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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.



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. 

Jersey born and raised. When was the last time you missed a Penn State football game? I don't know either. Let's talk sports. Ravens, Yankees, Penn State everything.


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