon Jackson-Carolina Panthers
Arizona Hotshots LB Sione Teuhema-Carolina Panthers
Arizona Hotshots QB John Wolford- Los Angeles Rams
San Diego Fleet OL Jeremiah Kolone -Los Angeles Rams
San Antonio Commanders QB Logan Woodside- Tennessee Titans
San Antonio Commanders DE Austin Larkin- Atlanta Falcons
Memphis Express P Ryan Winslow- Arizona Cardinals
Memphis Express LB Terrell Bonds- Baltimore Ravens
San Antonio Commanders WR Greg Ward -Philadelphia Eagles
Birmingham Iron LB Aaron Adeoye -Baltimore Ravens
Salt Lake Stallions LB Chris Odom- Washington Redskins
Atlanta Legends K Younghoe Koo- Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta Legends P Cameron Nizialek- Atlanta Falcons
San Diego Fleet DE Damontre’ Moore- Seattle Seahawks
A few of these AAF players are no longer in the league. Some of them are still on either NFL practice squads or active rosters. Like Gilbert, Johnson, Larkin, Moore, Bonds, and many others.
The list is a compilation of those who gained entry or re-entry into the NFL, after playing in the AAF. Even if it was for such a brief period of time. The Alliance gave them all another shot.
Former Arizona Hotshots QB John Wolford is Jared Goff’s caddy in LA for the Rams. Wolford was the definition of an NFL camp body before the AAF gave him the platform to show his wares.
Here’s the kicker and no not rising special teams star YoungHoe Koo, who coincidentally is the inspiration behind my NFL fantasy team name ‘Koo-Tang Clan” in our writers’ league with XFLNewsHub.
A significant number of the XFL’s top personnel people were all in the AAF. Tony Softli (Dragons), Trip MacCracken (Guardians), Daryl Johnston (Renegades), Randy Mueller (Roughnecks), Robert Morris (Renegades), Trey Brown (BattleHawks), and many others shaped the rosters in both the Alliance and the XFL. A lot of this is their handiwork.
For two years straight, Spring Pro Football rosters were put together by relatively the same group of football minds. It also extends to the coaching —the same principle. Many of the XFL’s top assistant coaches groomed and coached the players that you see on both of these lists. Unheralded assistants like Wildcats/Express coach Ty Knott or grizzled vet Teddy Cottrell helped so many of these players learn how to be pros. There are countless others.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up the CFL. They, too, have created an avenue for football players. Despite having a completely different game than the NFL and college football. The football brothers up-north continue to produce good players. Recently players like Calgary Stampeders standout S/LB Nate Holley, Blue Bombers QB Chris Steveler, and others have made their way successfully onto NFL rosters.
At one point, the way things were. It appeared that the AAF and XFL were headed towards a collision course. Two spring-football leagues that would have been competing with another for attention, players, and football personnel. Instead, they share the same space as positive forces on the football landscape.
The AAF may be gone, but it’s not forgotten. The XFL is back from the dead again. The spirit of what those two leagues stood for remains alive. If you seek the evidence, look no further than the NFL teams you watch this season.
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