Milanovich hired; 5 CFL stars who played in the XFL


Photo: argonauts.ca

Scott Milanovich is the new head coach of the Toronto Argonauts. He’s also the answer to an extremely obscure sports trivia question.

In 2001, Milanovich, now 38, was the first ever pick in the only XFL Draft. He didn’t end up playing much, stuck behind Tommy Maddox on the team’s depth chart. Maddox went on to a moderately successful second try at the NFL, while Milanovich finished his playing career in the CFL, backing up for Calgary in 2003 under Jim Barker.

Huge XFL fan

The two leagues are weirdly linked. Vince McMahon actually started the XFL after being rebuffed in his attempt to buy the CFL — yes, the entire league. God knows how that would have turned out. Likely something like this.

Today, McMahon’s much-maligned experiment is remembered for a few things: wacky rules, stupid cross-promotion with WWE, the Madden-style flying camera, and players being allowed to customize their names on their jerseys (“He Hate Me.”)  The league tried to legitimize itself by the end of its first-and-last season, but by then, nobody was watching and the damage was more than done.

Playing a schedule that kicked off in February 2001, the league attracted some CFL players. A number of other players moved on to the Canadian game after the XFL folded. Let’s take a look at five players who have found the most success in both leagues.

Noel Prefontaine / photo credit: CFL Noel Prefontaine
Los Angeles Xtreme (XFL ); Toronto Argonauts, Edmonton Eskimos (CFL)

“Pre” has mostly been a CFL guy throughout his career, which began in 1998 with the Argos. The dependable punter played for the champion LA Xtreme (obviously one of the dumbest names in the history of sports) in the spring of 2001, and was listed as the team’s third quarterback. Prefontaine then had training camp cups of coffee with the Baltimore Ravens had Kansas City Chiefs, but neither worked out. After Toronto shipped him to Edmonton in 2008, Prefontaine fired some shots at the Argos in the media. It didn’t seem to matter much in the long run, as he returned to the team in 2010.

Marcus Crandell
Memphis Maniax (XFL); Edmonton Eskimos, Calgary Stampeders, Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL)

Crandell, a quarterback, signed with the Edmonton Eskimos after graduating from East Carolina. He spent three as a backup in Alberta before joining the Memphis Maniax (more stupid than Xtreme?) Crandell struggled during his year in Memphis and completed just 47.8% of his passes before being replaced by NFL washout Jim Druckenmiller. He found more success upon his return north, pivoting the Calgary Stampeders to an unlikely Grey Cup in 2001. Crandell could run and throw, but his career was marked by inconsistency. He joined Saskatchewan in 2005 and retired in 2008.  He’s now the offensive coordinator for his first pro team, the Edmonton Eskimos.

Paul McCallum
Las Vegas Outlaws (XFL); Saskatchewan Roughriders, BC Lions (CFL)

To be fair, McCallum played in the CFL prior to the XFL’s existence. He let people know with his customized jersey nameplate, which read “CFL Reject.” The 41-year-old kicker is still going strong, as he just won a Grey Cup with the BC Lions. McCallum holds all sorts of CFL records for kicking. It’s unclear what “CFL Reject” really meant; he’s played with four CFL teams over 19 years, and is a five-time west all-star. He also once had manure dropped on his property after missing a chip-shot field goal in a 2004 playoff game.

John Avery
Chicago Enforcers (XFL); Edmonton Eskimos, Toronto Argos (CFL)

Avery was the dominant running back in the XFL, rushing for a league-leading 800 yards and 5 touchdowns. He parlayed that success into a contract with the Dallas Cowboys, but was cut after training camp. So Avery headed north to the Edmonton Eskimos and proceeded to rip up the CFL. He led the league with 1448 yards. After spending 2003 primarily as a kick returner with the Minnesota Vikings he returned to the CFL – with a bum knee. His final four years in the league  were disappointing, with his sometimes-comedic television appearances proving more memorable.

Jermaine Copeland
Los Angeles Xtreme (XFL); Montreal Alouettes, Calgary Stampeders, Toronto Argos (CFL)

Copeland played with Peyton Manning at Tennessee but never had the speed to be a regular NFL wideout. With that said, he’s put up prolific numbers at every stop in his pro career (until the last few, with the miserable Argos.) He led the XFL in receptions with 67 in 8 games. Like Avery, he had a failed training camp stint with the Dallas Cowboys before signing with the Montreal Alouettes. Copeland has put together an impressive CFL career since then, as he is a three-time all-star and one of 15 players to amass 10,000 receiving yards in the CFL.

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