The idea for the American Professional Football Conference happened in the auto showroom of the Jordan and Hupmobile dealership in Canton, Ohio. It was created with intentions on stopping the confusion and chaos in professional football at that time. The APFC was going to be an organized league that would be a one stop shop for all professional football players. The league would consist of 14 teams from cities in the Northeast part of the United States and the name would change to the American Professional Football Association before the first games in the inaugural season.
Over the next 96 years, the NFL has grown into the largest professional sports company in the world bringing in an estimated $12 billion last year, up from $11 billion in 2014. It is the most watched sport in America and the Super Bowl is the most watched program in the world every year. The NFL has created a standard for professional football that is hard to compete with.
But when Vince McMahon decided to create the XFL, his own personal professional football league, he thought it would be a great option for aspiring NFL players to chose during their off-season. It was never meant to compete with the NFL but it was only natural that fans saw it that way. That would end up being the biggest problem for the collapse of the league after just one season.
Vince wanted to bring the wrestling fans over while also giving NFL fans something to watch during the NFL's slow time. However, it failed because the fans just did not see beyond the WWE name attached to the league. It had professional wrestling written all over it. From the team names to the league title itself, this was setting up to be Arena Football on steroids.
As soon as the first game began, with Vince McMahon getting on the mic and cutting a promo for the crowd, it was all downhill from there. The rules kept changing, the teams were struggling to score, and the attendance was dropping, weekly. It was so bad that when it was all said and done, even Vince McMahon called it a, "colossal failure."
After lasting only 10 games, in one season, the XFL closed its' doors forever, leaving nearly 400 professional football players without a job. Some of them would go on to play in the NFL, CFL, or in the Arena Football League while others would retire or give up the sport altogether.
We went back and picked the 15 best players from the XFL and decided to see what they are up to now.
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15 Shante Carver, DE, Memphis Maniax
Unlike most of the XFL players, Shante Carver already played in the NFL. He was actually the Dallas Cowboys first round draft pick in 1994, just after winning back-to-back Super Bowls the two seasons before Carver was drafted. He was going to be their next Charles Haley, according to the NFL scouting reports.
However, he dealt with injuries and a slew of other off-the-field issues including a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's anti-drug policy in 1996. He played one more year and then the Cowboys decided to move on from him and did not resign him.
After trying his luck in the CFL, and failing, he wound up playing in the XFL where he turned into one of the best defensive players in the league and even earned a spot on the All-XFL team. After the XFL shut down, he kept trying to play football and played some arena football before finally retiring. He now coaches football in the town he now lives.
14 Jeremaine Copeland, WR, Los Angeles Xtreme
In his first year of professional football, Jeremaine Copeland (Pictured Left) landed a roster spot in the NFL Europe playing for the Barcelona Dragons. In the one season he played in Spain, he was one of this team's leading receivers with 74 receptions for 821 yards and six touchdowns. That would be his only season in the NFL Europe and the following year he would go to the Canadian Football League, CFL, and also the XFL, in 2001. He split time between the two leagues.
He put up solid numbers in the XFL with 67 receptions, 755 yards, and 5 touchdowns. He was one of the league's scariest players because of his speed and quickness. He was all about the big plays and could break it open at any time in the game. He averaged 11.3 yards per catch and 75.5 yards per game.
Jeremaine headed back to the CFL, following the XFL collapse, and ended up playing for 11 years before finally retiring in 2011. Today, he is coaching the position he played for all those years and was announced as the Saskatchewan Roughriders newest receivers coach in 2015.
13 Joe Tuipala, LB, Las Vegas Outlaws
The former San Diego State award-winning linebacker, Joe Tuipala, is also related to a couple of former NFL players. His uncle was Mosi Tatupu, the New England Patriots running back, and Lofa Tatupu, of the Seattle Seahawks, was his first cousin. So it is easy to see why he picked up a football as a kid, it was in his blood.
Although he was never drafted by any NFL team, he would eventually reach the big time in 2001, following his impressive performance with the XFL. In one season, Joe had 43 tackles, six sacks, and an interception, in only 10 games. He was a beast that showed off his underrated defensive skills that year which led to a short NFL career with the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2001 to 2003 and then with the Washington Redskins in 2005 before heading to the CFL and NFL Europe.
He would retire shortly after that and is now married with a few kids and works as a firefighter in his hometown of Mesa, Arizona.
12 Jim Druckenmiller, QB, Memphis Maniax
Jim Druckenmiller is one of those names that is not easy to forget even though you probably cannot remember where you know this guy from. Jim is best known for being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the 1997 NFL Draft, 26th overall, and then turning into one of the biggest draft busts of all time. He was actually supposed to eventually replace Steve Young after a few years of learning the professional game but he never could catch up to the pace of the NFL and was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 1999. They cut him prior start of the season leaving him ready for the XFL in 2001.
For being such a bust in the NFL, Jim was actually a star in the XFL, leading all QB's in rushing yards while also finishing fourth in passer rating. That would be the final time he played professional football anywhere and would retire shortly after the XFL folded.
