With the scope of the spring football world ever changing as leagues come and go each year we are witnessing one of the most unique situations in football history. There are three prominent options for players who find themselves outside the NFL. With the CFL, XFL and USFL all providing well paying homes to continue their playing career we have seen several players bounce between the two leagues.
Recently the XFL kicked off their 2023 combine in an effort to seek out the best players still looking for a home. It was expected this event would attract players with experience in the CFL, and USFL as well.
Redblacks Returning to the Field
Of the many players that appeared at the combine two notable former Redblacks turned up.
Former coach William Arndt who once played quarterback and is trying to revive his playing career as well as, wideout Ryan Davis, the all time leading receiver in Auburn history with 178 career receptions. For these men it’s not a question if they can play, it’s simply a question of whose roster will they fit?
William Arndt is a one of the most interesting players you’ll find at the XFL combine. He is certainly the only player there who can claim he has been a CFL player, a CFL coach, and actor.
Ardnt is a Western Connecticut State University alum, not exactly a large school by anyone’s standards. He set school records for career yards, career passing yards, total touchdowns, and passing touchdowns. He was also highly regarded by teammates being voted in as captain 3 times in four years. After graduating in 2015, it wasn’t until 2018 that Arndt saw his first professional contract with the CFL.
Somehow, Arndt found his way to the Alberta Football League. A semi-professional league designed to help players get to the CFL. While he may not have been signed to a professional roster but he played a quarterback on a made for TV movie about Joe Paterno and the scandal at Penn State acting as Matt McGloin (a future XFL QB in his own right).
Signing with the Redblacks for the first time. He would finish out the 2018 season riding the bench and learning the game re-signing with Ottawa for the 2019 season. In 2019 he was active for all 18 games, starting 3. He played fairly well given the circumstances and completed 62.4% of his 165 attempts for 940 yards 3 touchdowns and 6 interceptions adding 15 carries for 45 yards. After the 2019 season he was signed by the BC Lions for the 2020 season. At this point he was soon to be 27 years old and the season ended up cancelled.
Coaching Career Begins Prematurely
Heading into 2021 he was offered a coaching role as an offensive assistant with the Edmonton Elks. He served in this capacity for one season under Jaime Elizondo his former quarterbacks coach with Ottawa, and current San Antonio Brahmas wide receivers coach. The Brahmas have some need for a quarterback, especially if Kurt Benkert does not return. Could Ardnt find new life under his former colleague?
In 2022 Arndt served as the quarterback coach for Ottawa, and it was heading into 2023 Arndt opted to push the pause button on his riding coaching career. He decided he wasn’t done playing football and started to again chase the game he can’t get away from. Some other teams to watch: BC Lions Mike Benevides a former Redblacks coach is there.
Ryan Davis, Wide Receiver/Return Man
Ryan Davis could easily still be in the CFL. Make no mistake about it he is arguably one of the best receivers to be let go by Ottawa from 2022. As I mentioned before Davis graduated from Auburn holding the record for career receptions, what I didn’t mention, is it took him just three seasons to do so after not logging his first reception until he was a sophomore.
As a sophomore he quickly showed his Auburn coaches he belonged as a starter. Over the next three seasons and 36 games, Davis dominated defenses to the tune of 178 receptions for 1,515 yards, and 7 touchdowns adding 3 completions on 4 attempts for 105 yards and 3 touchdowns, 8 carries for 37 yards. He also added value as a return man with 25 punt returns for 255 yards.
Davis after college was signed by the New England Patriots who coveted his versatility. He unfortunately didn’t make the roster, but would find new life in the XFL with the Tampa Bay Vipers. This paired him with a familiar name in Jaime Elizondo who was serving as the offensive coordinator at the time. He would appear in 3 of 5 games catching 2 passes for 6 yards.
In 2021 he landed with Ottawa and over the next two years he served as a starter for the Redblacks. He appeared in 24 games, starting 22 of them. He collected 94 receptions for 893 yards and 2 touchdowns, while serving as the designated gadget player on offense. He attempted 3 passes completed 2 for 82 yards, impressive numbers for Davis who has completed 5 of 7 attempts for 187 yards and 3 touchdowns as a passer. He also managed 12 carries for 42 yards.
His biggest value to an XFL team might be as a return man. He had 30 kick returns for 548 yards, 37 punt returns for 245 yards, and 1 field goal return for 37 yards. He also had 3 tackles. If he is willing to play all forms of special teams he could be one of the most valuable players in the draft.
Could Elizondo be already pounding the table for two players he knows well? Would either player be there if not for this connection with Elizondo? The Brahmas were certainly lacking offensive firepower at times last season. Elizondo also happens to know that if he can woo either player, the XFL then presents those players the opportunity to double dip playing in the 2024 CFL season as well if they find interest. Regardless the combine is already proving to be a very fruitful event for the XFL and it’s teams. I expect both of these men to hear their names called in the draft.
If you’re a fan of the CFL, make sure to check out our weekly CFL/ELF Podcast. We discuss the latest news, sometimes with guests that can provide extra insight from their time in the leagues.
Big Announcement: CFL Unveils Free Live Streaming Platforms
Get Alerts & Stay ConnectedCFL iPhone App
CFL Android App