The IFL-XFL combine is this Friday, featuring some exceptional talent from the Indoor Football League. WR Charles Headen III fits the bill, most recently winning Special Teams Player Of The Year with the Frisco Fighters.
Introducing the IFL – Indoor Football League 2023 Special Teams Player of the Year!
For Charles, it has been an uphill battle in the scene of professional football. He’s been through quite a bit throughout his career so far – but continues to push through the noise.
Let’s take a look at what he’s accomplished to this point, and what the journey ahead might look like for one of Arena football’s hottest players.
Early Career & High School
Charles Headen is a competitor. At a young age, he had a strong urge to win, no matter what it might have been. Growing up around family and friends who shared the same mindset just fueled his desire to be the best at everything he did.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always loved competing. Throughout my whole life, I just love being competitive with other people. The objective in any game is to win. I always wanted to be the winner, or on the team who ultimately won. Growing up I watched a lot of football, and it was the first sport that I took very seriously. I just like to compete, and win.”
Winning is something that became a staple for Charles in high school. He attended LaSalle College High School, where dualed as a star football player, and also in track & field. Headen won multiple varsity letters and accolades for his work in football and track.
“My sophomore year was when I was a starter for varsity, which was when I was coming into my own. With LaSalle being a top school in PA it was a great experience to play football on both sides, playing as a wide receiver and also a defensive back. I also did track, so each year was non stop. I might have been better at track, to be honest – I still have records at my school for what I did there.”
For a while, Charles debated whether he wanted to run track in college, or play football. Ultimately, he decided to settle on his first love: football. It wasn’t easy, as he missed his entire junior year with a dislocated shoulder. However, he came back strong during his senior season, helping LaSalle win the PCL Championship that year.
“I had bigger schools recruit me for track, but I felt like I had more opportunities with football. The goal was to do both in college, but most D2 schools (who were showing interest) didn’t allow me to do that. I was originally doing track to help myself get faster for football, so it made sense to stick with the game I loved. I could live without running track, but I couldn’t live without football.”
After an impressive stint at LaSalle, he was primed for success heading to the next level.
Charles Headen ended up playing for Shippensburg University for a few years, where he performed at a high level. It was a seamless fit, having had experience on campus for track outings during his high school years.
“I was already familiar with the school because the track state Championships were held there. When they recruited me for football, it was an easy decision. Shippensburg wasn’t too far from home, I already knew the coaches, and it was in one of the better conferences in D2 football.”
During his time at Shippensburg, Headen racked up almost 1,000 receiving yards, while posting 14 touchdowns. However, during his final year of eligibility, everything shifted. The pandemic took the country by storm, which meant that Shippensburg wasn’t having a football season.
Athlete in the NCAA Transfer Portal looking for a new home
• Charles Headen III • 80 receptions, 909 receiving yards, & 14 touchdowns in 31 games played
This led Headen to transfer to Southern Methodist University, playing for the Mustangs in his senior college season.
“Since I was leaving D2, I wanted to make sure I got to the top level. It was a crazy process, having to go through my coaches to get released. They fully understood the situation, and let me on my way which I appreciated. It was a great year at SMU. I learned a lot. I got to play with and against some guys who ended up going to the NFL. It was pretty cool. I had some great coaches, and made a lot of solid connections while I was there.”
A major benefit for Headen in playing for SMU was attending the school’s pro day. He had a fantastic outing, posting a 4.42 40 yard dash, which was the fastest of the day. In addition, he jumped 39.5” in the vertical jump, which was the highest of anyone in the event.
Headen’s story took some ups and downs post-college. He was granted an opportunity with the CFL’s Roughriders, but was only there for a couple of weeks before being released. He also had a workout with the XFL’s Vegas Vipers, but wasn’t signed.
Then, Charles joined the Frisco Fighters for the 2023 IFL season. This turned out to be an excellent decision, as Headen was one of the top players in the entire league.
“The IFL was a great opportunity. Frisco has been the best team in the league for the last three years, so it was a blessing to sign with them. I was happy to find a team that was able to showcase my skill set in multiple ways. This year I played running back, wide receiver, and kickoff returner, so I was able to show that I could do a variety of different things well. I love how the coaches used me this year. I’d say one of my top skills is my speed. Even though I’m small, I’m not afraid to take a hit, either.”
Headen played quite well in all three phases. As a receiver, he racked up 247 yards and five receiving touchdowns. That being said, the return game is where he shined the brightest. Charles won Special Teams Player of the Year, posting 1,143 kickoff return yards alongside seven special teams touchdowns.
“Where I excelled at the most was returns. I never had a return touchdown in my career, so to have seven of them in the IFL this year was awesome. Coming into the season, I really wanted to develop my game for the next level. I’m glad that I got to the IFL so I could hone in on my skills, and stay ready for whenever my name is called.”
Given his remarkable season in the IFL, odds are Charles Headen will see plenty of attention from other leagues. The IFL is partnered with the XFL, and will be hosting a combine tomorrow (August 4th) for indoor football players to showcase their talents to XFL scouts and coaches.
For Headen, this is a golden opportunity to take a big-time leap. His IFL season just ended a few days ago, but now the focus shifts to what lies ahead.
“It’s crazy, my season just ended. It hasn’t even been a week. Everything right now is more just mentally preparing myself. Coming off the season, there’s not much else I can do to prepare physically other than working on my 40. That’s my strong suit, so I’m focusing on fine tuning some stuff to be in prime shape for Friday. You can’t just wake up and run a 40, you need to prep for it. When it comes to my speed, I’ll take myself against just about anybody.”
While the road hasn’t been easy by any means, Charles is doing whatever it takes to prove to everyone around him that he’s the real deal. All of the hard work that goes on behind the scenes will pay off eventually, which is something that Headen makes a priority.
“The biggest thing in this world is consistency. People see the ‘fun stuff’ on TV, of you scoring touchdowns and whatnot. What they don’t realize is the amount of training that goes into staying in football shape. There’s so many guys out there that can make a play. But, can they make that same play every single day? The athletes in the NFL can make plays all the time, and do it every day in practice and on the field. To give you an example, this season I had seven return touchdowns. But in practice, I had at least 100. It was something that I practiced and visualized every day. You get into that habit of scoring in practice, so it carries over on game day. You don’t just choose when you work hard. A true hard worker is always consistent with it. Consistency is the perfect word, because it applies to everything in life.”
With the IFL-XFL combine just around the corner, Charles Headen has a chance to show the world of professional football what he’s made of. We’re excited to see the outcome on Friday, and wish Charles the best in his performance.
What are your thoughts on Charles Headen attending the IFL-XFL Combine? Which team do you want to see him play for? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!