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Several former Longhorns picked in the XFL Draft

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5 Texas alums were among the 568 players taken in the new professional football league’s draft this week.

NCAA Football: Texas El Paso at Texas
Jerrod Heard, seen here catching a TD pass against UTEP in 2016, was one of seven former Texas Longhorns picked in this week’s XFL Draft.
Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

The new incarnation of the XFL held its draft on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week and several former Texas Longhorns were among the players selected during the two-day event.

Five players who spent their entire collegiate careers in Austin were picked, with offensive lineman Kent Perkins taken on Tuesday, and defensive back Davante Davis, wide receiver Jerrod Heard, defensive end Cedric Reed, and offensive lineman Patrick Vahe getting their names called on Wednesday.

The XFL is a winter-spring professional football league that is a re-born version of the original XFL, which was founded by World Wrestling Federation CEO Vince McMahon and played one season in 2001 before folding. The new XFL consists of eight teams that will play a ten-game regular season followed by a two-week postseason, with the league slated to begin play shortly after the current NFL season concludes with Super Bowl LIV (54) in February of 2020.

In contrast to the NFL Draft, in which teams select from their choice of all eligible players at any position when their turn arrives, the XFL Draft was organized in position- or skill-specific phases. Each of the league’s eight teams were assigned a quarterback before the beginning of the draft (based on a list of preferred QBs each team’s head coach/general manager submitted to the league), then the league had separate 10-round drafts of players in four phases: offensive skill positions, offensive linemen, defensive front seven, and defensive backs. The draft concluded with three 10-round open phases, where teams could fill out the rest of their 71-man preseason roster by picking from the available players at any position.

Perkins was the only Texas grad picked in the position-specific phases, as he was taken by the St. Louis BattleHawks with the 30th pick (out of 80 total) in the Offensive Line phase. Davante Davis, Jerrod Heard, Cedric Reed, and Patrick Vahe were all picked in the Open Phase.

Heard was drafted by the Dallas Renegades, who are led by former Oklahoma Sooners head coach Bob Stoops and will play their home games in the now-former home of the Texas Rangers, Globe Life Park in Arlington. Reed and Vahe were both taken by the Los Angeles Wildcats, and Davis by the Tampa Bay Vipers.

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  • Kent Perkins, who turns 25 in November, was a composite four-star recruit in the 2013 class out of Lake Highlands High School in north Dallas. He played in 39 games and made 34 starts on the offensive line, playing at right guard and right tackle. After going undrafted in 2017, Perkins signed as an undrafted free agent with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he joined fellow former Longhorn offensive lineman Trey Hopkins. He spent most of the 2017 and 2018 seasons on the Bengals’ practice squad but had two brief end-of-season stints on the active roster and appeared in the team’s final game of the 2017 season. He reportedly planned to retire from football after being waived by the Bengals two months ago during training camp, but his selection in the XFL Draft indicates he isn’t quite done with the sport yet.
  • Davante Davis was a composite four-star cornerback recruit from Booker T. Washington High School in Homestead, Florida (some 30 miles south of Miami) in the 2015 class, and was the only member of the once-vaunted “Florida Five” who ended up having a career at Texas. Davis played in 48 games and made 26 starts in his four seasons in Austin and earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors as a freshman in 2015 and as a senior in 2018. He signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in April, but was later waived by the team in August. He turned 23 last month.
  • Jerrod Heard, who turned 24 last month, was a composite four-star recruit and the #1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2014 class out of Denton Guyer, where he led his team to Class 4A Division I state championships in both his junior and senior years. After redshirting in 2014 he made 10 starts at QB in 2015, then later moved to wide receiver and played in 37 games at that position from 2016 to 2018. He finished his college career with 1,243 yards passing, 540 yards receiving, and 600 yards rushing.
  • Cedric Reed, who turned 27 last week, was a four-star defensive end recruit from Cleveland, Texas in the 2011 class. He played in 46 games and made 32 starts in his four seasons in burnt orange (2011-2014). As a junior in 2013 he was credited with 79 tackles, 10 sacks, 19 tackles for loss, 5 forced fumbles, and 16 quarterback hurries and earned first team All-Big 12 honors. His stats dipped as a senior as he transitioned to playing strong end in Charlie Strong’s 3-3-5, and he finished the 2014 season with 73 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, and 8 QB hurries, though he still performed well enough to earn second team all-conference honors.

After going undrafted in 2015 he signed with the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent. He was one of the final players cut from the Bills’ training camp roster but was re-signed and spent that season on the team’s practice squad. He was released the following summer and spent some time with the Miami Dolphins, but was cut from that team at the end of training camp in 2016.

  • Patrick Vahe was a composite four-star offensive line recruit from Euless Trinity. He was one of the Longhorns’ earliest commits for the 2015 recruiting class when he pledged to then-head coach Mack Brown in July of 2013. He ended up being the only Mack Brown-era commit from that class that stuck with the program and signed with Texas in February of 2015. He locked down the left guard position as a true freshman and went on to start 45 games there over four seasons, earning Freshman All-American honors in 2015 and honorable mention All-Big 12 honors as a junior in 2017.

