After three years of agonized waiting, football has finally returned to the city of St. Louis. 2020 saw the initial return in the form of the XFL’s Battlehawks, filling the void left by the Rams’ unfortunate departure in 2016. The team quickly seized the hearts and minds of the city, becoming a staple of the city’s sports scene while boasting the largest fanbase in the XFL.
As anyone who followed the season would know, however, the league folded after just five weeks with the coming of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thankfully, under a new ownership group headed by Hollywood superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the XFL has made a triumphant return with a brand-new set of paint, featuring new logos, new uniforms, and a couple of new cities.
Among the teams playing this year, the Battlehawks are currently on the road to take on the Seattle Sea Dragons this Thursday on February 23. March 12 will showcase the Battlehawks’ long-anticipated return to St. Louis as they host the Arlington Renegades for their home opener.
Albeit slight in comparison to other XFL franchises, this iteration of the Battlehawks features a number of stark differences from their counterpart back in 2020—jerseys, the helmets, and even the logos. Not to mention that the entire roster has changed in the meantime, including a brand-new set of coaches. Such changes can be overwhelming to anyone who hasn’t closely followed the team over the last year, so for anyone eager to jump on board the bandwagon, I’ve compiled everything you need to know about your St. Louis Battlehawks.
Given the herculean task of ushering in a new age of Battlehawks football is former tight end Anthony Becht, named St. Louis’ head coach for the 2023 season. Drafted 27th overall in the 2000 NFL Draft, Becht would go on to play 11 seasons in the NFL, including one with the St. Louis Rams in 2008, giving him an intimate experience of St. Louis’ capacity as a football city.
Becht’s ties with St. Louis don’t end there, however. As an assistant coach of the Alliance of American Football’s San Diego Fleet, Becht was able to work closely with the team’s head coach, Mike Martz, renowned for being the St. Louis Rams’ offensive coordinator during their legendary Super Bowl run of 1999.
With these ties to the city, Becht has been able to build a tight connection with the St. Louis fanbase. This is alongside putting together a great product on the field, having snatched victory out of the jaws of defeat against the Battlehawks’ Week 1 matchup, the San Antonio Brahmas. Whether this success can continue is hardly guaranteed one way or another, but Becht’s determination and potential as a head coach is unquestionable.
On November 15, 2022, after great anticipation, the XFL announced the quarterbacks selected for each of their eight franchises.
Designated to head the second coming of the Battlehawks were Ryan Willis, who was rumored to join St. Louis around a month prior, and former NFL backup A.J. McCarron. Willis, who has since been released to join the rival USFL’s Memphis Showboats, leaves A.J. McCarron to be the starter for the team.
McCarron, who played at Alabama over a span of four seasons became the first quarterback to win back-to-back BCS National Championships while also establishing himself as the Crimson Tide’s all-time passing leader.
With this pronounced success in college, McCarron was selected in the fifth round of 2014 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. Though he was brought in to be a backup, McCarron nevertheless saw a fair bit of playing time in 2015 following an injury by the team’s starter, Andy Dalton. His stint at the helm of the Bengals included the first NFL win by an Alabama quarterback in nearly 30 years, alongside a start in the AFC Wild Card game against the arch-rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite taking the lead late in the fourth quarter, the Bengals would nevertheless fall 18-16.
McCarron would see little time on the field past the 2015 campaign and would don the uniform of four more NFL teams before dropping out of the league entirely. From there, McCarron is now looking to bounce back in the XFL, and with his incredible comeback against the Brahmas this last Sunday, that mission is off to a good start. With his near unparalleled college success and a solid bit of NFL experience, McCarron is poised to continue dominating as one of the league’s premier quarterbacks.
The name Proehl is hardly unfamiliar to the football faithful in the city of St. Louis. 23 years ago, when the St. Louis Rams found themselves trailing 6-5 in the waning minutes of the NFC Championship game, quarterback Kurt Warner was able to break through the rock-solid Buccaneers defense with a 30-yard pass to Ricky Proehl to send them to the Super Bowl. That legendary Rams team would go on to beat the Titans in the Big Game, and would ultimately become known as “The Greatest Show on Turf.”
Ricky Proehl has since retired, but professional football has carried on to the next generation. Austin Proehl, who bounced around three NFL teams without seeing actual playing time, finally found a starting role with the 2020 XFL’s Seattle Dragons. Proehl shined in his pro debut, recording the league’s very first touchdown while scoring another on a great run down the sideline.
