They certainly weren’t there for the money.
Not a cent was made Saturday at Memorial Stadium. But there they were, about 100 football players at Saturday’s XFL Summer Showcase in Seattle, going through testing and drills in hopes that they might be part of the new league that begins in April.
“There were more than a handful of guys here who are on that edge, of not just playing with us, but playing in the NFL,” Seattle coach and GM Jim Zorn said. “There was some really good talent here.”
There were former Seahawks, former UW Husky stars, former WSU Cougars standouts and even a couple of ex-Sounders. And all seemed to have a great time, hoping to become part of the pool for the league’s draft, which will take place in October.
“I just love this game,” said Keith Price, the former Husky quarterback (2010-13) who is second in school history in career touchdown passes (75) and third in passing yards (8,919). “Every year I am going in trying to make a team.”
Price was signed by the Seahawks as a free agent out of college and spent three seasons in the Canadian Football League (2014-16), starting one game for Saskatchewan. He was playing for the Birmingham Iron this year in the Alliance of American Football, starting once, before the league abruptly folded a couple of months ago.
Price, who turns 28 on Friday, is not ready to quit playing.
“Hopefully I am here, but I will be glad to play for anybody,” said Price, who lives in Los Angeles. “But this is home. Why wouldn’t I want to play here?”
Another quarterback with a big name at the camp was Jake Heaps, the former Skyline High School (Sammamish) star who played for Brigham Young, Miami and Kansas. Heaps, who spent time on the Seahawks practice squad in 2016, works as a host on 710 ESPN Seattle and is director of operations and head coach for the Russell Wilson Quarterback Academy. But Heaps, who turned 28 last week, still has desire to compete.
“I love the game, and I still believe I have what it takes to play at the highest level,” said Heaps, who said he is “having a blast” working on radio. “To play here in Seattle in front of loved ones, family and friends and people that know who I am, that would be an incredible opportunity.”
Heaps enjoyed going through Saturday’s event, which not only included testing, but one-on-one and seven-on-seven drills.
“It was awesome,” he said. “Anytime you can come out here and get a chance to compete, that’s all you want to do, to showcase your abilities,” he said. “Hopefully, I was able to do that today and I feel confident with how I threw it.”
Tani Tupou, who played at Archbishop Murphy and UW, has been to the highest level, and wants to get back. A defensive tackle at UW (2012-15), he played as a fullback for the Seahawks in their season-opening win in 2016 over Miami before being released. He played one game with the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. Most recently, he was playing for the San Diego Fleet of the AAF.
“I’m still chasing the dream,” said Tupou, 26, who played in 46 games with UW and had 59 tackles. “I just need an opportunity and have fun with it. You’ve got to deep down really love the game to really get the most out of it. Don’t get me the wrong, the paying stuff is nice, but it’s fun. It’s fun.”
Linebacker Peyton Pelluer, who just finished a stellar career at Washington State, was younger than most of the other players on hand Saturday.
“My favorite part of the day was when we were doing seven-on-sevens. (Linebacker) Diandre Campbell was in there who played at UW with my brother (Cooper) — and he came over to my house when I was in high school a couple of times — and Jake Heaps was at quarterback, the Skyline great, and then I am there at linebacker,” said Pelluer, 24. “So that was one of the weirder time-warp scenarios of the day.”
Pelluer, who wants to coach someday, is hoping to get signed by an NFL team this summer.
“I am just staying ready and waiting for a call once teams get into camp, or in the season when there is more attrition,” he said. “But I think this is going to be a good league, and football is football. It would be fun either way, but obviously I’ve been dreaming of playing in the NFL since I was a little kid.”
- There are Summer Showcases at each of the eight XFL cities, with two remaining to be held. “They’ve gone well,” said XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck, who was in Seattle on Saturday. “We’ve had about 100 guys per city, and these are all guys who are good football players and in many cases, college All-Americans and they have spent time in NFL training camps, CFL training camps, etc. They are guys who want to play football and there is good quality. And this is just a sliver of the talent I think we will have.”
- Luck said each team in the league will have a Tier-One quarterback, and the league is considering allocating them, instead of making them part of the draft process. He said the league will be playing close attention to the backup quarterback battles, including in Seattle where Geno Smith and Paxton Lynch will likely vie to back up Russell Wilson. The player who loses that battle could be a target of the XFL.
- Linebacker John Lotulelei, who was on the Seahawks’ roster in 2013, was one of the participants.
- Among the kickers at the Showcase were former Sounders Marcus Hahnemann and Lamar Neagle.
- RB Bishop Sankey and DT Alameda Ta’amu, former Husky stars who played in the NFL, were scheduled to participate but did not.
- Price helped resurrect UW’s football program, leading the team to a 9-4 record and a win in the Fight Hunger Bowl as a senior in 2013. “Now they have taken it to a whole different level and I am just proud of what Coach Pete (Chris Petersen) has done over there. I am so proud and so happy. Anywhere I go, I am throwing out my W’s.”
- Pelluer was granted a sixth season of collegiate eligibility and took advantage, leading WSU (11-2) in tackles with 98. “It was everything I expected and more,” said Pelluer, one of five Cougars to participate. “To go 11-2 and an Alamo Bowl win — I would have hoped for an Apple Cup championship — but it was a great year.
NOTE: This story has been clarified to show that the league is considering allocating quarterbacks and has not made the decision on whether it will do so.