After going undrafted this spring he was signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent, but was cut on August 30 as the team finalized its 52-man roster shortly before the start of the NFL season.

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In addition to those five, there were two players drafted by XFL teams this week who began their college careers as Texas Longhorns but finished out their playing days at other schools: offensive lineman Darius James (Auburn) and defensive back Montrel Meander (Grambling State). James and Meander were both picked by the Dallas Renegades, where they will join their one-time teammate Jerrod Heard.

  • Darius James was a composite five-star recruit from Killeen Harker Heights in the 2013 recruiting class. After redshirting as a freshman in 2013 he appeared in six games in 2014, making two starts at right tackle, but injuries forced him to miss most of the latter half of that season. He was among several players who left the Texas program in the spring of 2015 after Charlie Strong’s first season as head coach.

James transferred to Auburn, where he started 8 games at left tackle in 2016 and 12 games at right tackle in 2017. He went undrafted in 2018 and spent time with the New York Jets and Washington Redskins but has never been on an NFL active roster.

  • Montrel Meander, who turned 25 last month, had more twists and bumps in the road than any of the aforementioned players in his journey from Austin to the XFL. Meander was a composite three-star recruit in the 2013 class out of Amarillo Palo Duro, where he played both safety and wide receiver. He initially committed to Washington State along with his high school teammate Charleston White, but received a late offer from Texas and flipped his commitment the week of National Signing Day.
  • He redshirted in 2013 while being developed as a wide receiver. In July of 2014, Meander and fellow Longhorn receiver Kendall Sanders were charged with felony sexual assault and were immediately suspended from the team by head coach Charlie Strong.

The pair were dismissed from the team a few weeks later and were indicted by a Travis County grand jury in December of 2014. In October of the following year when Sanders’ case went to trial, a jury found him not guilty, and the charges against Meander were dropped a week later. Sanders later enrolled at Arkansas State and played the 2016 season for that program, while Meander resumed his college career at Grambling State.

In 2016 he played 10 games with the Tigers and made 2 catches for 18 yards and made 8 tackles. After moving to defensive back full time as a senior in 2017, he finished tied for sixth on the team with 49 total tackles and also made 3 tackles for loss and 2 interceptions. He went undrafted in 2018 and signed with the Cleveland Browns, then spent three months on that team’s practice squad before being signed by the Oakland Raiders. He was added to the Raiders’ 52-man roster but was listed as inactive for the team’s final five games of the season and did not appear in a game. He was waived by the Raiders last summer and has since been signed and waived by the New York Jets and the Browns again and was not signed by any NFL team after the start of the 2019 season.

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Along with the above names there were several other players picked in the XFL Draft with whom Longhorn fans and recruitniks are familiar (you can view the full list of picks and every team’s roster here). Among that group is at least two players who were committed to Texas at one time but ended up playing for other schools.

Safety Ahmad Dixon was drafted by the Los Angeles Wildcats with the 44th pick of the Defensive Back phase. Dixon was a four-star prospect from Waco Midway in the 2010 class who committed to and de-committed from Texas, Baylor, and Tennessee at different points in that recruiting cycle before eventually signing with Baylor and playing four seasons for Art Briles’s Bears. The Dallas Cowboys picked him in the 7th round of the 2014 NFL Draft and he has spent time with five NFL teams and one in the CFL. He turned 28 last month and has played in only 5 NFL games, all in the 2014 season with the Chicago Bears.

Defensive tackle Du’Vonta Lampkin was picked by the DC Defenders with the 26th pick in the Open Phase of the XFL Draft. Lampkin was a composite high three-star recruit in the 2015 class from Cypress Falls. He committed to Texas in July of 2014 a few weeks before the start of his senior year, remained committed throughout the fall and signed with Texas on Signing Day, but was unable to attain enough requisite foreign language credits to be admitted to UT. He requested a release from his letter of intent, and Texas eventually gave him his full release in September, after which he enrolled at Oklahoma.

After redshirting in 2015, Lampkin played in 5 games in 2016 and 12 in 2017, making amassing 28 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, and 1 sack in those two seasons. A week after Oklahoma’s loss to Georgia in the 2018 Rose Bowl, he declared himself eligible for that spring’s NFL Draft. After going undrafted he spent time with both the the Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans in the preseason but was waived by the latter at when their 52-man roster was finalized. He signed with the Massachusetts Pirates of the National Arena League and was a member of that team this summer (the NAL’s schedule ran from April to late July) but only played in three of the team’s 14 games.

Lampkin is still only 22 and had he remained at Oklahoma he would now be a fifth-year senior for the fifth-ranked Sooners’ defense.

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The lesson here - the same one every NFL Draft teaches us - is that paid jobs playing in professional football leagues are limited, getting and keeping one is not easy, and the number of stars a player is given by recruiting services at age 17 or 18 or the prestige of the college football program he plays for are far from surefire indicators of how well they will fare in the pro ranks, or of how skilled they will be compared to their peers at age 24 or 25.