Though the league was cut short due to the aforementioned pandemic, Proehl saw enough success to catch the eyes of quite a few NFL teams. Despite this, he still wasn’t able to crack a starting roster, and opted to return to the XFL. As fate would have it, both father and son would wind up with the St. Louis Battlehawks—Ricky as the wide receivers coach, and Austin as wide receiver. Come March, Austin will play at The Dome—right where his father made that storied catch all those years ago to clinch the NFC Championship Game.
With Week 1 in the books, Proehl is off to as good of a start if not even better than he did in 2020. With the Battlehawks down by three and in desperation mode with less than two minutes to play, a 4th and 15 conversion was necessary to keep their hopes alive. With the game on the line, quarterback A. J. McCarron found Proehl in a sea of defenders for the first down, effectively turning the game on its head. Driving deep into the endzone, St. Louis had an incredible opportunity not only to tie the game but to win it. With twenty seconds to go, McCarron once again found Proehl, who despite taking a brutal hit maintained possession of the ball for the game winner.
Granted the second pick in the XFL Skill Players Draft, the Battlehawks picked up wide receiver Marcell Ateman, a former Las Vegas Raider. Acquired as a 7th round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Ateman would go on to record 20 receptions for 270 yards, putting up a touchdown in the process. Ateman briefly shared a spot with A. J. McCarron on the Raiders’ practice squad, and with them both joining the ranks of St. Louis they’re donning the same uniform once more.
Since released from the NFL, Ateman, who has seen and performed at the highest level will be a pillar of the Battlehawks offense throughout the rest of the season. Coming up with a critical game saving catch in the dying minutes of the fourth quarter this last Sunday, he’s already more than showcased his ability on the gridiron.
Returning to the Battle Dome
As in 2020, The Dome at America’s Center, situated at the heart of St. Louis will play host to this year’s Battlehawks. Originally home to the St. Louis Rams, the venue formerly donned sponsorships from TWA and Edward Jones before the team’s departure to Los Angeles in 2016.
Now known commonly as “The Dome,” the 2020 XFL sparked new life into the aging stadium. Fans were able to witness football at the venue for the first time in years, boasting the highest attendance in the league, albeit for two games. With the XFL now back and set to be better than ever, they’ll finally be able to do it again on March 12, when the Battlehawks host the Arlington Renegades for their home opener.
New Logo, New Uniforms
Although recognizable, there isn’t a single aspect of the Battlehawks’ uniform that hasn’t received some sort of overhaul.
This year’s iteration of the jersey features a military stencil font for the numbers, paying homage to the city’s history of manufacturing jet aircraft. Like 2020, the home jersey is primarily blue, but the away jerseys are dominated by “Jet Gray” as opposed to white, further tying the design to the theme of the franchise.
For better or for worse, the helmets have seen a relatively drastic change from their 2020 counterparts, ditching the sword up the middle and opting instead for a gray stripe resembling that of the St. Louis arch.
Instead of the entire logo being sprawled over the helmet, only the wings remain present on the sides. Though this initially sparked a bit of outrage amongst fans of the original team, it seems that most have rallied behind the new helmets. Their sleek and sharp design compliments the bold blue and gray uniforms in a striking fashion, giving St. Louis not just a football team but a good looking one too.
In addition to the uniforms, the primary logo has seen a slight tweak from last time. The sword with wings is alive and well, but now features jagged edges on the wings as opposed to the curves which were formerly present. Gray, a prominent color on the 2020 logo, has also been relegated to the hilt of the sword.
Introducing the St. Louis Battlehawks secondary logos ⚔️
The Armored Battlehawk and STenciL Ligature were designed to pay homage to the military heritage of the U.S. Air Force and defense industry that influenced our namesake. pic.twitter.com/wW3clA8TqN
The secondary logo, on the other hand, is completely different. Instead of featuring another sword with wings, the Battlehawks whipped out an entirely different logo—the Armored Battlehawk. With the fanbase embracing more of the “hawk” side of the name than anything else with the classic chant “Ka-kaw” becoming a defining characteristic of the team (much to the chagrin of some opposing fans), a bird logo was sorely missed from the 2020 campaign. Now that void has been filled, and St. Louis will have another excellent logo to rally behind for years to come.
Although there’s still two weeks before football is actually played in St. Louis, Battlehawks football is still right around the corner! Squaring off against the hosting Seattle Sea Dragons on February 23 at 8:00 PM CT, the Battlehawks are seeking to carry on their momentum and keep their undefeated season intact.
Alongside watching it on TV, a great way to keep up with the game would be to follow us on Twitter and join our Discord! Share your thoughts and make your voice heard!