As a budding athlete at Meadowdale High School, Connor Hamlett always dreamed of playing professional sports in Seattle.
Thanks to the inception of an XFL franchise in Seattle, that dream will be realized by the former Mavericks standout.
After being selected in the seventh round of the open phase of the XFL draft by Seattle, Hamlett made the final 52-player roster for the Dragons, who open the season on the road Saturday against the DC Defenders. The kickoff is at 11 a.m. and the game will be televised by ABC.
This is Hamlett’s second stint with a startup professional football league. The Edmonds native played for the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football (AAF) last spring before the league folded near the end of its first season.
The demise of the AAF was reportedly as hectic as it was unfortunate.
The AAF, which was another attempt to create a football-watching option during the spring, the NFL’s offseason, lasted just two months because of sketchy financial backing and disarray among executives — Charlie Ebersol, the son of former NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol, former NFL general manager Bill Polian, and Carolina Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon, according to a report from ESPN.
When Dundon, who took over controlling interest from Ebersol by providing a $250 million investment so the AAF wouldn’t miss its initial payroll, eventually shut down the league with little warning and just two weeks remaining in the season.
Some players, such as those on the San Antonio Commanders, found out of the league shuttering during practice and all players were required to pay for their own flights home. The paychecks and health insurance many players were counting on went away when the league did.
“There were some rumors circling, but there were rumors since Week 1,” Hamlett said of the AAF. “We didn’t really know what to think. We were just focused on playing football. It’s unfortunate the way it ended, but a lot of guys got opportunities from it. Hopefully, with this league, we get more opportunities for guys to play at the next level.”
As unstable as the AAF was, it helped continue Hamlett’s career.
Hamlett, who played at Oregon State from 2010 to 2014, bounced around the NFL for three seasons, with the highlight being a 17-yard touchdown catch for his only NFL reception with the Cleveland Browns in 2016. But his career was halted during preseason with the Dallas Cowboys in 2017 when he broke his fibula.
There’s more optimism from Hamlett that the XFL, spearheaded by World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon, will be more efficiently run and provide more opportunity for players.
And what an opportunity that is for Hamlett, who expects around 20 of his family and friends to be in the stands at CenturyLink Field for the Dragons’ home opener on Feb. 15 against the Tampa Bay Vipers.
“It’s a chance to show I can still play and that I’m healthy,” Hamlett said. “We’ll see how it goes from there.”