When the XFL suspended operations and announced it had no plans to resume play in 2021, fans who prefer the three-down version of the game weren’t exactly shedding tears.
For the players who had their 2020 season ripped away after five games owing to the pandemic though, it was a big deal.
But as the old saying goes, when one door closes, another one opens, and that’s been the case for wide receiver Carlton Agudosi and defensive back Deatrick Nichols. The pair of former XFLers are in Winnipeg Blue Bombers training camp trying to adjust to the Canadian game and keep their professional football dreams alive.
"It was a great experience. Everyone in that locker room was there for a reason and that was to play football and get another opportunity. The fans were great, the game day was very, very fun. When they ended the season, it was definitely heartbreaking, especially for someone in my situation. It was my first time being able to be a pro and be able to go through a game week and actually play," said Agudosi, a member of the St. Louis BattleHawks who had tryouts with the Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles earlier in his career.
Nichols shined with the Houston Roughnecks and was one of the league’s breakout stars, leading the XFL with three interceptions through five weeks of play. His eye for the ball caught the attention of the NFL as he signed a contract with the New Orleans Saints weeks after the XFL’s 2020 season was shut down. They ended up cutting him in August and Nichols was scooped up by the Miami Dolphins shortly thereafter, but they released him prior to Week 1. This past February, the Bombers signed Nichols and now he’s one of 27 defensive backs in camp who are scratching and clawing for a job.
"It’s really just a blessing. We still beat the odds. Many people are home that want to be here and I’m here," said Nichols, a 27-year-old out of the University of South Florida.
"Make the team or not, I have an opportunity to play football again and do what I love."
While Nichols is completely new to the CFL, Agudosi had at least somewhat of an idea as to what he was getting himself into. The wideout was college teammates at Rutgers with Bombers kick returner Janarion Grant. Agudosi, a freshman at the time, showed Grant around campus on his official visit and the pair ended up being roommates the following year. Now the roles have switched as Grant’s the one answering the questions and trying to help Agudosi adjust to his new surroundings.
"When he came up here and I saw what he was doing, I definitely wasn’t surprised," said Agudosi, as Grant scored three return touchdowns in 11 games with the Bombers in 2019.
"His first time touching the ball at Rutgers he took it to the house. We were talking, we were communicating, and he was telling me how much he loved it up here. The guys embraced him and the fans were great and it was a great program. He was definitely telling me about it and when the team reached out to me, he was the first person I came into contact with and he had nothing but good things to say."
Standing 6-6 and weighing 220 pounds, Agudosi’s size is what grabs your attention right away. The 27-year-old only had two grabs for a total of 32 yards in four XFL games, but he’s impressed at camp so far and is eager to prove he’s more than just a big body.
"It’s definitely an advantage if you work on your game. That’s the funny thing, people say ‘Oh if I had your height,’ but if you don’t work at the game, you’ll just be tall and goofy," Agudosi said.
"You have to work at it regardless. Practice makes perfect. It’s an advantage if you use it, like anything in life."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.