DC Defenders

DC Defenders win inaugural XFL game with crowd of over 17,000

DC Defenders win inaugural XFL game with crowd of over 17,000

Winning football has returned to Washington, D.C.

The D.C. Defenders of the newly formed XFL beat the Seattle Dragons 31-19 on Saturday afternoon in front of an announced crowd of 17,163 at Audi Field in the nation’s capital.

It was the first game of the revamped XFL’s 2020 season and there was no shortage of big plays throughout the contest. The league’s media accessibility and reconfigured rule book were put on full display as Defenders head coach Pep Hamilton spoke to sideline reporters at the end of scoring drives and teams chose between going for one, two or three extra points after touchdowns.

D.C. quarterback Cardale Jones, who won the College Football Playoff National Championship with Ohio State in 2015, threw for 291 yards and two touchdowns—with one going to former Redskins wide receiver Rashad Ross on a 31-yard toss and the other coming off a trick play that included two handoffs, a pitch and a ball thrown deep down field.

The Dragons and Defenders exchanged blows in a first half that ended on a 54-yard field goal off the foot of D.C. kicker Ty Rausa. Only eight NFL kickers made a field goal longer than Rausa’s in 2019.

After D.C. jumped out ahead early in the third quarter, Dragons quarterback Brandon Silvers hit Austin Proehl for a 57-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 19-19. That would remain the score until Jones connected with Ross to give the Defenders a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

The Dragons made things interesting with a drive into Defenders territory a few minutes into the fourth, but former Alabama defensive back Bradley Sylve picked off a Silvers' pass and ran it back 69 yards to pad D.C.’s lead.

After picking up their first win in franchise history, the Defenders will turn their attention to the New York Guardians. D.C. will once again play host, with kickoff scheduled for 2 p.m.

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How XFL's DC Defenders coach Pep Hamilton is working from home during coronavirus pause

How XFL's DC Defenders coach Pep Hamilton is working from home during coronavirus pause

The DC Defenders had a perfect 3-0 home record with eyes set on winning the championship when the COVID-19 coronavirus put their season on hold. 

But the eventual reality we are all too familiar with finally came: Season canceled.

Defenders coach Pep Hamilton said it wasn’t just missing out on a title that disappointed him, but for his players that were hoping to be picked up by an NFL team. 

A few did find NFL homes. For the others, it’s about staying in football shape.  Hamilton stresses to his players they never know when the call could come, so they must be ready and a good routine is key.   

“We help them structure their weeks and their days,” Hamilton said.  

But with no access to a full gym, the training staff has to get creative so that work can be done from home. They’ve given Defenders players total body workouts, manual resistance, high-repetition work.  Every detail matters.  

Hamilton said when the coronavirus pandemic began he talked to his players about the importance of staying together and focusing on football, to stay in the moment amidst all the craze.  

Many moments have come since then. The XFL says it plans to come back for 2021, but of course Hamilton understands it’s more than that.  

“The biggest challenge is the uncertainty of when we get back to normalcy in our society and everybody be able to get back to work and the kids will be able to get back to school,” Hamilton said.   

He is plenty busy right now. His three kids are in grade school and the educating is being done at home now.  

“My wife and I, we’re home-schooling the kids and I teach PE and I’m the history teacher,” Hamilton said.   

Wait, PE we get. But history? What history is that?  

“Recent history, my history,” Hamilton said. “A lot of DC history, a lot of Howard history.” 

Hamilton played quarterback at Howard, of course, and it’s where his coaching career began before heading to the NFL as an assistant coach for the Jets, 49ers, Bears, Colts, and Browns. He also spent time at Stanford and Michigan (with Redskins new offensive coordinator Scott Turner) before taking on his first head coaching job with the Defenders.  

Hamilton’s role as a full-time home-schooling dad is relatively new. 

“I hadn’t had a lot of time to spend with my kids during football season,” Hamilton said. “Over the years, I’ve typically left to go to work before they get up and I don’t get back home until they are sound asleep. So they tell me that I am like Major Payne around the household.” 

It’s a joke, of course, but the reality is we don’t know when we can go back to work.  What we do know is that when the time comes, you’ll no longer have to drag your kids out of bed, or dread setting your alarm for the office, or want to skip that workout. Perspective is powerful. And while Hamilton says his kids would still prefer to sleep past noon, that only happens a few days a week their household. 

“It’s our goal to keep some structure in their lives to create a routine that is not stressful for the kids and our family,” Hamilton said. “Everyone is carrying a bit more stress right now just because of the harsh transition in our lifestyle and so we’ve found ways to incorporate our family time with the structured time that we feel like will allow our kids to enjoy their lives.” 


Tight end Khari Lee becomes first DC Defenders player to sign with an NFL team

Tight end Khari Lee becomes first DC Defenders player to sign with an NFL team

Former DC Defenders tight end Khari Lee has a new home.

The 28-year-old has agreed to a one-year deal with the Atlanta Falcons, the club announced on Wednesday.

As a member of the Defenders, Lee started all five games. He totaled just eight receptions for 91 yards on the season, with two of his catches resulting in touchdowns.

The tight end was on the receiving end of the Defenders' first offensive touchdown in franchise history, a 39-yard pass flea-flicker from Cardale Jones. The Defenders would go on to win their inaugural contest against the Seattle Dragons, 31-19.

This is not Lee's first NFL stint; he's spent time with Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Buffalo Bills. He's played in 34 career games and has two receptions for 12 yards on his career.

Lee is the first member of the Defenders to sign an NFL contract.

The XFL was forced to cancel the remainder of their season due to the coronavirus pandemic, ending the relaunched league just five weeks in. However, several former XFL players have since signed contracts with NFL teams, and that number keeps growing.