One of the surprises of Day Five of the inaugural
NY/NJ HITMEN skill position mini-camp was the
conditioning of the participants. Head trainer
Keith Abrams reported no major injuries or muscle
pulls, a tribute to the players’ preparation
and readiness for action.
The coaching staff, however, was another story.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach
Ron Calcagni struggled through laryngitis after
just two days of high-volume teaching, and Abrams
should expect increased traffic in his training
room from coaches who “got physical” during
the Friday afternoon practice session.
Members of the staff, including Calcagni, Head
Coach Rusty Tillman, administrative assistant
Ron Stevens, and even Abrams himself, played
the role of defenders during 7-on-7 passing
drills. Although the “defense” set up multiple
coverages, they appeared lost when trying to
thwart the HITMEN offense.
Stevens had the “hit” of the day, however, stopping
running back Malcolm Thomas on a screen pass
after deftly defeating the blocks of Calcagni
and center Eric Cole, prompting calls of “sign
him up” from players and coaches alike.
As the week wore on, aspiring players flocked
to the practice field to inquire about a tryout.
One HITMEN hopeful appeared on the sidelines
during the morning practice ready for battle—dressed
in helmet and shoulder pads!
Perhaps the strongest evidence of the popularity
of the XFL was the number of player agents who
made the trip to Kean University to “watch”
practice. A handful of eager representatives
appealed to any player within business card
While the rule changes draw the most attention,
it’s the equipment, specifically the new helmet
manufactured by BIKE, that has the players talking.
Lighter and more aerodynamic than traditional
football headgear, the new helmets were met
with both enthusiasm and curiosity.
Wide receiver Donnie Caldwell favors the new
helmet, citing its lighter weight as a plus.
“The helmet is phenomenal,” said the former
Western Illinois star. “It feels like there’s
nothing on my head, and I feel I can run faster
and better routes when we’re in full equipment.”