The rebooted XFL has officially christened its first star.
P.J. Walker, a former record-setting quarterback at Temple University, on Tuesday was named the first XFL Star of the Week.
Walker, who is also known as Phillip Walker, completed 23 of 39 passes for 272 yards, four touchdowns and one interception to lead the Houston Roughnecks to a 37-17 win over the L.A. Wildcats. He showed a nice touch in passing to eight different receivers and rushed for 26 yards on four attempts.
“I just went out and played the way that I’ve always played,” Walker said by phone from Houston.
At one point, the homestanding Roughnecks were down 17-12, but Walker’s play helped Houston score 25 unanswered points to record the victory.
“I’ve always known what I’m capable of. I’ve always trusted the process of what I’ve been going through. I just trust my process and take it day by day,” he said.
Despite breaking several records at Temple including career passing yards (10,669), completions (830) and touchdowns (74), Walker went undrafted in 2017. He spent three preseasons with Indianapolis Colts but has not played in a regular-season NFL game.
The 24-year-old athlete was released from the Colts in August and didn’t know what he was gong to do.
“I was watching college games and pro games and there was a feeling I couldn’t get over,” Walker said. “I felt that I belonged on the field playing or in some capacity. I knew I didn’t belong sitting on my couch watching the games.”
Then along came an offer to join the XFL. The Vince McMahon enterprise took a different approach in rebranding itself as a spring football league with the slogan of “for the love of football.” So Walker figured that he had nothing to lose.
“It’s about opportunity,” he said. “It’s another opportunity that we’re given to go out and play and show that we can play. We put ourselves out there on the main stage and get a lot of exposure.”
Temple is well represented in the XFL. The Wildcats feature wide receiver Adonis Jennings and offensive tackle Jalen Robinson; defensive end Praise Martin-Oguike and tight end Evan Rodriguez play for the Seattle Dragons; offensive tackle Cole Boozer plays for the Washington Defenders; and the Tampa Bay Vipers have tight end Colin Thompson.
With Pat Mahomes leading the Kansas City Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl 54 and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson winning the NFL’s MVP award, suddenly Black quarterbacks have become vogue. Now, almost every NFL team wants a Black quarterback with a strong arm and the ability to run. Walker fits that model.
“I’m off to a good start but I have to remain healthy and consistent,” said Walker, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 216 pounds. “I realize that I have more people looking at me now. I have to show that I can play well at a high level.”
It helps that Roughnecks head coach June Jones knows what Walker can do. In Walker’s freshman season at Temple in 2013, the Owls played SMU in Dallas in an American Athletic Conference game. The Mustangs were coached by Jones, who saw Walker complete his first 16 passes. He threw for 293 yards and rushed for 92 yards and had five touchdowns (four passing). Temple, then coached by Matt Rhule, now the new head coach of the Carolina Panthers, lost 59-49.
“That’s a help but I still have to go out and play,” Walker said. “I’m off to a good start. I have to keep it up. “