When it comes to former first-round draft choices, the San
Francisco Demons more than hold their own on the XFL landscape,
but there’s even more than meets the eye.
Starting with Indiana’s Vaughn Dunbar in 1992, three current
Demons were opening-round selections in the National Football,
more than their share of the 14 who were available when the
league conducted its first player draft in late October. Dunbar
was the 21st overall selection that year by New Orleans and
he led the Saints in rushing during his rookie season.
Three years later, Ohio State’s Craig Powell and Trezelle
Jenkins of Michigan were consecutive picks in the 1995 draft,
Powell going to Cleveland and Jenkins tabbed by Kansas City
as selections No. 31 and 32. As impressive as that may be,
the Demons can point to their entire football staff to make
those numbers look even better.
Mel Owens, San Francisco’s director of football operations,
and defensive line coach Keith Millard were even more highly
sought after their collegiate careers.
Owens played nine seasons with the Los Angeles Rams (1981-89)
after going as the No. 9 selection in the 1981 NFL draft.
Millard was picked 13th overall by Minnesota in the 1985 proceedings.
Owens recorded four interceptions while starting regularly
for the Rams throughout the 1980s. Millard was the NFL’s consensus
defensive player of the year in 1989 and paced the Vikings
in quarterback sacks in four of his first five years. He recorded
18 sacks during his dominating 1989 campaign.
“Guys who have played in the league have instant credibility,
but you can’t fool them for long,” Head Coach Jim Skipper
said. “You have to know your stuff. In the case of Keith,
he has been gaining experience as a coach since he played
and will do a great job for us.
“Mel could be doing anything with his life right now, he has
a law degree,” Skipper added. “But he wanted to work in football.
The players can sense when you’re committed to working with
them and want to help them succeed. Both Mel and Keith already
have done that.
“That’s one of the reasons we hired Mel and Keith. They are
tireless workers who want to see the Demons and the league
flourish,” the coached added. “That’s what we all want to
Millard is still an imposing figure, playing defensive tackle
with the Vikings, Packers and Eagles at 6-5 and 265 pounds.
Owens, however, appears as much like a player in corporate
America as a linebacker in the NFL, trimming down from his
235-pound playing weight.
Owens started six seasons with the Rams at inside and outside
linebacker. He has been involved with trying to bring college
football to Rio deJaniero and youth football camps since ending
his playing days.
In fact, Owens’ co-workers in the Demons’ front office would
be surprised to learn of Mel’s football lineage as a player
because he’s so totally inobtrusive about his accomplishments.
“I don’t have any memorabilia in my house,” says Owens, who
lives in downtown San Francisco. “My dad has it all.”
DEMONS’ NOTES . . . . . Veteran wide receiver Calvin Schexnayder
arrived in camp during practice Thursday and had his own car
at Pacific Bell Park. After practice during rush hour, he
was going to follow a member of the administration back to
Demons’ hotel in downtown San Francisco just 10 blocks away.
When they missed one of their turns not far from the park,
an unintended detour resulted in a 90-minute excursion back
to the hotel. “Calvin almost missed dinner,” said director
of operations Mel Owens. “I thought he was in good hands getting
back.” Obviously, the experience only solidified Coach Jim
Skipper’s edict that all players ride the bus to and from
practice . . . . . Demons’ quarterback Mike Pawlawski will
miss Saturday’s workouts to join veteran Barry Tompkins as
the announce team for the Cal-Stanford football game in Berkeley
on KGO-TV (ABC) and Fox Sports Bay Area . . . . . Jay Howarth,
the XFL’s cheerleader coordinator, was a guest of a popular
radio morning show and not surprisingly was asked if cheerleaders
would indeed be able date the players. “It happens in the
NFL, but they don’t say much about it,” she explained. “Vince
(McMahon) just said it wasn’t going to be prohibited in the
XFL. You can’t tell people who they can date” . . . . . Tight
end Richard O’Donnell was the first casualty of the Demons’
mini-camp, suffering torn ligaments and a bone chip in his
right thumb when he slipped on the turf. He will have surgery
Monday to place a pin in his thumb, then take part in the
second December workouts with a soft cast . . . . . Marcus
McKenzie, one of three centers in the first mini-camp, resided
in the Minneapolis, Minn., suburb of Richfield. He moved to
the state after the gubernatorial election that place Jesse
Ventura in office. “The media just wants to focus on the other
things he does,” said McKenzie. “But he seems like a pretty
sharp guy, he knows what he’s talking about.”