Six former Gwinnett high school players will participate in the hyped reboot of the XFL, the pro football league backed by WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon and his Alpha Entertainment, LLC.
Collins Hill grad Taylor Heinicke and North Gwinnett grad Robert Nelson are teammates on the St. Louis Battlehawks, while Greater Atlanta Christian’s Micah Abernathy (Dallas Renegades), Central Gwinnett’s Jonathan Massaquoi (D.C. Defenders), Brookwood’s Nick Moore (Tampa Bay Vipers) and Peachtree Ridge’s Joe Horn Jr. (New York Guardians) also earned final roster spots heading into the season-opening weekend, Feb. 8-9.
McMahon founded the sensationalized XFL in 2001, but it lasted just one season. He launched it again for this year with a number of changes, including some revamped rules, though it still is predominantly in line with traditional, 11-on-11 football.
The season kicks off Feb. 8 with two games, Seattle against D.C. (2 p.m., ABC) and Houston against Los Angeles (5 p.m., Fox). Two games will follow on Feb. 9 — Tampa Bay at New York (2 p.m., Fox) and St. Louis at Dallas (5 p.m., ESPN).
Those games kick off a 10-week regular season that precedes a two-week postseason, culminating with an April 26 championship game. Every XFL game will be televised nationally live by ABC, ESPN or Fox Sports.
All six of the Gwinnett players on XFL rosters have some level of NFL experience, including veterans like Massaquoi, Heinicke and Nelson.
Massaquoi, 31, got off to a great start with the hometown Atlanta Falcons, playing in 39 games from 2012-14, his first three seasons in the NFL. The defensive end was with the Titans in 2015 and the Chiefs in 2016, but his recent stints have been in the short-lived Alliance of American Football in 2018 and with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders in 2019.
Heinicke, 26, was on NFL rosters with the Vikings, Texans and Panthers from 2015-18, playing in seven games with one start as a quarterback. Nelson, his St. Louis teammate, has played in 24 games — the 29-year-old defensive back had stints with the Browns, Cardinals, Texans and Jets.
Gwinnett’s other three XFL players are less experienced in pro football as all three are coming off their rookie seasons.
Abernathy, a defensive back at Tennessee, got experience with the Buccaneers, Vikings and Colts in 2019. Horn, the son of former All-Pro wide receiver Joe Horn, was in camp with the Ravens after playing wide receiver at Missouri Western.
Moore signed last year with the Saints as an undrafted rookie free agent after playing at Georgia. The 27-year-old long snapper played four seasons of minor league baseball in the Boston Red Sox organization before his college football career began.