As we continue taking a deep-dive into the DC Defenders roster, one continuous trend you will see throughout the process is the type of players Defenders head coach Reggie Barlow drafted.
Battle-tested. Adversity is something Barlow mentions heavily in his interviews and pressers, so it is no surprise that his front-seven group exemplifies the concept of overcoming adversity to a tee. Let’s spotlight a few players and share their unlikely journeys to the XFL.
Reggie Northrup II, ILB
When you ask most professional football players what they like to do in the offseason, most say things like vacationing with the family, or just taking time to rest and recover.
Reggie Northrup II is not one of those guys.
Northrup, better known as the “Black Dragon” on the MMA scene, has taken a slightly different approach to his offseason regimen. In December 2020, about nine months after he was out of a job due to COVID folding the XFL, Northrup found himself making his amateur MMA debut. Since then, his time away from football has been dedicated to training MMA. Earning a perfect 6-0 record as an amateur, and 1-0 record in professional fights.
Rewinding back to how Northrup began his football career, as a four-star recruit out of high school Northrup attended Florida State University. FSU was a dream opportunity for the Florida native, who grew up about 160 miles east of Tallahassee in Jacksonville.
After four years at FSU, Northrup entered the 2016 NFL Draft and went undrafted. He was picked up shortly after the draft by Washington as an UDFA, but was cut only a week later for unknown reasons.
Following a couple tryouts and a short practice squad stint with the Rams, Northrup decided to sign with the Montreal Alouettes in the CFL. This would only last a short amount of time though, as Northrup was later drafted to the Orlando Apollos as a part of the AAF in 2019. Unfortunately, that did not last longer either due to the league’s dissolvement after eight games.
This all led to Reggie Northrup being drafted to the XFL in 2020 with the Tampa Bay Vipers. But Northrup only started one of the five games in Tampa, tallying 15 total tackles and 1 sack before the league was shut down.
In 2022, Northrup made up for the disappointing XFL campaign with a stellar season for the Houston Gamblers in the USFL. Northrup finished with his highest total tackles in a season (82), since his senior year at FSU.
Northrup now finds himself back in the XFL after being selected by the DC Defenders in the supplemental portion of the draft in January. With training camp now in full swing, Northrup will have to temporarily hang up the mitts, and strap on the helmet and pads.
Another #USFL athlete is headed to the #XFL: Reggie Northrup II, LB for the @USFLGamblers, has been signed by the @XFLDefenders.
Northrup played in the XFL in 2020, putting up impressive numbers for the Tampa Bay Vipers. Now he's back for 2023.pic.twitter.com/GBLZBOUHyD
— James Larsen (@JamesLarsenPFN) January 1, 2023
Anthony Hines III, ILB
As a four-star prospect out of high school in 2017 , Anthony Hines III was thrusted into action as a freshman at Texas A&M University. Hines shined in the 13 games played his freshman year, notching 33 total tackles with 3 sacks and a forced fumble, earning him the honors of Freshman All-SEC Team.
After suffering a season ending torn ACL in early 2018, Hines came back the following season and started all 13 games for the Aggies.
Hines was used in a variety of ways at Texas A&M, best described as a hybrid linebacker role. Here is an example of Hines’ versatility as a pass-rusher:
Anthony Hines III @TheAntHines_Era with the sack and forced fumble recovered by the Aggies. He has been all over the field today! pic.twitter.com/qbH7SwvMVS
— #BTHOoffseason (@TamuHighlights) September 16, 2017
Hines decided to opt-out of the 2020 season due to personal reasons.
In a surprising move, Hines decided to forgo his remaining eligibility and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. With injury history and limited college film, Hines went undrafted and soon after signed with the Dallas Cowboys.
After impressing in camp, Hines suffered an untimely injury in the Cowboys first preseason game, placing him on the injured reserve before being waived soon after. This began a slew of practice squad stints for Hines, who most notably was with the Rams throughout the 2022 offseason and preseason. Unfortunately though, he was waived by the Rams during the final rounds of cuts, and has been unable to latch onto any NFL team since.
Anthony Hines III was selected in the 5th round of the defensive front-seven portion of the draft by DC. It will be very interesting to see how defensive coordinator Gregg Williams takes advantage of Hines’ versatility and uses him in his traditional 4-3 scheme.
Andre Mintze, EDGE
Mintze enters the 2023 XFL season very green when it comes to spring football.
The speedy edge rusher went undrafted out of Vanderbilt in the 2021 NFL Draft, but was picked up shortly after the conclusion of the seventh round by the Broncos.
Mintze impressed early in Denver, eventually making the 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent. Mintze’s rookie season was cut short though, as he was placed on the injured reserve on October 19, 2021. Amazingly, Mintze was able to make a full recovery that same season and was activated off the IR on January 1st, 2022. He finished his rookie season with 64 defensive snaps in 6 games. Mintze was later waived by the Broncos on May 12th, 2022.
After a short two-month stint with the Vikings in training camp, it was mostly quiet for Mintze.
That is, until he was recently drafted by the DC Defenders in the second round of the defensive front-seven portion of the XFL draft. Mintze, 24, now has a golden opportunity ahead of him in DC with Gregg Williams leading the charge on defense.
Watch here as Mintze displays his speed off the edge at Vanderbilt:
Denver Broncos UDFA Andre Mintze is reportedly having a strong camp. I enjoyed his film quite a bit off the edge. Disruptive, energetic player. Love the way he uses swipes (especially the two hand swipe) to blow by offensive tackles. pic.twitter.com/lDsEpaWedq
— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) August 4, 2021
Other linebackers currently on the roster include: Caliph Brice, Jamal Brooks, Francis Bernard, Ferrod Gardner, Terrill Hanks, and Aaron Sterling.
Jacob Panasiuk, DL
Throughout his collegiate career at Michigan State, Jacob Panasiuk was continuously praised for his high motor and active hands at the point of attack. Unfortunately, that was not enough to get him drafted in 2022 due to his lack of athleticism and poor lateral agility. Nonetheless, Panasiuk was scooped up by the Commanders post-draft and spent camp/preseason with Washington until he was waived in the final round of cuts.
Now Panasiuk finds himself back in the nation’s capital, this time with the XFL, and with an even bigger chip on his shoulder.
Other defensive lineman currently on the roster include: Niles Scott, Jesse Aniebonam, Josh Avery, Davin Bellamy, Fadol Brown, Malik Fisher, Dame Ndiaye, Jarrell Owens, Markell Utsey, and Joseph Wallace.
What are your hopes for the 2023 DC Defenders campaign? Let us know your thoughts down in the comments below or join the conversation on Discord.