It’s nearly February, and that means the return of the XFL is just around the corner. It was around this time last year that we were talking about the AAF, the upstart football league that went belly-up eight games into its 10-game inaugural season because of financial complications.
The XFL appears saved at least from that fate. The brainchild of Vince McMahon, the sports entertainment mogul has already failed in this endeavor once, and reportedly is committed to giving this every opportunity to work. He is said of his withdrawn funds from his shares in other vehicles to fund the XFL through its first three seasons.
When the league does get underway, you can expect to see a number of familiar faces. In fact, dozens of players who have previously had ties to the Pittsburgh Steelers—some pretty significant, others admittedly very much the opposite—have now officially made the eight-team league’s 52-man rosters.
Below, I will highlight some of the more significant names while trying to offer a somewhat more comprehensive list to follow. By no means did I go back and research every single name for several hundred players, but these are the names I’ve recognized.
Going team by team, the D.C. Defenders have some of the most notable names, starting with Eli Rogers, who spent five years with the Steelers. He was among the last players cut in August. Also present are former safety Shamarko Thomas, a special teams fixture, and Doran Grant, a former fourth-round cornerback out of Ohio State.
The Dallas Renegades of course, have quarterback Landry Jones, who also spent five years in Pittsburgh as a backup. They have some other ties as well, though none among players who were ever on the 53-man roster.
The Houston Roughnecks will feature another wide receiver, Sammie Coates, a former 2015 third-round draft pick. He had a great five-game stretch to open the 2016 season, but a significant finger injury seemed to completely throw off his game. He was traded the following August. They also have two defensive linemen who spent time on the 53-man roster, Johnny Maxey and Caushaud Lyons.
The St. Louis Battlehawks have two former Steelers inside linebackers, Terence Garvin and Matthew Thomas. Both were undrafted free agents, both primarily contributed on special teams. Garvin, however, carved out a long career in the NFL. Thomas lasted less than a full season.
The last name of somewhat significant I’ll highlight is linebacker Steven Johnson, who spent a couple years with the Steelers, as a special teamer. He is a member of the Seattle Dragons, and like Garvin—both veterans of the AAF—had a long career in the NFL. Both were prominent players in that former league.
Some other names I’ll highlight. Jack Tocho barely spent a cup of coffee with the Steelers in 2019 in the Spring, but he was a major AAF name. quarterback Josh Johnson is a significant name. He was in training camp many years ago. Casey Sayles, a defensive lineman, was in training camp. Damoun Patterson, the wide receiver, had a notable preseason. Like Tocho, Jamar Summers was one of the top defensive backs in the AAF.
4 Eli Rogers WR 5’11” 176 Louisville
21 Doran Grant CB 5’10” 195 Ohio State
38 Shamarko Thomas S 5’9″ 205 Syracuse
12 Landry Jones QB 6-4 225 Oklahoma
41 Dashaun Phillips CB 5-11 182 Tarleton State
46 Tegray Scales LB 6-0 230 Indiana
96 Winston Craig DE 6-3 288 Richmond
New York Guardians:
16 Matthew McCrane K 5-10 168 Kansas State
21 Jamar Summers CB 5-11 185 Connecticut
22 Dravon Askew-Henry S 5-11 188 West Virginia
68 Garrett Brumfield C 6-3 294 LSU
10 Sammie Coates WR 6-1 210 Auburn
90 Johnny Maxey DE 6-4 293 Mars Hill
91 Caushaud DL 6-5 284 Tusculum
St. Louis Battlehawks:
57 Terence Garvin LB 6’3 242 West Virginia
34 Trey Johnson DB 5’11 161 Villanova
8 Damoun Patterson WR 6’4 192 Youngstown State
11 Brogan Roback QB 6’3 215 Eastern Michigan
90 Casey Sayles DT 6’3 289 Ohio
46 Matthew Thomas LB 6’3 209 Florida State
2 L’Damian Washington WR 6’4 216 Missouri
Tampa Bay Vipers:
35 Marcelis Branch S 5-11 190 Robert Morris
5 Garrett Hartley K 5-8 196 Oklahoma
23 Trey Williams RB 5-8 195 Texas A&M
59 Steven Johnson LB 6-1 239 Kansas
85 Cam Clear TE 6-5 277 Texas A&M
8 Josh Johnson QB 6-3 205 San Diego
29 Jack Tocho SAF 6-0 202 North Carolina State
41 DuJuan Harris RB 5-7 206 Troy