For the first time in 35 years spring professional outdoor football is back in the Tampa Bay area as the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers take to the field in their first ever game to open the 2020 regular season Sunday at the New York Guardians.
The re-boot of Vince McMahon’s Football League commenced on Saturday, when the D.C. Defenders defeated the Seattle dragons 31-19 in the nation’s capital and then, the Houston Roughnecks took out the L.A. Wildcats 37-17 in game two in the Lone Star State.
Now, the other four teams in the professional wrestling promoter’s relaunch of the XFL are in action on Sunday. And, that includes the Vipers led by former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and former Bears and CFL Grey Cup-winning coach, Marc Trestman at the helm.
We wrote earlier this week, when the Vipers finalized their roster there will be some familiar names to state football fans when they take the field in the Meadowlands this afternoon.
That’s led by Murray, who was drafted in the NFL by the Kansas City Chiefs but is better known in Tampa, as he won a state championship at Plant High School before heading to star at QB for Georgia. He will be challenged by former Marshall quarterback Chase Linton, but also USF record-breaking quarterback, Quinton Flowers.
Flowers, who lit up Raymond James Stadium game after game with the Bulls, is listed on the final roster as a QB / RB for his tremendous quickness and rushing stats from his USF days. It’s not expected that Flowers will see a lot of action at quarterback, except maybe on an occasional “Wildcat situation.” It will be fascinating to see if Trestman, who has long been a previous successful offensive coordinator in the NFL, uses him as a running back and maybe, even a receiver to start the season.
There are other recognizable names from the state like: former Gators and Cleveland Browns receiver Antonio Callaway. Although, Callaway has had a checkered career involving a drug suspension at the University of Florida and then also in the NFL before the Browns released him last season.
The Vipers also kept former Buccaneer wide receiver Donteea Dye on their final roster, as well.
And, a familiar name will be carrying the ball some for the Vipers, at least to begin the season. That’s De’Veon Smith, a former Michigan College running back, who played briefly with the Dolphins in 2017. However, Smith also starred for Steve Spurrier and Orlando in last Spring’s one and only year of the Alliance of American Football League.
Smith will battle against former Florida State running back, Jacques Patrick and Gators running back, Mack Brown. Some more familiar names will include former Florida Gator defensive lineman CeCe Jefferson, and UCF defensive back Rannell Hall.
Speaking of Spurrier, the outstanding Heisman winning Gators QB, who eventually led Florida to a National Title in 1996, was the coach of the previous Spring football entry in Tampa, the USFL’s Bandits from 1983-85. The wildly successful Bandits made the playoffs each of the three years in front of nearly sold out crowds every game behind Spurrier’s offensive innovation.
And clearly, McMahon and the league are trying to regain that interest in a market that enjoyed success 30+ years ago.
The Vipers defense will be coordinated by former flamboyant Houston Oilers and Atlanta Falcons head coach Jerry Glanville. Glanville was always known for his aggressive physical defenses, when he coached in the NFL and has recently been a college head coach at Portland State and a college defensive coordinator in the Pacific Northwest.
The Guardians, who are obviously making their debut are quarterback by former Penn State and Raiders QB Matt McGloin. The Vegas sports books have made New York a three point favorite in this opener.
Tampa Bay will play its first two games on the road before opening at home on Saturday February 22nd with Houston. And, Sunday’s game is televised nationally by Fox Sports and will be followed by the remaining two teams who have yet to play their first game St Louis and Dallas.