Tampa Bay Vipers running backs coach Justin Poindexter oversaw one of the most successful positional groups the XFL had to offer in 2020. The Vipers backfield was composed of two of the top three running backs in terms of yards gained during the XFL’s five game season.
Lead by DeVeon Smith, a 25-year-old University of Michigan product and Jacques Patrick, a 23-year-old Florida State Seminole the two backs combined for 619 yards and 2 touchdowns (the next highest duo did not even surpass 500 yards).
Poindexter, a proud two-time graduate of Howard University possesses a Bachelors of Science (Sports Management, Class of 2010) and Masters from the school in Educational Administration and Policy. The former Bison football player looked outside of the boundaries of the gridiron to find his career, a journey that has taken him all over from Gonzaga College High School in Washington, DC to the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League all the way to his most recent position in the XFL with the Tampa Bay Vipers under head coach Marc Trestman.
The XFL suspended play on March 12, half way through their 10-game schedule. At the time, Coronavirus was making its way into the United States. It’s impact grew by tenfold daily. Leaving the league with no option but to stop games for the time being. Once six weeks had passsed and the virus continued to sweep through America the league ceased operations on April 10th.
Poindexter has used that time to decompress from the hustle and bustle of life in football and find news ways to stay active in the coaching community in times of social distancing and Zoom video conferencing.
I’ve spent a lot of time studying some of the top college and NFL offenses to gain some insight on what the best teams are doing. I’ve even sat back and looked at some triple option teams as well. I’ve been listening in on the West Coast Zoom Clinics. They have been awesome in terms of providing open and honest information about progressing in the coaching profession as a minority coach.
The Vipers coach went on to say that a goal of his is to help create an offense that functions at a high level and allows for coaches and players to enjoy their lives outside of the game. He wants to create an effective and simple product that allows coaches to maximize and get the most out of the players they work with.
The grind of a coach can be taxing, especially in season. While players have early report times for breakast and training, coaches often use the early hours to workout themselves and mentally prepare for the day ahead.
Back in 2013, John Harbaugh the coach of the Baltimore Ravens agreed to document his week in preparation for a regular-season NFL game against the Chicago Bears. The Super Bowl winning coach had his week scheduled to a T, including a streak of three consecutive nights sleeping on a couch in his office at Ravens headquarters.
Poindexter also considers himself a creative person. During the extended layoff from football, he has taken the time to draw and paint. Rediscovering a skill, but recognizes that football can demand so much time that those talents can fall off.
He even started an online art gallery to showcase his work. Hidden Talent Art Gallery can be found on Instagram or at www.thehiddentalentartgallery.com his website which is currently a work in progress.
On Twitter, Poindexter has always been a driving force for positivity. Most mornings you can find a tweet from the handle @CoachJ_P saying something along the lines of a good morning greeting paired with a statement to love and look out for one another. Other days begin with a call to action for his followers to be better people and let go of negative energy.
This is a quality that Poindexter possess both on and off the field:
I have always been a very positive and optimistic person. I try to always see the best out of every situation. Whether it’s on the sideline, in a meeting or just in conversation with people, I always try to somehow create a positive atmosphere and leave things on a positive note. It can be a challenge to stay in that positive space, however, if you choose to find things to be grateful for everyday and put your focus on love and positivity, it can always uplift your attitude and perspective on life.
Poindexter says positivity is what makes a great coach for the players, a great co-worker and ultimately a great leader for people outside of the sport of football.
One of the major things Poindexter did over the break from football was use his platform on social media to connect with and mentor his followers who are playing or coaching football.
He hosted multiple Zoom conferences where he discussed resume building, how to navigate the ever chaning profession of coaching, and offered up his services of evaluating film for high school and college aged players.
It was really awesome to connect with a variety of different coaches with varying backgrounds. Along with my colleagues Aaron McGinty and Reid Sanders, we were able to get about 40 coaches online to openly ask questions about the coaching profession. Ultimately the conversation allowed coaches to speak freely about their purpose, ask candid questions about the coaching profession, develop more insight on the computer skills needed at different levels, and learn to effectively build their networks.
Poindexter jokes that he is still finishing up the film evaluations after receiving tape from about 400 different players. He wanted to be as detailed as possible and make sure he was giving each athlete good information.
Having spent the last 3 years in the XFL & CFL, sometimes you don’t have the time to look at high school players or even some college athletes as well. I really wanted to help out players and provide some feedback that could possibly help players going into this season, whenever it is played.
Poindexter’s passion for the game of football is undeniable, but his determination to be an outstanding member of society and a supportive figure in football stems from his time at Howard University. He was a two-year member of the Howard Bison football team, and was active on campus as a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. In fact, Jerry Rice, an NFL Hall of Famer who attended Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) was also a member of Phi Beta Sigma and was the reason Poindexter chose to become a member.
MVSU, like Howard is one of the United States historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Football has seen some of the game’s greats come from these HBCU’s including Rice, Walter Payton (Jacksonville State University) and Michael Strahan (Texas Southern University). These player’s left their marks on the sport, but their legacies go far beyond the record books which has left Poindexter in pursuit of more.
[Attending a HBCU] just makes me have a chip on my shoulder as it relates to football and my work. When Avery Johnson [Southern University] became the head basketball coach at the University of Alabama back in 2015, he was the first HBCU graduate to become a head coach in Power 5 athletics. This moment was game-changing for my perception and allowed me to see that the only limits I put on this journey in football are the ones I put on myself. It’s definitely motivated me to want to be a head coach one day.
Poindexter began his coaching career in 2010, between the time when he graduated with his Bachelors degree and began working towards his Masters degree. Since then, his journey has taken him all around North America working with several organizations and hundreds of different players and coaches.
I try to check in on my old players and co-workers regularly. Football is a relationship oriented business. I try to keep in touch with as many people as possible.
Coach Poindexter, like every single other staff member involved with the XFL in 2020 is awaiting a call about the league and its plans under the new ownership group of Red Bird Capital Partners. Regardless of what the future of XFL football is, Poindexter remains dedicated to his craft and ambitious for his next challenge.
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August 27, 2020 at 9:54 pm
PLEASE TELL ME THE VIPERS ARE COMING BACK TO TAMPA??? We have Super Bowl, Tommy boy and gronk here, Tampa is now the center of the football universe. Dwayne the rock is a smart business man, he’s got to see the future of football in Tampa!!??
Dr Denise Narcisse
August 28, 2020 at 12:15 pm
Way to go Justin! Equal to your tenacity and talent is your compassion for others. You are our shining star . We are very proud of you.