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XFL Signals New Start for Former Lions

With the XFL season now fully underway, several former Nittany Lions are looking to restart their careers in the new league.

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XFL
Sep 14, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Ellis Brooks (13) reacts following a tackle during the fourth quarter against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Pittsburgh 17-10. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

For the longest time, football fans have felt the same thing every year as we get closer to spring and into the summer — the craving for football. We miss the feeling of the game day jitters before our team plays a game. We miss tailgating and yelling at the TV at the top of our lungs. We miss the unity that the fanbase feels one day a week. But, recently, some wealthy football fans have decided that this feeling is something we could have year-round. Football fans rejoiced as it was announced that the XFL was back.

Happy Valley to XFL Pipeline?

One common theme among college football fans is the pride they feel as their players transcend into professional football. We still root for the players we watched in college as they play for the pros. Sometimes these players are on your rival NFL team, and we still root for them anyway.

As the XFL is back, here are the Nittany Lions on XFL rosters in 2023.

Michal Menet, OL, Seattle Sea Dragons

Michal Menet was a four-star prospect in the class of 2016. Menet went to Exeter High School in Berks County, PA. He was county offensive and defensive lineman of the year. Penn State picked up the 28th-ranked player in the class and the 2nd-best player in PA, according to 247Sports

After redshirting for the 2016 season, Menet appeared in almost every game for the Nittany Lions in his career. Starting in 2018, Menet became a full-time starter at center. The following season he was named a team captain, a title he kept until his final year in 2020. Menet earned Third-Team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and media in his Redshirt Senior season. 

After his final season in 2020, Menet was drafted as a seventh-round pick by the Cardinals. From there, Menet spent time on the Cardinals and Packers practice squads. Now, Menet has a chance to prove himself with the Seattle Sea Dragons.

An interesting note is that Menet’s brother, Joey Schlaffer (a 4-star TE), is enrolled at Penn State as a member of the class of 2027. 

Shareef Miller, DL, Seattle Sea Dragons

Shareef Miller came to Penn State as a three-star defensive end from Philadelphia. The George Washington High School product was a commit in the 2015 class. Miller redshirted his first year and then appeared in all 14 games on the famous 2016 Big Ten Championship team. From there, Miller earned back-to-back third-team All-Big Ten honors in 2017 and 2018. 

Miller was drafted in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Eagles. Miller was ultimately waived by the Eagles before the 2020 season. Miller bounced around three NFL teams before joining the New Orleans Breakers of the USFL in 2022. On January 1, 2023, the Seattle Sea Dragons selected Miller in the fourth round of the XFL Supplemental Draft. Miller joins his former Penn State teammate Michal Menet on the Seattle Sea Dragons. 

Steven Gonzalez, OL, St. Louis BattleHawks

It is no secret that Penn State recruits well in New Jersey. Starting with the Paterno Era, Penn State dominated NJ. This proved to be the case in 2015 when four-star offensive lineman Steven Gonzalez committed to the Nittany Lions. Gonzalez from Union City, NJ, was expected to be a big part of the Nittany Lions’ plans. Gonzalez proved to do just that.

After redshirting in 2015, Gonzalez made three starts and appeared in eleven games in 2016. From 2017-2019, Gonzalez was a full-time starter for the Nittany Lions. Gonzalez even earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in his final season. 

Despite this high praise, Gonzalez went undrafted in the 2020 draft. Gonzalez signed with the Cardinals for the 2020 preseason. Unfortunately, Gonzalez did not end up making the final roster. He spent the 2020 season out of football. This led to Gonzalez going to Penn State’s Pro Day in 2021 to prove himself once more (there was no Pro Day in 2020 due to Covid-19). After a short time with the Bills and in the USFL, Gonzalez is now a St. Louis BattleHawk.

 

John Lovett, RB, Vegas Vipers

Unlike the other Penn State players on this list so far, John Lovett did not originally commit to playing at Penn State. Lovett was a three-star running back in the class of 2017. The NJ product decided to go to Baylor. Lovett spent four years with the Bears before deciding to spend his final year in blue and white

Lovett was one of many backs in the Penn State offense to be featured in 2021. Since he was not the main option at RB, Lovett’s numbers do not stand out. However, Lovett was still able to make an NFL roster when he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Panthers. Unfortunately, Lovett never cracked the final roster for the Panthers.

Now, John Lovett has a chance with the Vegas Vipers. 

