The Dwayne Johnson era of XFL football is set to begin Saturday, Feb. 18, and six Penn State players are on rosters, spread out over three of the league’s eight teams. Here’s a breakdown of the Penn Staters to watch in the first year of the revamped spring football league.
SEATTLE SEA DRAGONS: MICHAEL MENET (OL), SHAREEF MILLER (DL)
Two former Penn State teammates are together again on the Seattle Sea Dragons. Menet was Penn State’s starting center from 2018-20, starting 34 of 35 games played in that window. He was a third-team All-Big Ten performer in 2020 and honorable mention all conference in 2019. After Penn State, he went to the Arizona Cardinals in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He spent time with the Cardinals and Green Bay Packers over the 2021 and 2022 seasons, but never made the main roster. The Dragons took him in the second round of offensive linemen in the XFL Draft.
Menet came to Penn State after playing at Exeter Township High School in Reading. Several years after Menet graduated from Exeter, his brother, Joey Schlaffer, became a star there. In December, Schlaffer followed in his big bro’s footsteps and signed with Penn State.
Miller played for James Franklin from 2015-18. A two-time All-Big Ten performer, Miller played in all 14 games of Penn State’s Big Ten championship season in 2016 and started 25 of 26 games over the next two seasons. From there, Miller went in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft to the Philadelphia Eagles. Miller only played one game for Philly before getting released in the Summer of 2020. He spent parts of the next two seasons with the Panthers, Eagles (again), Cardinals and Falcons before playing with the USFL’s New Orleans Breakers in 2022. He went Seattle in the XFL’s supplemental draft.
Seattle opens its season on the road against the D.C. Defenders. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 ET on ESPN.
ST. LOUIS BATTLEHAWKS: STEVEN GONZALEZ (OL)
Gonzalez played on the same o-line as Menet from 2017-19, starting 39 straight games at guard. In 2017, Gonzalez was a first-team All-Big Ten performer according to Pro Football Focus.
Gonzalez was never voted first-team all-conference by media or coaches but was a unanimous second-team performer in 2019 and an honorable mention the year before. After Penn State, Gonzalez went un-drafted and spent brief periods of time on the rosters of the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. Gonzalez signed his letter of intent with the XFL in October and ended up with the Battlehawks with the 23rd pick of the offensive line draft.
St. Louis opens its season in the Alamodome against the San Antonio Brahmas. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 ET on ABC.
LAS VEGAS VIPERS: SAEED BLACKNALL (WR), ROBERT WINDSOR (DL), JOHN LOVETT (RB)
Blacknall and Windsor were part of Penn State’s 2016 Big Ten championship team. Lovett played a little later. In 2016, Blacknall caught 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns. Six of those catches, 155 of those yards and two of those touchdowns came in Penn State’s Big Ten title win over Wisconsin. The Big Ten Championship Game ended up being the peak of Blacknall’s college career, and to this point, his entire football career.
Blacknall had an underwhelming 2017, catching 17 passes for 289 yards and two scores. From there, he went un-drafted in 2018 and bounced around the league for a bit. He spent time with the Raiders, Dolphins and Cardinals between 2018-19 but never got into a regular-season game. In the spring of 2020, Blacknall played for the Los Angeles Wildcats in the pre-Dwayne Johnson XFL.
He spent time with the Steelers later that year, but didn’t make the Week 1 roster.
Blacknall went more than two years without being part of a team. The Vipers took Blacknall 76th overall in the skill-position player portion XFL draft.
Windsor played at Penn State from 2015-19, starting all 25 games over his last two seasons and becoming an all-Big Ten performer. From there, he went to the Indianapolis Colts in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. After two seasons in the league, Windsor retired from football before catching on with the XFL as part of the league’s partnership with the NFL Alumni Academy. He went to Vegas with the 17th pick of the defensive front seven portion of the draft.
Lovett played at Penn State for just one season (2021) as a grad transfer from Baylor. In that season, he rushed for 177 yards on 52 carries, also returning kicks for Penn State. Lovett spent time with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent but never appeared in an NFL game. Vegas took him with the 12th overall pick in the skill players portion XFL Draft.
Vegas opens its season Saturday, Feb. 18, on the road against the Arlington Renegades. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 ET on ABC.