Jacksonville Sports Day

VIPERS PREVIEW: XFL Kicks Off This Weekend

TAMPA – In January of 2018, XFL Founder and Chairman Vince McMahon announced the return of the XFL professional football league. McMahon’s vision was to reimagine professional football by simplifying the game with more action and a focus on fan engagement.

Two years later, the league nears its kickoff, with Feb. 8-9 serving as opening weekend. Teams in eight select markets – Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Washington D.C. – will offer football during the spring.

The Tampa Bay Vipers will travel to MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 9 to take on the New York Guardians for the Vipers’ first game. Kickoff is 2 p.m.

New York’s head coach Kevin Gilbride had a memorable run as the Giants offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (2004-13), where he won two Super Bowl rings (XLII, XLVI), and molded Eli Manning into a future Hall of Famer. He’s coming out of a six-year rertirement.

The Vipers’ Marc Trestman coached the Bears in the two seasons following the Lovie Smith era (2013-14). The Bears went 13-19, and Trestman was dismissed as the 2014 campaign ended. From there, Trestman became the Ravens offensive coordinator.

Of the Vipers’ current 52-man roster, 22 players have Florida ties. 20 of those 22 players call The Sunshine State home — ranging all the way from the Florida Panhandle down to South Beach. Fourteen Vipers attended college in the state of Florida across seven different universities in the state.

The University of Florida boasts four graduates on the Vipers roster, followed closely by the University of Central Florida (three) and Florida State (three). Other represented colleges include Florida International (one), Florida Atlantic University (one), the University of Miami (one), and the University of South Florida (one).

Of the players with Florida ties on the Vipers roster, five players have an even stronger connection to the Tampa Bay area.

Vipers’ starting quarterback Aaron Murray was born and raised in the Tampa area, leading Plant High School to a Florida High School Football State Championship in 2008 en route to being named the Hillsborough County co-offensive player of the year and the Florida 4A Player of the Year.

The Guardians also have former Penn State WQB Matt McGloin who played in 13 games for the Raiders (1,868 passing yards, 11 touchdowns) from 2013 and ’16.

Vipers QB/running back Quinton Flowers enjoyed a record-breaking career at South Florida. Flowers returns to his home turf of Raymond James Stadium, where he set or tied 42 USF records during his time with the Bulls.

Vipers wide receiver Ryan Davis was born and raised just across the Howard Frankland Bridge in St. Petersburg. Playing QB at nearby Lakewood High School, Davis still owns the Pinellas County all-time pass- ing record with 6,760 yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Bobby Richardson and safety Robert Priester also have roots in the area. Richardson attended Plant High.

The two XFL East division rivals will meet again during the final week of the season when the Guardians travel to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. on April 12.

The regular season consists of a 10-game schedule leading up to a four-team postseason tournament.

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