The XFL announced Monday the St. Louis franchise will keep the BattleHawks name and logo used during the ill-fated 2020 season, a Halloween treat for the Ka-Kaw faithful as welcome as a full-size candy bar.
Head coach Anthony Becht celebrated the news in St. Louis, and after weeks spent evaluating XFL prospects, there’s no disguise for what the hulking former tight end wants in his goodie bag when the XFL Draft concludes on Nov. 17.
“It starts with guys that are driven, have chips on their shoulder,” Becht said. “There is a reason why you’re not at the highest level. There’s something that’s blocking you – through high school and college you’ve always been ‘the guy’ – now you hit a roadblock.”
“How can you accept being critiqued? That’s what my job is, that’s what my staff’s job is with these players.”
Becht is new to delivering professional criticism, but he received plenty during an 11-year NFL career that featured 152 consecutive games played – third-most among players active from 2000-2010 – and included one season in St. Louis.
A favorite target of former Rams’ quarterback Marc Bulger at West Virginia, Becht was selected by the New York Jets with the 27th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft by GM Bill Parcells – one of four first-round selections the NFL legend used to rebuild New York that spring.
Becht caught a touchdown pass in the Jets’ first preseason game, a 24-20 win over the New Orleans Saints, and the rookie was excited when Parcells approached him at practice the next day.
“He puts his hand on my shoulder and he looks at me: ‘Becht, if you ever block like that again on any NFL film that I watch, I’ll send your bleep so fast back to West Virginia.’”
“It hit me hard, man. You get that diva mentality as a first-round pick – that really, truly humbled me early on in my career. Went to work, put my head down and became a little bit more blue-collar player.”
Becht looks and sounds like someone suited for a football market that will always carry a large chip on its shoulder.
“I’m trying to be great at everything,” he said. “I’m going to scratch and claw, and I know that someone is always looking over my shoulder to take my job in the coaching world.”
“That mentality to me – and I can pass that on to players, coaches, personnel, anybody – there is always someone coming, what are you going to do to stay on top?”
Becht will be aided by a coaching staff that includes St. Louis fan-favorite Ricky Proehl and former Missouri Tigers’ defensive coordinator Dave Steckel.
Offensive coordinator Bruce Gradkowski, Becht’s teammate with the 2008 Rams, is developing the offensive playbook and will have play-calling responsibilities.
The same is true for defensive coordinator Donnie Abraham, a former NFL cornerback who played with Becht in New York.
“I’m giving them the opportunity to shine in their roles,” Becht said. “Obviously I’ll be very hands-on with building the offense and defensive structure every single game. But I’ve given those guys the opportunity to be the play-callers because I believe in what they do.”
The XFL announced on Monday that two quarterbacks from the available pool will be assigned to each team on Nov. 15, with two-day draft for remaining players held in Nevada the next day.
Becht said the team will meet over Zoom and spend time in St. Louis and with their families over the holiday season.
“It’s gets January 1, starts cranking up man, and it’s all ball. Training camp goes and we’ll be ready to rock and roll.”
Andy Carroll is a freelance sports writer living in the Ozarks with his wife and four great kids. He loves St. Louis, toasted ravioli and minor league baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @carroll_sgf and Instagram @andycarroll505