Robert Windsor, DL, Vegas Vipers

Robert Windsor was a three-star defensive line prospect out of Fond Du Lac, WI. Windsor, a member of the 2015 class, redshirted that same year. Windsor appeared in all 14 games in his first season. In his second season in 2017, Windsor appeared in all 13 games and led the Big Ten in fumble recoveries (3). In 2018 Windsor made 12 starts and finished number six in the Big Ten with 0.63 sacks per game. In his final season, Windsor started in 13 games and was named third-team All-Big Ten by the coaches. It is safe to say Windsor had a very successful career with the Nittany Lions.

Windsor was a sixth-round draft pick by the Colts in 2020. Windsor spent time between the Colts’ practice squad and active roster this year. In 2021 Windsor was placed on IR. The following year in 2022, Windsor retired from the NFL because of his injuries.

However, Windsor is making his football return in the XFL. Windsor told Penn State’s own Steve Jones that he wants to use the XFL as a stepping stone to get back to the NFL. Time will tell whether or not an NFL team will seek Robert’s services. 

Ellis Brooks, LB, DC Defenders (Reserve Roster)

Ellis Brooks, a member of the 2017 class, was a four-star LB from Richmond. Brooks was ranked the 260th overall player according to 247’s composite ranking. 

After redshirting in 2017, Brooks made a name for himself on Penn State’s defense. In his first season in 2018, Brooks appeared in 13 games. In the following season, Brooks appeared in 13 games and had 2.5 sacks (second among linebackers). In 2020 Brooks made 9 starts and led the team in tackles with 60. In his final season, Brooks led Penn State in tackles once more with 100. Brooks was named second-team All-Big Ten after his final season.

Despite a very productive career with the Nittany Lions, Brooks went undrafted. Brooks signed as an undrafted free agent with the Packers. His time in Green Bay was short-lived, as they cut him before the season. Brooks is currently on the reserve roster for the DC Defenders. 

FOOTBALL

BREAKING: Trace McSorley gets last-minute call from NFL team, will miss White Out festivities

Trace McSorley was expected to be an honorary captain for tomorrow night’s White Out game against Iowa, but it appears that the former Penn State QB had a last-minute change of plans.

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Sep 29, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley (9) runs with the ball during the first quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Across Happy Valley, Penn State football fans are gearing up for the White Out tomorrow night against Iowa. The White Out always attracts famous Nittany Lions from the past, and this weekend will be no different. Saturday night’s primetime matchup against the No. 24 Hawkeyes was expected to feature two Penn State legends, as former Nittany Lions Grant Haley and Trace McSorley were set to be the team’s honorary captains. However, it appears that the program may have just received a late cancelation, as McSorley has apparently received a last-second call from an NFL team.

Former Penn State QB Trace McSorley gets last-second NFL callup, expected to miss White Out festivities

Earlier this week, Nittany Nation was excited to learn that two Penn State football legends, Trace McSorley and Grant Haley, were set to serve as honorary captains for tomorrow night’s matchup against the No. 24 Iowa Hawkeyes. During his Tuesday press conference, head coach James Franklin noted that McSorley and Haley were already on campus, mingling with members of the current program in the weight room.

“They’re beloved in Penn State history, in my opinion. I know they are in our building,” Franklin said. 

However, it appears that there has been a last-minute change of plans. Friday afternoon, The Family Clothesline posted a message on Instagram noting that McSorley would not be making his scheduled appearance at the store tomorrow. According to the message, McSorley had received a last-minute call to meet with an NFL team.

“We wanted to update you on the autograph session scheduled for tomorrow, September 23,” the message reads. “Trace McSorley received a last-minute call to meet with an NFL team. While we are disappointed he won’t be in Happy Valley for White Out Weekend, we are wishing him the best of luck! It’s unfortunate that we will not be able to have Trace meet you all, but this is a great opportunity for him, so we are showing our best support.”

At this time, it’s unknown which NFL squad has contacted Trace McSorley. McSorley played two seasons for the Baltimore Ravens and Arizona Cardinals, respectively, before being cut by the New England Patriots last month.



Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at [email protected] or direct message us on our social media. Also, be sure to check out our new site shop. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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FOOTBALL

WATCH: Saquon Barkley helped off field with lower body injury

Things don’t look good for former Penn State RB Saquon Barkley

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Sep 17, 2023; Glendale, Arizona, USA; New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) is helped off the field against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

As Penn State football comes off a Week 3 win at Illinois, Penn State fans wrapped up the weekend by watching former Nittany Lions hit the field in the NFL. The late afternoon window this Sunday was particularly enjoyable for Penn State fans, with both Micah Parson and Saquon Barkley leading their respective teams in action. However, the mood turned sour near the end of the New York Giants game against the Arizona Cardinals, as Barkley was helped off the field with an apparent lower-body injury.

