The XFL seemed to be a huge success when it was first established back in 2001. It was a professional football league that was founded by the World Wrestling Federation (now the WWE) and it was owned by Vince McMahon and NBC Sports’ Dick Ebersol. That seemed like the perfect combination for success in a sport dominated by physical aptitude.
The first XFL consisted of 475 players that were selected by the league’s 8 teams from a pool of approximately 1,600 or so eligible players. These definitely weren’t the best athletes that the NFL has ever seen, but a lot of them sure do have some interesting stories and one guy even had a statue that depicted one of the greatest plays in New Orleans Saints history. There is even a guy who nicknamed himself “He Hate Me” and even a guy who is now a minister. Some of these guys even played professional baseball.
Some of these guys even barely saw time in professional sports, while others had a lengthy career playing football. Some guys even managed a lengthy career in the NFL and a handful of guys even have a Super Bowl ring to show for their time in the league. Sure the XFL was only around for a season, but it made for some entertaining storylines, and even elevated some guys back into the NFL. Seven of these players even played in an NFL Super Bowl.
The first most known player from the XFL that made it to the NFL was Tommy Maddox. Tommy Maddox was the starting quarterback of the XFL’s Los Angeles Xtreme. He was named league MVP and led his team to the first and only XFL Championship. In the one season, Maddox threw for 2,186 yards and 18 touchdowns with 9 interceptions. After the XFL folded, Maddox was signed by the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers and even became their starting quarterback in 2002, leading them to a 10–5-1 regular season record and also to the playoffs. Maddox eventually lost the starting QB spot to Ben Roethlisberger, but won a Super Bowl ring when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. He played for the Steelers from 2001 until 2005.
The next most known player from the XFL that made it to the NFL was Rod “He Hate Me” Smart. Rod Smart was one of the XFL’s most notable players, with his “He Hate Me” moniker on the back of his jersey. He had a successful season with the league and later played for the Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers and Oakland Raiders in the NFL. In 2004, Smart was on the Panthers’ roster when they won the NFC Championship, but lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 38. Smart was primarily a kick returner for the Panthers during his time, though he received a few carries as a running back and caught a few passes.
Another player from the XFL that made it to the NFL was Steve Gleason. Steve Gleason, who was a safety, was selected 191st by the Birmingham Thunderbolts in the 2001 XFL Draft after he was released by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2000. He was later signed by the New Orleans Saints and spent time on their practice squad and produced one of the most memorable moments in Saints franchise history. He blocked a punt against the Atlanta Falcons in the first quarter of a game in 2006 at the Superdome in New Orleans. His teammate recovered the block in the end zone for a touchdown to fire up the crowd in the team’s first game in New Orleans in 21 months following the devastation Hurricane Katrina left on the city.
The fourth most known player from the XFL that made it to the NFL was Mike Furrey. Mike Furrey didn’t have much of a career before playing with the XFL’s Las Vegas Outlaws in 2001. Furrey was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2000 by the Indianapolis Colts, but he never saw a regular season game that season as he was waived at the end of training camp. With the XFL’s Outlaws, Furrey finished the season with 18 receptions for 243 yards and a touchdown. He then moved to the New York Dragons in the Arena Football League, where in 2002, he led the league in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. That year he caught 46 touchdowns, tying an AFL single-season record. From there he was in the NFL through the 2010 season (though he never made it to the regular season with the Redskins in 2010). Furrey led the NFC in receptions during 2006 and finished his NFL career with 221 receptions for 2,298 yards and seven touchdowns.
The last most known player from the XFL that made it to the NFL was Craig Whelihan. Craig Whelihan is one of the most successful XFL players that made it to the NFL because of his great NFL statistics and his amazing career after playing in the NFL. Whelihan spent his first few years as a professional athlete with the San Diego Chargers, who drafted the quarterback in the sixth round of the 1995 draft. Whelihan had more chances than most of the other quarterbacks in XFL history, but never truly succeeded as a consistent starter in the NFL. But Whelihan had talent, and his stats showed it. While playing in the NFL, Whelihan recorded 110 touchdowns and just 28 interceptions. He also had 5,978 passing yards and a 102.01 quarterback rating. He even rushed in 11 touchdowns. His first season out of the NFL was in the XFL with the Memphis Maniax and the Chicago Enforcers. He went on to play in the Arena Football League and won a championship in that league and played all the way through the 2007 season.
Other notable players from the XFL that made it to the NFL include:
– John Avery (Minnesota, Denver, Miami)
– Aaron Bailey (Indianapolis)
– Paris Lenon (Denver, Arizona, St. Louis, Detroit, Green Bay)
– José Cortéz (Indianapolis, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas, Minnesota, Washington, New York Giants)
– Kelly Herndon (Tennessee, Seattle, Denver)
– Daryl Hobbs (Seattle, New Orleans, Oakland, Los Angeles)
– Corey Ivy (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, New England)
– Charles Jordan (Green Bay, Seattle, Miami, Los Angeles)
– Kevin Kaesviharn (Tennessee, New Orleans, Cincinnati)
– Rashaan Salaam (Green Bay, Cleveland, Chicago)
The success of the XFL is well documented despite only having one season as the league was able to produce such amazing and talented players. It will be quite interesting to see which players the new XFL will produce and how well those players will make an impact to the XFL and possibly for their careers after the XFL.
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