The XFL hosted an invite-only showcase at Jackson State University on July 16 for HBCU football players, and league co-owner Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson said he would have jumped at an opportunity like that.
“On a 55-man NFL roster, I was always guy 56,” he told ESPN during the showcase. Johnson was a linebacker at Miami University.
The XFL made its debut in 2001 and folded after one season. The league came back in 2020 and St. Louis was home to its most successful franchise. It became a pandemic casualty, but its return is set for February 2023.
While the XFL has announced it will have eight teams, and its coaches have been hired, there still is no word where the teams will be located. It is a waiting game for St. Louis.
"There's a different kind of hunger and grit with HBCU players," Johnson said.
“"We had a great time showcasing those players...not only meeting their dream with our opportunity but letting them know we care
Notable former HBCU players that participated
Aqeel Glass, Alabama A&M, quarterback: The SWAC player of the year threw for 3,568 yards and 36 TDs against 7 interceptions last season. He threw for 400 yards or more five times and went 259-414 passing.
Keonte Hampton, Jackson State, linebacker: The former SWAC player of the year recorded 79 tackles and four sacks in helping the Tigers reach the Celebration Bowl.
Tyrin Ralph, Arkansas Pine-Bluff, receiver: Ralph was an FCS second-team All-American selection in 2021. He had 892 all-purpose yards, including a career high 279 against Mississippi Valley State.
David Watford, Hampton, quarterback: Watford signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2016 but was released in 2017. He has four years of experience playing in the Canadian football League with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
NFL, Ice Cube initiative
The National Football League is partnering with Contract with Black America Institute, an economic inclusion-focused initiative led by artist and entrepreneur O’Shea Jackson, also known as Ice Cube. The CWBA and NFL partnership enhances the NFL’s dedication to increasing economic equity and partnerships with Black owned businesses.
“For more than a year, the CWBA Institute has been working closely with the NFL on identifying resources to build stronger, more substantive economic partnerships with the Black community,” said Ice Cube. “Our team at CWBA is focused on building corporate partnerships with measurable economic growth outcomes for Black communities across the country. We believe this is a giant step in the right direction.”
The NFL has spent and allocated $125 Million with Black owned and operated businesses such as Ariel Investments, CityFirst/Broadway Bank, Cover Communications, and Fearless Technology during the last year.
“City First Bank is pleased to have formed a strategic partnership with the National Football League and Contract With Black America,” said City First Bank President & CEO Brian Argrett. “This partnership supports and accelerates each organization’s commitment to ensuring that minority businesses have access to capital and opportunities to fuel their growth.
Partnerships like this are critical to driving equitable economic change within the Black community as well as supporting the growth of City First Bank and other Black-led and Black-owned financial institutions that deploy capital for economic growth and empowerment.”
“Our partnership with CWBA is another reminder that partnering with intentional organizations is critical to everything we do at the League,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“Black businesses play a leading role in our country’s economic prosperity. We understand these businesses have not always had the opportunity for exponential growth, so we are pleased to have partners like Ice Cube and his organization, CWBA, in a continued, collective push toward greater economic inclusion.”