By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
In a town used to inauguration days, the dawn of a new beginning for professional football’s attempt at a spring league kicked off at Audi Field. Unlike the predecessors in the NFL, who 100 years ago wouldn’t consider Black players as their fledgling league started, the D.C. Defenders opened the second incarnation of the XFL by fielding a team where from the sidelines to the quarterback position the stereotypes that plague the senior circuit were put to rest in the nation’s capital, as former local HBCU players were in the center of the action.
The Defenders marched onto the field with a head coach and starting quarterback that are African American which was inconceivable just over a quarter century ago. Demographics of the moment had no significance on the game’s outcome, but it was an irony that couldn’t be underscored. It was magnified even more since their head coach was a former quarterback at the signature HBCU of the city at the close of the first week of Black History Month. The game’s biggest play was also made by a former CIAA star from Maryland’s oldest HBCU.
D.C. beat the Seattle Dragons 31-19 six days after Super Bowl 54 was won by the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who joined local legend Doug Williams as the only Black quarterbacks to lead their team’s NFL world championships. Defenders head coach Pep Hamilton was an understudy for Maryland State Delegate Jay Walker in 1993 when Howard University won its first Black College national championship. The team he built from scratch and the fruits of his labor came together on a crystal clear football day in Southeast, D.C.