ST. LOUIS – Ka-Kaw is once again the law as the St. Louis Battlehawks have returned for the XFL relaunch!
The XFL season kicks off this weekend, with the Battlehawks meeting the San Antonio Brahmas on Sunday, Feb. 19.
The Battlehawks will call The Dome at America’s Center home once again, with the home opener set for March 12.
St. Louis had a successful franchise during the XFL’s last run in 2020. The Battlehawks were the most popular team in the league, with the most fans and online buzz, until the COVID-19 pandemic shut down operations and put the league out of business.
Actor, businessman, and former professional wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and partners bought the XFL after it ended in 2020. Aside from St. Louis and the aforementioned San Antonio, other teams in this new iteration of the XFL will be located in Seattle, Las Vegas, Arlington, Houston, Orlando, and Washington D.C.
The home schedule consists of the following opponents and times:
- Sunday, March 12 vs. Arlington Renegades – 3 p.m. CT
- Saturday, March 18 vs. D.C. Defenders – 6 p.m. CT
- Saturday, April 8 vs. Vegas Vipers – Noon CT
- Sunday, April 16 vs. Seattle Sea Dragons – 2 p.m. CT
- Saturday, April 22 vs. Orlando Guardians – 11 a.m. CT
FOX 2 has collected notes and information about a handful of players you can expect to see competing on the field at The Dome at America’s Center this season.
Marcell Ateman #3
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
College: Oklahoma State
The second selection in ‘skills player’ portion of the XFL draft will play a major role in the Battlehawks offense. Marcell Ateman spent the past five years working through the ranks of the Las Vegas Raiders and Arizona Cardinals. The seventh-round NFL pick was limited to just 20 receptions, 270 yards and one touchdown in the big stage, all numbers he could surpass before the Battlehawks’ home opener in mid-March.
Ateman will look to rediscover some magic from his college days. In his senior year of 2017, he enjoyed 59 receptions, 1,156 yards, and eight touchdowns en route to second-team Big 12 honors and a 10-win Oklahoma State season. He built chemistry with quarterback A.J. McCarron many years ago when both competed on the Raiders’ practice squad.
“I know they’re going to be ready to rock it out,” said Ateman via ZipRecruiter on St. Louis after his draft selection. “I’m excited to bring all that passion, all that fire, and bring something to build in that city.”
Lakiem Williams #6
Hometown: Tacoma, Washington
College: Syracuse/Butte College
Few XFL players take pride in slowing down opponents like Lakiem Williams. He had 110 tackles in his last full football season, his 2019 senior campaign at Syracuse, good for third-most in the Atlantic Coast Conference. That nearly doubled his career output (128) from his previous three years on the gridiron.
Williams wrecked havoc often throughout college with 238 total tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks in college. He also chimed in with occasional fumble recoveries, pass breakups and interceptions.
Despite a standout senior season, Williams went undrafted the next spring and fell short in his latest NFL tryout with his hometown Seattle Seahawks. His recent adversity serves as motivation with the Battlehawks, leading defensive drills daily and already becoming one of the team’s most vocal leaders.
” All around, we are going to be flying,” Williams recently told media members. “We’re going to show them everything.”
A.J. McCarron #10
Hometown: Mobile, Alabama
College: University of Alabama
One of the most successful college quarterbacks of the 21st century will be under center for the Battlehawks this coming season. McCarron is one of only four collegiate quarterbacks to win back-to-back Division I national championships (Tommie Frazier, Matt Leinart*, and Stetson Bennett being the others).
Following his senior season, McCarron was the runner-up for the 2013 Heisman Trophy behind Jameis Winston. McCarron still holds the Crimson Tide record for most career passing yards, and his 77 passing touchdowns are third-most for the storied program.
The Cincinnati Bengals selected McCarron in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. McCarron spent the next eight seasons as a perennial backup or practice squad player for the Bengals, Buffalo Bills, then-Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans, and the Atlanta Falcons. Despite limited playing time in the NFL, McCarron threw for 1,173 yards and completed 62.6% of his passes, with 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.
Scouts consider McCarron a balanced passer who moves well in the pocket and responds accordingly to pressure. He tells Alabama site AL.com that he returns to football after motivation from his six-year-old son.
“The atmosphere is unbelievable here,” said McCarron at the Battlehawks Fan Fest last month. “You can feel the passion the fans have in this city. It reminds me a lot of college. I’m excited to get on the field and win for this city.”
