With the major coaching positions having been filled months ago for each of the XFL’s eight teams, the next and most recent development was the release of position coaches. For Houston, their staff has only gotten better since the initial hires, and should help recapture the success found in 2020. While some are familiar faces, others are completely new, but there are a lot of pre-existing connections in place that you will see throughout this article. Without further ado, here are some coaches that will be assisting Houston’s XFL franchise in 2023.
Wide Receivers: Payton Pardee
For Pardee, this is somewhat of a homecoming, given that he once played for the Houston Cougars as recently as 2018. While Pardee was never the largest contributor on the field, he made the American All-Academic Team twice during his last two seasons. He made an immediate jump into coaching after graduating from UH, joining the Texas A&M-Commerce staff in early 2019. While he originally worked with the outside receivers group, he made a switch to tight ends a year later. Recently, Commerce moved from the Division II level up to Division I FCS, which likely wouldn’t have been possible without the contributions of Pardee and others.
Offensive Line: Andre Gurode
Gurode, a Houston native, will be remembered by fans for his long and productive NFL career. The standout guard/center attended the University of Colorado, and would eventually become a second-round pick in the 2002 NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys. Gurode became an anchor on the Cowboys’ offensive line, making five straight Pro Bowls from 2006 to 2010. He would spend his last three seasons in the NFL with three different teams (Ravens, Bears, Raiders), before officially calling it a career after the 2013 season. Given his background, Gurode is already one of the highest-ranking position coaches in the XFL, and should help AJ Smith carry out his high-powered passing attack.
Running Backs: John Estes
Estes is one of those who makes a return to the XFL, previously being the Roughnecks’ offensive line coach in 2020. For the first time in his career, Estes will be working with the backfield, but knows this offensive structure well. Having played under June Jones during his last two seasons at the University of Hawai’i (and another two after Jones left), he set a NCAA record for most consecutive starts with 54. Estes would go on to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2010 as an undrafted free agent, spending three seasons with the team. Following brief stints with the Arizona Cardinals and Calgary Stampeders (CFL), Estes returned to his alma mater as a graduate assistant. Fast forward a few years, and Estes would be back with his old college coach. In 2021, he was the offensive line coach for the Conquerors of The Spring League (TSL), where AJ Smith was the offensive coordinator. Now, the duo takes their experience back to the XFL.
Offensive Quality Control: Marvin Williams Jr.
Marvin Williams is another product of AJ Smith’s work, as the two coached together at Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, Louisiana. Smith was the offensive coordinator while Williams was the offensive line coach, and Williams was promoted to Smith’s role after he left. Recently, the Northwestern State graduate spent time coaching in Fan Controlled Football (FCF), allowing him to explore his options beyond the high school level. Making the jump to outdoor professional football will be a big one for Williams, but he is one of Smith’s many right-hand men. Ultimately, he should offer great advice and support for the rest of the staff.
Defensive Line: Bill Johnson
Johnson, another Northwestern State alum and Louisiana native, is one of several coaches switching between spring leagues. Just a few months ago, Johnson was the defensive line coach for the 2022 USFL champion Birmingham Stallions, but has now jumped ship to the XFL holding the same position. Johnson has worked with head coach Wade Phillips twice, originally with the Atlanta Falcons and later with the Los Angeles Rams. Additionally, he has worked with three teams in the SEC, arguably the most competitive conference in college football. In 2019, Johnson won a national championship at LSU while working with future NFL draft picks Rashard Lawrence and Tyler Shelvin. Many believe LSU’s 2019 team to be one of the all-time best in college football history, giving Johnson plenty of credibility on top of an already impressive resume.
Linebackers: AJ Reisig
Reisig is a carry over from Brian Stewart’s staff at Maryland, where he also completed his Master’s degree. He originally got his start coaching defensive backs at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), and would go on to hold various roles at small programs such as Shippensburg, Lehigh, and Towson. While Reisig was most recently a Senior Defensive Analyst, being a position coach is nothing new for him. Given his familiarity with Stewart, the two should be just fine together, and he will also get further exposure from a great defensive mind in Wade Phillips.
Defensive Backs: Morgan Ford
Ford, similar to Reisig, is making the jump from small-school college football to the professional level. A Mississippi Valley State alum, Ford has coached at East Texas Baptist, Lamar, and most recently the University of Louisiana-Monroe. Splitting time between cornerbacks and special teams, Ford brings plenty of upside to the XFL given his young age, a common theme with many of Houston’s staff members. Ford’s unit should be fast-paced and fun to watch, just like the rest of the team. After all, that’s what made 2020 so special.
Special Teams: Greg McMahon
Rounding out the list of qualified individuals here is special teams coordinator Greg McMahon. McMahon, similar to his colleague Bill Johnson, is making the switch from USFL to XFL. Last season, he held the same role with the Houston Gamblers, doubling as the tight ends coach. McMahon and Johnson actually have quite the history together, winning Super Bowl XLIV with the New Orleans Saints and the aforementioned championship at LSU in 2019. Special teams is often one of the most overlooked components in all of football, and McMahon certainly understands the importance of it.
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