The start of the NFL season is less than two weeks away, but it will be a slightly longer wait for professional football to return to St. Louis.
We’ve known for a while that the recreated XFL, a former professional league that was short-lived nearly two decades ago, would be coming back in 2020 and bringing a franchise to St. Louis.
We found out late last week that the new franchise would be known as the St. Louis BattleHawks.
The professional sports scene in the gateway city has continued to grow even more since the announcement of the XFL franchise as Major League Soccer has also announced the coming formation of a St. Louis team in 2022.
The XFL franchise in St. Louis fills a void left behind by the NFL’s Rams, which made the unpopular choice to relocate from St. Louis to Los Angeles in 2016.
The BattleHawks will join fellow XFL franchises the Dallas Renegades, Houston Roughnecks, Los Angeles Wildcats, New York Guardians, Seattle Dragons, Tampa Bay Vipers and DC Defenders in the second inaugural season for the league when it kicks off on Feb. 8, less than one week after the NFL postseason concludes.
The old XFL, which lasted for one season in 2001, gave us such names to remember as Rod “He Hate Me” Smart and brought about a resurgence in the career of quarterback Tommy Maddox.
Maddox led the Los Angeles Xtreme to the XFL’s only league championship and signed later that year to play with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Prior to his XFL run, Maddox had been out of the NFL for six years.
Maddox was signed to be the backup to Kordell Stewart, but ended up moving into the starter’s role four weeks into the 2002 season.
While he ultimately lost the starter’s job when the Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger in 2004, Maddox remained the backup and was a part of the Steelers’ championship team during the 2005-06 season.
So, who is going to make their mark in this new XFL? We will find out more about how the teams will be composed during the league’s draft in October.
Thus far, former NFL quarterbacks Landry Jones and Ryan Mallett are reportedly going to be a part of the league. Rumors are circulating the league could also court former NFL stars like quarterback Colin Kaepernick and wide receiver Dez Bryant.
As NFL teams pare down their rosters at the end of training camp, the XFL could start scooping up players that don’t make an NFL team.
That would pose a tough decision for many of those athletes who may want to hold out for an opportunity that may arise in the NFL as the season progresses.
The XFL will also reportedly consider adding players not yet eligible to play in the NFL. The NFL does not allow the addition of players less than three years removed from the graduation of their high school class.
Depending on the success of the XFL, a professional league without that age restriction could set the new league up to compete against NCAA teams in the acquisition of talent.
With a growing sentiment against the NCAA’s unwillingness to allow its athletes to be paid, such competition could change the landscape of college football.
What we know about the XFL so far is that it will explore rules variations to try to differentiate itself from the NFL. What those variations will be, we aren’t completely sure yet.
We know that games will be broadcast on ESPN, ABC, FOX and FS1.
About the BattleHawks, we know that they will take up residence in the former home of the Rams at The Dome at America’s Center, formerly the Edward Jones Dome.
We know that the team will be coached by Jonathan Hayes, who will also be the team’s general manager.
Hayes, a former tight end for the Kansas City Chiefs and Steelers, has been the tight ends coach for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals for much of the past 16 seasons.
During his NFL tenure, Hayes made 153 catches for 1,718 yards and 13 touchdowns and played in three AFC Championship games and one Super Bowl.
Hayes also was the special teams coach for the University of Oklahoma from 1999-2002 under Bob Stoops.
Stoops himself will be in charge of the XFL’s Dallas franchise, marking his return to coaching after retiring in 2016.
St. Louis native Kurt Hunzeker will be the BattleHawks president. Hunzeker is formerly the Vice President of Marketing Strategy for Minor League Baseball.
The sports scene in St. Louis could not be any hotter right now with the Blues having won the Stanley Cup this summer and the Cardinals leading the National League Central.
I would expect the city’s football fans to turn up in force for the BattleHawks inaugural season, if for no other reason than to rub Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s face in it.