(* – USC were co-champions in 2003; its 2004 National Championship was later vacated)
Darrius Shepherd #11
Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri
College: North Dakota State
Darrius Shepherd is a third-generation collegiate athlete. His grandfather played basketball at Missouri State (and professionally for the Los Angeles Lakers) and father played for the Mizzou football team. But when Darrius graduated from Blue Springs High School in 2014, he opted to leave Missouri and play for North Dakota State.
Shepherd won three NCAA Division I Football Championships (2015, 2017, and 2018 seasons) and was named MVP of the 2019 Championship Game. He finished his college career with 188 catches for 2,841 yards and 20 touchdowns.
He signed with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent in May 2019. In two seasons with the Packers, Shepherd recorded just six receptions for 47 yards. He spent the next few years bouncing around other NFL teams’ practice squads.
Austin Proehl #13
Hometown: Charlotte, North Carolina
College: North Carolina
Nostalgia lives on at The Dome at America’s Center. Ricky Proehl, best known for a heroic catch that lifted the St. Louis Rams to XXXIV, will serve as the Battlehawks wide receivers coach. Working with him is none other than his oldest son Austin, four years old at the time of his father’s standout moment in 2000.
Austin Proehl spent four years with the UNC Tar Heels, leading to five touchdowns, 1265 receiving yards, and three bowl game appearances. Among the final picks of the 2018 NFL Draft, Proehl has fought for nearly half a decade for a first-team role. He has yet to make his NFL debut despite tryouts with seven squads, with his most recent bid ending last August.
A trailblazer from the XFL’s last go-around in 2020, Proehl gets another shot to prove doubters wrong. He spent the pandemic-shortened season with the Seattle Dragons, making history with the first touchdown of a reconstructed XFL. Proehl ended that campaign with three touchdowns and 225 yards over five games.
“He’s a good kid,” said Ricky on Austin during a 2018 interview with FOX Sports South. “He takes pride in what he does. He respects people, he respects coaches. That’s more important than anything.”
Brian Hill #23
Hometown: Belleville, Illinois
From football founts in the Metro East, to college standout in Wyoming, then reputable role rushing in Atlanta, the journey of Brian Hill comes full circle. The 27-year-old is one of few Battlehawks for which the new XFL season represents a homecoming.
Hill has excelled at nearly every major stage of his football career. He combined for 28 touchdowns and 1,700-plus all-purpose yards in two varsity seasons with Belleville West High School. After that, Hill broke Wyoming University’s school record for single-season rushing yards in 2015 (1,631), a personal-best he topped again the following season (1,860) with 22 rushing touchdowns. He was named a 2015 finalist for the Doak Walker Award, which honors the best college football running back, and earned first-team All-Mountain West honors in his college sendoff season.
The NFL dream proved a little more challenging, but Hill overcame two team cuts in his first year out of school before the Atlanta Falcons, the first team who waived him, offered a second chance. Hill battled for reps behind two reliable rushers in Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, though prevailed with nearly 1,000 rushing yards, 300 receiving yards and four touchdowns over three full seasons. His last NFL action came in 2020, but proved encouraging in terms of physicality, durability and versatility on rushing and passing schemes. Hill will likely see the lion’s share of rushes well into the new season.
“Brian is doing an excellent job,” said head coach Anthony Becht on Hill and his preparations via AmbushSports.net. “He’s a consummate pro. He’s a guy that does everything full speed. He’s an outstanding special teams player as well, so he brings a lot of variety and diversity to his game.”
Travis Feeney #56
Hometown: Richmond, California
Selected in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, Travis Feeney never saw the field in stints with the Steelers and the New Orleans Saints.
In October 2018, he signed with the San Diego Fleet of the short-lived Alliance of American Football league. When the AAF folded in April 2019, Feeney went north to play in the Canadian Football League.
The Battlehawks picked Feeney in the second round of the XFL Supplement Draft.
Perhaps Feeney’s biggest moment of triumph in football came in November 2014, when he ran an interception back for a touchdown in a 38-23 win over Colorado.
Steven Gonzalez #74
Hometown: Union City, New Jersey
College: Penn State
Steven Gonzalez started 39 consecutive games with the Penn State Nittany Lions from the 2017 through 2019 seasons. He was an undrafted free agent and had brief stints with the Arizona Cardinals and the Buffalo Bills.
Gonzalez signed an XFL contract in October 2022 and was selected by the Battlehawks in the offensive line draft.
The photos were provided by the St. Louis Battlehawks. All photos are from the Jan. 23, 2023 XFL Media Day at Esports Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo credit: © Logan Riely/XFL).
The St. Louis Battlehawks finalized their 51-man roster last week. For the complete roster, click here.