The deep powder blue of the new helmets for the XFL’s Dallas Renegades was the first thing to hit me as I walked into the University of Texas’ Maverick Stadium. It stood in sharp contract to the last visit here for the Summer Showcase. The blue is even deeper and brighter in person while still retaining the powder blue shade somehow. It is really looking like a football team now.
Indeed, this Renegades mini camp was a completely different event than the Summer Showcase. But you couldn’t help but compare the two and see the growth in not only the team but the league as a whole. Same top quarterback was there, Landry Jones, Lance Dunbar was there again and same coaches of course. But now everyone was decked out in crisp, new Renegades gear looking the part of a team and building process. The Renegades even had two brand new, beautifully wrapped, lifted and polished Ford trucks greeting you as you walked in. One being an F250 and the other a Raptor. Almost like they couldn’t decide which was coolest and just got them both.
At one end of the field there were blow up jump houses for the kids, football throwing games, DJs spinning, free mini footballs, nice quality poster handouts and Renegades branded pop up shades all around. This was a professional looking event and the XFL must have spent tons of extra money just for the fan’s enjoyment for this event. The XFL didn’t want to just show a little open practice, they went above and beyond to interact at this event and from the look of things the fans appreciated it.
How about the football? As you would expect it was much more polished with full team organization compared to the Summer Showcases. There were lots of 7 on 7 drills with the linemen working on the side and then also full team drills. Toward the end they started doing some good drills for the fans throwing several long balls, generating ooooos, awwws and cheers from the crowd. One of the best of the day came from a long, 40-yard pass in the air, to their #1 draft pick Jeff Badet that really got the crowd into it.
Lance Dunbar and Cameron Artis-Payne both had some nice runs during the team drills. Now they weren’t full tackling so they might have gone down earlier, but a good drill is a good drill. As mentioned, Jeff Badet looked good and Stacy Coley had a couple nice grabs.
Something else I noticed was the fun all the players were having. Everyone was watching and taking it serious of course but also smiling, laughing and generally having a good time. You could just feel that this league is doing good things for lots of people.
With that fun, the intensity was also very ramped up from the Showcases. It had been a while since I had been around professional football defensive linemen full practicing and let me tell you these guys get the heck after it.
Defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat had a couple full wraparound arm pads on and would put his left arm right at the facemask of the player. Then they would go….at the “snap” the player would backhand across with his right arm to get the hand out of his face and then punch across his body with the left arm hitting Jeffcoat so hard and fast it sounded like hitting a wrestling mat with a bat. Then they would flip around to the left side and be a couple yards down the field by the time the sound even registers in your head, the d-linemen yelling as they go. I was not in their path of course but with the intensity my instinct made me step back just a couple more feet to be safe.
It sure makes you respect the fight these linemen get in 50 or 60 times a game. It also gives you a little more leeway for the next time your teams offensive linemen get a holding penalty. You must be one tough SOB to block professional defensive linemen. It is an entirely different game on the insides as compared to the skill position players.
All in all, this was another great event put on by the XFL and Dallas Renegades. The players and coaches are growing and developing right before our eyes and us XFL fans have this great opportunity to grow with them this inaugural year. This league is going to be playing some good ball come February 8th and hopefully those powder blue helmets will still be catching eyes, like it did mine for years to come.