Now that he is no longer in football, Jim is an area supervisor in Memphis for A.S. Barboro Inc., which is a beverage distribution company.
11 Dialleo Burks, WR, Orlando Rage
Dialleo Burks was used to winning. He played high school football for the LaGrange High football team in 1991, who were ranked No.1 in the country as the best high school team in the nation. He would follow his success in high school into college where he would play for Eastern Kentucky and become their leading receiver.
Altough he was never drafted, he was signed as a rookie free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles but never earned a spot on the roster and was cut before the season began and then signed to their practice squad. He would bounce back and forth between the active roster and the practice squad before finally being released in 1997. He then played for NFL Europe and eventually found himself back in the NFL, this time in Carolina.
Once his NFL experience ended, Burks went on to play in the XFL where he would help the Orlando Rage win eight games. He played one season and had 34 receptions for 659 yards and seven touchdowns.
After retiring, he would go back home to where it all began and he became the first African-American head coach of the LaGrange High School football team.
10 Darnell McDonald, WR, Los Angeles Xtreme
Although he was never good enough to make it in the NFL, Darnell McDonald was still a solid wide receiver that was once a dangerous deep threat in college at Kansas State and even owns a few receiving records including the record for most receiving yards in the Fiesta Bowl when he caught seven passes for 206 yards during the 1997 game. He would follow that performance with a nine touchdown, 1,092 yard season the next year before being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 1999 NFL Draft.
Darnell had a modest 9 receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown in the only eight NFL games he ever played in. So when the XFL started up, he jumped all over it. It turned out to be a good decision because he caught 34 passes for 456 yards and a league-leading 8 touchdowns. He then played in the CFL and also the AFL before finally calling it quits and retiring from the sport.
Unfortunately, when he retired from football, he dropped off the grid and is a very tough man to find anymore.
9 James Willis, LB, Birmingham Thunderbolts
James Willis is on a very short list of XFL players that can say they won an award during the one year that the league was in existence. He was named the XFL Defensive MVP, and because it folded before the second season, he will forever be the only man that can ever make that claim. He was the leader of the Birmingham defense and he won the award without ever having a sack or even an interception. He did it because he was a monster out there on the field and finished with 70 tackles.
But before he was winning awards in the XFL, Willis was playing in the NFL. He played from 1993 until 1999 for the Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Seattle Seahawks. He managed to start 44 games while picking up 383 tackles, two sacks, four interceptions, and five fumble recoveries. He was never the best player on the field but he was the hardest working, every down.
James is back in the NFL but this time as a defensive assistant linebackers coach for the New Orleans Saints.
8 Derrick Clark, RB, Orlando Rage
At 6'1", 235 pounds, Derrick Clark is built more like a wrecking ball then a running back and that is why he ended up playing fullback when he got to the NFL in 1994. In his one and only season with the NFL, the Denver Broncos brought him in to become their starting fullback and he did a great job doing so, ending his season with 168 yards and three touchdowns. He was a beast that busted down defenders and cleared the path for Leonard Russell, the team's leading RB.
The following season, he was resigned but sent to the World League of American Football, also known as NFL Europe. He became the Rhein Fire's leading rusher that year and would continue playing until 1999. That's when he began his XFL career where he rushed for 395 yards and seven touchdowns.
Not much is known about where Derrick Clark is today but we can safely assume that he is around football in some way or another.
7 Stepfret Williams, WR, Birmingham Thunderbolts
Back in 1997, Sega Sports released NFL Prime Time '98 which ended up becoming the last football game for the Sega Genesis. It was by no means the highest grossing video game ever but it did feature a player by the name of Stepfret Williams (Pictured Fourth Right) as the fifth wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. He was so memorable because if you lined up in five wide sets on offense, you could not stop him. He was not a glitch, just a very fast WR that no team could guard when lined up with four other WR's.
Stepfret was fast, it was not just the video game. He just could not get used to the NFL and only managed to play three seasons, two in Dallas and his final season in Cincinnati. He did have 30 receptions for 308 yards and a touchdown in 1997. But that was about all he did that year.
He almost made the Chargers roster in 2000 but was cut before the season began leaving him wide open to play in the XFL. He wound up in Alabama, playing for the Birmingham Thunderbolts where he put up his best career numbers with 51 receptions, 828 yards, and two touchdowns. He is currently married and the last we heard, was working for Berry Plastics.
6 Antonio Edwards, DE, Las Vegas Outlaws
A lot of the players in the XFL were trying to get into the NFL and were using this as an opportunity to put themselves in front of NFL scouts and coaches, on live national television each week. Antonio Edwards (Pictured Right), the former Valdosta State University defensive end had already made his way into the NFL when the Seattle Seahawks drafted him in the eighth round of the 1993 NFL Draft.
He ended up playing seven seasons in the NFL and even started 31 games in his career and had 16 sacks, 115 tackles, two fumble recoveries, and he even had two defensive touchdowns, which is more than most elite defensive ends have throughout their entire career.
