If you're still up for some more football, here come the Houston Roughnecks!Photo by Sean Pendergast
If you're a fan of the National Football League, football ended a few days ago in Miami. However, if you're just a fan of professional football in any form, then you're getting a ten week bridge to the NFL Draft and the Texans' minicamp and OTA's. Say hello to the second iteration of Vince McMahon's XFL, and say hello to the Houston Roughnecks, who begin their first season of XFL football this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at TDECU Stadium against the Los Angeles Wildcats.
Unlike the first version of McMahon's XFL, which lasted for just one season about twenty years ago and was built as a seeming adjunct to the over the top glitz of his WWE brand, this is football-centric brand, with the highly credible and wildly intelligent Oliver Luck in charge as commissioner of the league. The Roughnecks themselves have a familiar face at the head coaching position, with former Oiler assistant (and head coach at many stops since) June Jones bringing his run-and-shoot attack to the league.
The roster has some very interesting names to look out for, should you plan to take in Saturday's game. Here are six names that should resonate with Texan fans, and fans of the NFL, in general:
10 SAMMIE COATES, WR (6-1, 210, Auburn)
Coates is the rare Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver draft choice that crapped out with that team, and after bouncing to Cleveland, Coates became a Houston Texan in 2018, spending the entire season with the squad that finished 11-5, largely as a special teams contributor. It will be fun to see what kind of numbers Jones' system generates in the XFL, and Coates could be a big beneficiary of the pass heavy attack.
18 CONNOR COOK, QB (6-4, 217, Michigan State)
Before beating the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs a month or so ago, Bill O'Brien had just one playoff win in his head coaching career. It came back in the 2016 season, it was over the Oakland Raiders, and the quarterback was third string rookie Connor Cook. So yeah, until Josh Allen couldn't close the deal on the Texans in January, Cook was the answer to an O'Brien trivia question. Now, he's just one of many quarterbacks in the XFL trying to find a second chance at fulfilling his promise.
21 CHARLES JAMES, CB (5-9, 185, Charleston Southern)
There was a time when James was one of the most popular football players on the Texans. His legend started during the 2015 season of Hard Knocks, when he was one of the last cuts in Texans training camp...
... and continued when he was welcomed back onto the team part way through 2015. He also made the team in 2016, but the air came out of his balloon with a big fumble in the loss to New England in Week 3 of that season, and he has since bounced around to a few teams, before again finding his way to Houston in the XFL. He will be one of the more sought out autograph/selfies on the team by fans of the Roughnecks.
44 ANDRE WILLIAMS, RB (6-0, 220, Boston College)
Williams doesn't have any Houston Texan ties, but he is one fo the more decorated players in the fledgling league. At Boston College, Williams was one of the top running backs in the country, finishing fourth in the Heisman voting in 2013. In the NFl, he had a very solid rookie year with the Giants in 2014 (721 yards, seven touchdowns), before settling into a bit of a journeyman status. At age 27, this might be Williams' last chance at an NFL future.
54 LATROY LEWIS, LB (6-3, 240, Tennessee)
Like Coates and James, Lewis is another Houston Texan short timer, joining the team during the wretched 2017 season, and finding his way onto the field in December, when the team was decimated by injuries. Lewis' high point as a Texan was a fourth quarter sack of the 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo in a December home loss to the Niners.
94 KONY EALY, DE (6-4, 273, Missouri)
Easy is a guy who teased and tantalized during his time in the NFL, showing occasional flashes of brilliance in getting after the quarterback. Perhaps the best game of his career was in the biggest game of his career, as he stuffed the stat sheet in Super Bowl 50 with an interception, a sack, two TFL's, two QB hits, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.