Former Penn State, New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley helped off field

The New York Giants completed a massive comeback against the Arizona Cardinals this afternoon, rallying from a 20-0 halftime deficit to win 31-28. In the second half, Saquon Barkley was back to doing Saquon Barkley things. The former Penn State running back had 17 rushes for 63 yards and a touchdown. In the passing game, Barkley also added 6 catches for 29 yards and a score to his stat line today.

However, the Giants comeback ended poorly for Barkley. With 1:08 left in the game, Saquon Barkley went down with an injury after a nasty tackle that twisted his right leg.

Barkley ultimately needed assistance getting off the field. According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, Barkley was getting his ankle tapped on the sideline. However, Schefter noted that the Giants running back was walking with a limp.

On the sidelines, the camera caught Barkley looking visibly upset. Barkley had 12 carries for 51 yards on the season coming into this game. If he is to miss extended time, it would be a major blow to the former Penn State football standout, who is one of the superstars in the NFL today.

The New York Giants return to action against the San Franciso 49ers on Thursday night. Given that it’s a short week, it’ll be interesting to see if Saquon Barkley is able to go for the primetime matchup.

UPDATE: As of 8:45 p.m. on Sunday, NFL insider Jordan Schultz is reporting that the Giants believe Saquon Barkley has suffered a sprained ankle, and that the Giants superstar avoided a major injury.



Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at [email protected] or direct message us on our social media. Also, be sure to check out our new site shop. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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FOOTBALL

ICYMI: Former Penn State quarterback cut by NFL team

Recently, former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley received bad news, getting cut by the New England Patriots in the NFL.

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Former Penn State quarterback, Penn State Football, Trace McSorley
Aug 10, 2023; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Trace McSorley (19) drops back to pass during the second half against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback is a buzzworthy position around the Penn State football program currently. While this is true for most college football programs this time of year, it’s especially so in Happy Valley. The competition for the starter’s role encompassing the 2023 offseason appears to be reaching its end. But in the pro ranks, one former Penn State quarterback will not be coming out on top in his position room, as recently Trace McSorley was cut by the New England Patriots.

Penn State quarterbacks have been in the headlines as of late

When you mention Penn State football, quarterback is what comes to everybody’s mind. Ahead of Penn State’s season opener at home against West Virginia, James Franklin has been reluctant to name a starting quarterback. Quarterbacks Drew Allar and Beau Pribula have been battling all camp long to see who will win the starting quarterback position. Both early enrollees of the 2022 class, the duo is in their second year under Offensive Coordinator Mike Yurcich’s system, which should help their development. With the growth the two have shown, I suspect they will both see playing time this season. 

In addition, James Franklin and Mike Yurcich have praised the development of true freshman Jaxon Smolik. The 6-foot-1-inch quarterback from Iowa has grown immensely from just spring to fall. James Franklin said ahead of WVU that the team has “three quarterbacks that we could all win with.” 

Outside of current Nittany Lion QBs, there has been news professionally. Rookie fifth-round pick Sean Clifford just won the backup role in Green Bay. Clifford’s completion percentage so far in the preseason jumps off the page – 71.9%. 

Additionally, former second-round pick Christian Hackenberg has started dipping his toes into the world of NIL. Hackenberg is now a part of State Media, a Penn State-based NIL media company that will interview players. 

But Penn State’s most famous quarterback received some bad news.

Former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley cut by New England Patriots

An argument could be made about who Penn State’s best quarterback ever is. The argument typically comes down to two – Kerry Collins and Trace McSorley. In his first season in starting for Penn State in 2016, McSorley led the Nittany Lions to their first Big Ten Championship since 2008. McSorley led the Nittany Lions to a Fiesta Bowl win in 2017. 

McSorley was drafted in the sixth round by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2019 NFL Draft. He spent most of his time as a backup to Lamar Jackson but saw select game action for the black and purple. In 2021, the Arizona Cardinals signed McSorley off the Ravens practice squad. McSorley only started one game for the Cardinals. After Kyler Murray and Colt McCoy suffered injuries, McSorley started 2022 week 16 against the Buccaneers. He went 24/45 for 217 yards and an interception. 

After the 2022 season, McSorley signed a one-year deal with the New England Patriots, joining former Penn State teammate Mike GesickiMcSorley only threw four passes in the preseason, completing only one. The Patriots have quarterbacks Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe, and Malik Cunningham on the roster. The Patriots must have thought McSorley was not good enough to beat out the other three, as they cut him after the preseason ended. 

Time will tell where McSorley ends up next. Hopefully, this is not the end of McSorley’s playing career. 



Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at [email protected] or direct message us on our social media. Also, be sure to check out our new site shop. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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