When his time in the NFL ended, he moved onto the XFL and was selected by the Las Vegas Outlaws as the 12th overall pick in the inaugural draft. He and his fellow starting DE, Kelvin Kinney, formed a very dangerous defensive front. He managed only 19 tackles but he also had seven sacks.
He is using that knowledge to coach and is currently in Richmond, Virginia as the defensive line coach for a Collegiate School.
5 Mike Pawlawski, QB, San Francisco Demons
Anyone born in the Los Angeles area, that has some kind of talent, will always end up catching a break at some point throughout their lives. Mike Pawlawski (Pictured Right) was a hometown hero when he signed with the University of California Bears football team and even turned them into the No.8 team in the country in the 1991 season. His leadership skills and football IQ helped him get drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1992, in the eigth round.
His NFL career did not last very long and he ended up moving to the Arena Football League where he played from 1995 until 2000, which led him right into the XFL. As the San Francisco Demons QB, Mike had a completion percentage of 62.6% with 1,659 yards, 13 touchdowns, and only four interceptions, in ten games, making him the leagues most efficient QB.
That would be the last time he played professional football as he moved on to other ventures in his life and is now the color commentator for the University of California's football team and hosts his own show on the Outdoor Channel called Gridiron Outdoors.
4 Kelvin Kinney, DE, Las Vegas Outlaws
If you think playing professional football is easy, take a look at Kelvin Kinney's career. He started off in Washington with the Redskins, in 1996, where he would play for four seasons. This is where the moving around began. From 2000 to 2011, Kelvin played for 13 teams in three different professional leagues, in 11 years. He bounced around between the CFL and AFL, with his one season with the XFL also in the mix.
In the XFL, Kinney tied for the league lead in sacks, with seven. He was tied with his teammate Antonio Edwards who was the other defensive lineman for the Outlaws.
He played with the San Jose SaberCats in the AFL in 2000, then the XFL, and then back to the AFL to play with the Detroit Fury. At the same time, he played in the CFL because they did not play during the same times of the year so he could manage both leagues. He played for the Toronto Argonauts and Edmonton Eskimos during his CFL run, he would bounce between teams for the next few years.
Kelvin Kinney is a tough man to find but what we do know is that he is currently an assistant coach in the FXFL, Fall Experimental Football League, for the Brooklyn Bolts.
3 Rod "He Hate Me" Smart, RB, Las Vegas Outlaws
Rod Smart was very lucky. His timing was excellent because after he left Western Kentucky, he went undrafted in the NFL but was signed by the San Diego Chargers before they released him just prior to the 2000 season. This left him available to join the XFL the following year.
He is most famous for being the man who wore the jersey with his nickname on the back of it. It was one of the most intelligent things a player did in the XFL because it turned him into a memorable player that everyone still talks about, even today. He turned out to be the Las Vegas Outlaws biggest star as he led the team in rushing and was second in receiving, totaling 800 yards and three touchdowns in ten games.
That nickname got him noticed which turned into a contract with the Carolina Panthers as a return specialist. He played four seasons in Carolina before being released and unemployed in 2006.
After such a crazy football career, it is only fitting that Rod Smart would move to Charlotte, North Carolina and become a high school counselor.
2 John Avery, RB, Chicago Enforcers
Right in the middle of his NFL career, John Avery played in the XFL. It worked out perfectly for him because he was a former 1st round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins in 1998, was traded to Denver, and was released right before the XFL season began giving him a chance to show off his skills and earning a paycheck at the same time.
He did more than a great job in his one season playing for the Chicago Enforcers, leading the XFL in rushing with 800 yards. He also rushed for 5 touchdowns while catching 17 passes for 297 yards and two more touchdowns. He was the only non-QB player in the XFL to finish the season with more than 1,000 total yards.
When the league folded, he went to the CFL before eventually making his way back to the NFL in 2003. It did not work out very well and he ended right back in the CFL, where he finished out his career.
He is now working in entertainment as a writer and standup comic.
1 Tommy Maddox, QB, Los Angeles Xtreme
Of all of the thousands of professional football players in the history of the sport, the only person that can call themselves a XFL MVP is Tommy Maddox.
Tommy Maddox ended up leaving UCLA after just two seasons and was drafted by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 1992 NFL Draft as future successor to Broncos Hall of Famer, John Elway. This caused many problems because the Broncos needed help at other positions and Elway believed they were wasting the pick.
After just two seasons in Denver, Tommy was traded to the Rams, who ended up releasing him the next season. He was then signed to the New York Giants and then he tried to get in with the Atlanta Falcons the following year but it failed and he would leave the NFL to become an insurance agent before becoming the New Jersey Red Dogs, of the Arena Football League, QB.
That was when the XFL happened and he shined over the league before winning the XFL MVP and turning that into a new gig in the NFL. He would spend two, of the next three, seasons as the Pittsburgh Steelers starting QB and then eventually becoming a backup. He would retire after the 2005 season and is now one of the assistant coaches for the Grapevine High School baseball team.
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