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Six Nittany Lions Selected In 2022 XFL Draft

The third time’s the charm. Right, folks?

Six Nittany Lions were selected in the 2022 XFL Draft as part of a three-day selection window that launched the league for the third time.

Because the league’s eight teams are rebuilding from scratch, the XFL Draft was broken up into rounds by positional group, as well as a final round open to all positions.

Running back John Lovett was the first Nittany Lion off the board. Lovett was picked by the Vegas Vipers in the second round of the offensive skill position portion of the draft at No. 12 overall.

“[He’s a] big, physical guy, also can be a punt returner, kick returner,” Vipers head coach Rod Woodson said. “Everything we want as a player, he has it in his capabilities.”

Lovett spent four seasons at Baylor before transferring to Penn State in 2020 for his final year. As a Nittany Lion, Lovett managed just 177 rushing yards on 52 carries while also adding 36 yards on nine catches. At the conclusion of the 2021 season, Lovett went undrafted but eventually signed a short-lived free-agent contract with the Carolina Panthers.

It took eight more rounds until another Nittany Lions was selected when the Vegas Vipers grabbed wide receiver Saeed Blacknall in the 10th round of the offensive skill player pool.

The 26-year-old pass catcher was a contributing member of Penn State’s 2016 Big Ten championship team. Over his four-year career, Blacknall totaled 50 catches, 979 receiving yards, and seven touchdowns in 30 games.

Professionally, Blacknall struggled to maintain a foothold, experiencing stints with the Raiders, Dolphins, Cardinals, and Steelers. In 2020, Blacknall was a member of the XFL’s Los Angeles Wildcats, even catching a pair of touchdowns before the league was suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

No Penn State defensive backs were selected during the respective position group section of the draft, but the next pair of Nittany Lions found teams in the defensive front seven portion.

Defensive lineman Robert Windsor was drafted in the third round at the No. 17 overall pick by the Vegas Vipers. Windsor’s selection marked the third Penn Stater to join the Vipers.

In his four-season career with Penn State, Windsor recorded 118 total tackles and 14 sacks. Windsor was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the sixth round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The defensive lineman remained on the roster for two injury-addled seasons before announcing his retirement from football.

Linebacker Ellis Brooks was the next Nittany Lion to hear his name called. The Houston Roughnecks selected Brooks in the eighth round of the defensive front seven segment.

Brooks spent four years in Happy Valley, racking up 230 tackles, 5.5 sacks, and an interception. In 2021, Brooks’ 100 tackles were good for the team’s top mark.

Following the season, Brooks opted out of the Outback Bowl to prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft, where he went undrafted. He inked a free-agent deal with the Green Bay Packers before being released in the preseason.

In the offensive line draft pool, two Nittany Lions landed with XFL teams.

Michal Menet was drafted by the Seattle Sea Dragons in the second round with the No. 14 overall pick.

Menet played with Penn State for four seasons, starting in 34 games throughout his career. After earning unanimous third-team All-Big Ten honors, Menet was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the seventh round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Just one round later, Steven Gonzalez was drafted by the St. Louis Battlehawks with the No. 23 overall pick. In October, Gonzalez signed a letter of intent with the XFL, indicating that if he didn’t make an NFL squad, he would commit to playing in the new league.

“I am so grateful and feel beyond blessed to have been selected in the XFL Draft,” Gonzalez wrote after his selection. “Thank you to Anthony Becht and his coaching staff for believing in me.”

After three full seasons as a starter with Penn State, Gonzalez went undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft, making his XFL selection the first of his career. Professionally, he experienced brief tenures with the Cardinals and Bills.

No specialists out of Penn State were selected during that position group’s period.

There will still be opportunities for Nittany Lions to enter the XFL, as a supplemental draft is scheduled to occur at some point in early 2023. The XFL season is currently set for season kickoff on February 18, 2023.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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