How the XFL kept some Vikings hoping to make it to the NFL

Mention the song “Humble And Kind” to quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, running back Abram Smith and receiver Lucky Jackson and everyone will smile.

Singer-songwriter Tim McGraw’s country ballad served as the soundtrack of spring for the trio as they pursue their dream of playing professional football.

After being passed over by the NFL, Ta’amu, Smith and Jackson teamed up with the XFL’s DC Defenders. That gave them a platform to prove themselves and they did just that by leading the league’s most prolific offense.

Meanwhile, Defenders head coach Reggie Barlow would regularly begin team briefings with the song “Humble And Kind” to ensure his players never excelled themselves even when they began to succeed.

“It’s human nature for men to start feeling themselves,” Barlow said. “Let’s calm down by listening to Tim McGraw.”

The sanctity of this message has followed Ta’amu, Smith and Jackson to the NFL, where they recently completed training camp with the Vikings. They have all walked through the TCO Performance Center with a sense of humility, grateful for the opportunity that has been presented to them, yet confident enough to know they belong.

“It’s great to be able to work with these guys again,” said Ta’amu, who signed with the Vikings last week to join Smith and Jackson, who were already in training camp. “It’s always good to have a few familiar faces and it has made the transition to a new team that much easier.”

The fact that Ta’amu, Smith and Jackson all chose to join the Vikings is a testament to their hard work with the Defenders. They were all among the best players in their respective positions: Ta’amu was named XFL Offensive Player of the Year, Smith became the XFL’s leading rusher by a wide margin, and Jackson was named the XFL’s top receiver, according to Pro Football Focus.

“It’s a nice little trifecta,” Smith said. “We did our thing there, and now we’re here.”

That’s the XFL’s macro-level thesis, according to Doug Whaley, the league’s senior vice president of player personnel. As a former general manager of the Buffalo Bills, Whaley has a very good understanding of the NFL and emphasized the importance of providing players with an alternative if they don’t make it straight out of college.

“Some players may have fallen through the cracks,” Whaley said. “Now they have a chance to grow in the XFL and potentially make a contribution in the NFL.”

While the XFL can often be a stepping stone towards their ultimate goal for some players, Whaley noted that it can also be a soft landing for some players who still want to compete in the pro ranks. Both have advantages.

“It’s something that is badly needed in the football ecosystem,” Whaley said. “It will only benefit everyone involved and everyone who loves football.”

The XFL lifestyle was unique, which Ta’amu, Smith and Jackson all talked about as they recounted their experiences. All eight teams trained in Arlington, Texas most days of the week, staying at nearby hotels and training at various stadiums in the area. They then flew to their respective hometowns for the games, with both teams flying on the same plane.

As hard-fought as the games were throughout the ten-game regular season, perhaps the most intense part of the entire XFL has been the league-wide training camps.

“There was fighting left and right,” Ta’amu said. “We would go through walkthroughs and the guys would go full throttle. You put people in a situation where they know this could be their last chance and they will do whatever it takes to make it happen. We grew together and made a good team out of it.”

The process of getting everyone on the same page happened slowly for the defenders and then all at once. The coaching staff threw players out of practice for fights, holding them accountable while emphasizing that if they didn’t succeed in private, they wouldn’t succeed in public.

“It was beautiful to look at,” said Barlow, who played receiver for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the late 1990s. “Our coaching staff got the message and Paul Revere passed it on to the players and they have to be credited for getting it and implementing it.”

The success spoke for itself as the Defenders emerged as the best team in the league, finishing the regular season with a 9-1 record before being defeated by the Arlington Renegades in the XFL Championship.

“We were the winningest team in the XFL,” Smith said. “That alone speaks for what we can do on the field.”

Perhaps the biggest problem the XFL will face going forward is the very fabric of the league itself. If a player is the star in the XFL at any point, they’re likely to get a chance in the NFL.

“We see it the other way around,” Whaley said. “If the best players in our league show that this is the path to the ultimate goal, then we can recruit even more players in the next cycle. It proves to players that the XFL can be a good option. There’s something about it that can take them where they want to go.”

That’s something Ta’amu, Smith and Jackson can all definitely say after playing in the XFL.

“Everyone knew if they went there and took care of the business, they might have a shot at the next level,” Jackson said. “We all took advantage of that, got some good stuff on tape, and this is where it landed us.” How the XFL kept some Vikings hoping to make it to the NFL

Linh is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button