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When you have a dream to play professional football, you leave no stone unturned when it comes to opportunity.
For Long Island’s Jack Coan, that dream started while playing youth football in Sayville before becoming an elite quarterback for Sayville High School. Then it was off to college at Wisconsin before transferring to Notre Dame for his senior season in 2021.
Coan guided the Fighting Irish to an 11-2 record in 2021, throwing for 2,727 yards and 18 touchdown passes, but he was not selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The dream though did not end, as Coan was signed by the Indianapolis Colts in May of 2022 as an undrafted free agent. After training camp, there was another bump in the road for Coan: He was waived by the Colts.
Still the dream didn’t end. In fact, it continues for Coan as the starting quarterback for the XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas.
“It’s been a ton of fun so far,” said the 24-year-old Coan during a phone interview with Greater Long Island.
“It’s really great to be around the locker room with guys again and to be part of a team atmosphere and getting to know a bunch of different people from different places and different backgrounds,” he said. “Just to be able to play the game I love again has been awesome, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it.”
This is the third version of the XFL, a league first launched by World Wrestling Entertainment Chairman Vince McMahon in 2001 but folded after just one season. McMahon brought the league back in 2020, but XFL version 2.0 never took off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, under the direction of owners Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dany Garcia, the league has returned once again and it’s an opportunity for players like Coan to continue playing professional football. It’s also a chance for them to gain some experience in the spring with the hope that the NFL could come calling in the near future.
“I think the XFL is another opportunity for me and other players in this league to really showcase what they can do, continue to play the game that they love and just try to get another opportunity in the NFL,” Coan said. “This is a developmental league, so it’s really giving us a lot of live reps and the ability to get better day in and day out. I’m really thankful for this opportunity.”
While many football “purists” go out of their way to disparage spring football leagues, there’s no denying that there are some talented football players that have fallen through the NFL cracks over the years and just need some time on another stage to develop and get another shot.
Remember Kurt Warner? He went from undrafted to the Arena Football League to NFL Europe and then to the St. Louis Rams where he became an NFL and Super Bowl MVP.
The XFL, as well as the USFL (which kicks off its second season in April), is very important to those players who have not given up on their dream to play in the NFL. At the moment, they’re just not able to make the 53-man roster of one of the NFL’s 32 teams.
“There’s a lot of players that are on this team and in this league that have already been in the NFL, some for multiple years, some briefly, and some for a lot of years,” Coan said. “There’s really a lot of NFL talent, and the whole motto behind this league is the “player 54” mindset where an NFL roster is 53 players and a lot of these guys are the 54th player on the roster meaning they were basically the last guy who got cut.”
The ”54th player” motto is the rallying cry led by XFL co-owner Dwayne Johnson, who was a defensive lineman at the University of Miami. He played briefly in the Canadian Football League but never realized his dream of playing in the NFL, so he turned to the WWF (now WWE) and followed in the footsteps of his father Rocky Johnson becoming a professional wrestler. He became one of the WWF’s biggest stars before becoming a Hollywood star.
But Rock always carried around that feeling of being player 54 and that was a big reason why he wanted to bring back the XFL.
“Just the way he’s talked about this league and the way he’s hyping it up and things like that, it seems like he’s extremely passionate and is really putting everything into this, and I’m just really thankful for him,” said Coan.
For this season, the XFL decided not to place a team in the New York/New Jersey area, as the Guardians were relocated to Orlando. It would have been an even bigger thrill for Coan to be able to play near family and friends, but every XFL game is televised, giving friends, family and fans back home on Long Island a chance to see him play.
And he’s grateful for the chance, on national television, to show what he can do and where he’s from.
“Whenever I step on the field, I really do my best to represent Long Island and represent my hometown of Sayville,” he said. “If I can inspire some young kids to hopefully grow up and to play in the NFL or college one day, that would mean a ton to me.”
As for Coan’s parents, the opportunity to see their son play in the XFL means that every weekend is a travel weekend.
Whether San Antonio, Arlington, Orlando, Las Vegas, Seattle, Washington, D.C., St. Louis or Houston.
If Jack is playing, they are there.
“My parents don’t miss a game,” Coan said. “They’re flying there or driving there. They’re not missing a thing. I can’t thank them enough for everything they do for me. They’re enjoying this ride a ton, maybe even more so than I have. It means a ton to me to make them proud and I’m really thankful for them.”
The XFL is a league of opportunity for players who love football and still have the dream of getting to the highest level possible and that’s the NFL. For Coan, who experienced a small taste of the NFL at Colts training camp last summer, the dream is far from over.
He’s playing professional football and opening up some eyes. And there are a lot of eyes back home in Sayville that are cheering him on from afar.Embed from Getty Images