Defenders aiming for another shot at a championship in newly-founded UFL

Defenders aiming for another shot at a championship in newly-founded UFL

Following numerous quickly deteriorated collapses of attempted leagues and organizations such as the AAF, FCF, and XFL Version 2 among others, spring football and Maryland’s own DC Defenders may have finally found a long-term home with the formation of the United Football League.  

On the final day of 2023, XFL owner and global megastar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson announced with fellow owners Gerry Cardinale and Dany Garcia that the two largest current spring leagues, the XFL and USFL, would officially merge and become one central association; the United Football League, or UFL.  Taking 8 total teams from the two leagues, the UFL will be split in half, with an XFL Division consisting of the Arlington Renegades, D.C. Defenders, San Antonio Brahmas, and St. Louis Battlehawks, and a USFL Division comprised of the Birmingham Stallions, Houston Roughnecks, Memphis Showboats, and Michigan Panthers.

The inaugural game is set for Saturday, March 30th, pitting the reigning XFL Champion Renegades against back-to-back USFL Champion Stallions.  

Football fan junior Nate Gilli speaks on the merge of the USFL and XFL. 

“Overall I think merging the two leagues is a great idea,” Gilli.  

Gilli’s sentiment is shared among many online, as the official announcement of the merger has generated a healthy amount of hype on social media with the following of teams’ Instagram and X accounts growing substantially, many of which now have over 100,000 followers.  

While much of the public eagerness following the UFL’s creation stems from the fresh start it offers everyone involved, for the 2023 XFL runner-ups and hometown DC Defenders, a championship is all that’s on the players’ minds.

“I’m with a new team in DC, and the mindset is finishing the objective at hand ending with a championship,” newly acquired defensive lineman and former Arlington Renegade TJ Barnes said.

A 35-26 loss in the XFL Championship at the hands of the underdog Renegades ended the Defenders’ 2023 season after a near-flawless 9-1 regular season record and a 37-21 victory over the Sea Dragons in the semifinal.  

As it stands, 45 of the 66 players on DC’s active roster are returning members of the 2023 team, with Head Coach Reggie Barlow and most of his coaching staff also staying in the nation’s capital.  Rosters will remain fluid through February and March, with an initial February 14th deadline to lock in 75 player Training Camp rosters, and a final cutdown date of March 30th to trim down to 42 active players per team.

The team’s structure will be a bit different from last year with de facto XFL MVP and former starting Quarterback Jordan Ta’Amu among those who have found new homes, but when compared to the rest of the league their core remains among the most skilled.  

“I think the Defenders will have another good season, they lost some players but still have a strong core,” Gilli said. 

With the season still over two months away the team’s current look is expected to change a substantial amount. Still, key returning players such as Running Back Abram Smith and Defensive End Davin Ballamy have received consistent praise from Barlow, with recent signees defensive end Tim Ward and Defensive Back Deontay Anderson publicly commended by Director of Player Personnel Von Hutchins.  

The Defenders’ official schedule has yet to be finalized, but as the UFL’s inaugural year comes closer to beginning, much more structural information about the season as well as the team’s future will inevitably be released.

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