With Week One games starting in just a few hours, and fans chomping at the bit for NFL action, let me remind everyone that Spring Football works and is here to stay. Below I examine the four XFL players who made active NFL rosters.
All in all, 17 XFL players are signed to NFL rosters. The 4 on game day rosters along with the 13 others being on practice squads around the league. Although “XFL 2.0” only lasted 5 short weeks, it has given some of its best players a chance to play in the National Football League. Let’s get started, shall we?
P.J. Walker – Houston Roughnecks
If you watched the XFL, you know exactly who P. J. Walker is. Especially if he just so happened to be playing your favorite team during the five games the XFL was operating. Walker absolutely torched the league for a stat line of 1,338 passing yards and 15 Passing TDs (both league highs). Pair that with 5-0 record, Walker dominated in 2020. Roughnecks head coach June Jones knew exactly how to work with Walker and it turned him into the unofficial MVP of the XFL in 2020.
Now Walker sets his sights on an even bigger task, competing for the backup quarterback job in Carolina. The Panthers have a new QB heading into the 2020 season with Teddy Bridgewater. As of today, Walker is listed as the 2nd string QB along with rookie Will Grier. Walker showed that he is ready for stardom and the pressures of being a starting caliber Quarterback if need be.
Donald Parham – Dallas Renegades
Donald Parham was far and away the best Tight End in the XFL in 2020. He racked up 24 receptions, 307 yards and 4 touchdowns in 5 games. He was actually 3rd in receiving yards in all of the XFL, and first among TEs in each category mentioned above. Parham has Prototypical height for TE in NFL at 6’8”.
Parham will have an uphill climb when it comes to playing time with the Chargers. As it stands, he is listed as the fourth TE behind the likes of Hunter Henry, Virgil Green and Steven Anderson.
Storm Norton – LA Wildcats
Storm Norton was the anchor along the LA Wildcats offensive line in 2020. PFF named Norton the highest graded Offensive Linemen in the XFL, including a 82.6 grade against the run. Norton even got a shoutout on Twitter by new owner of the XFL, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Norton signed a two year, 1.5 Million dollar contract to be the Backup RT behind veteran Bryan Bulaga for the LA Chargers. He’s also the perfect candidate for “swing tackle” along the O-Line. As we look ahead to Sunday, Norton might actually get his first career NFL start if Bulaga is unable to go week 1.
Colin Thompson – Tampa Bay Vipers
Here’s a story of true perseverance. Thompson played TE for the Tampa Bay Vipers and was primarily used as a 2nd TE / Blocker in the XFL. After the 2020 XFL season was suspended, Thompson signed with the Carolina Panthers. He was cut during roster trimming back in late August. A sour ending to what looked to be a feel-good story. Thankfully the story doesn’t quite end here.
Thompson was signed back two days later and has secured a spot as the 3rd TE behind Ian Thomas and Chris Manhertz. One would think Thompson will be used as a blocking TE in what looks to be a run heavy offense.
The much anticipated 2020 NFL Season kicks off today. Thinking back to March when the XFL suspended its campaign, many players saw hopes and dreams shattered. For the four aforementioned athletes in this article, those hopes and dreams remain very much within reach. For the 17 XFL stars who are now employed by the NFL, a lifetime of hard work and dedication have all boiled down to tomorrow. This looks be the beginning of a trend that will become the new normal. Spring football showcasing top tier talent with the idea that a select few belong in the NFL. I look forward to the journey of these players and how it all shakes out.
Beer Snake Photo Credit:
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)