The most famous XFL star ever needs to return for the Carolina Panthers…
Carolina Panthers running back and special teams contributor Rod Smart enjoyed his most success at the NFL level here, including a trip to the Super Bowl. Smart joined the Panthers after being claimed off waivers in September of the 2002 season, his first of four under former coach John Fox.
Smart finished his professional career with only 67 rushing yards, all but six coming in a Panthers uniform but did make his mark on special teams. Accumulating 1,731 kick return yards, 35 tackles and one touchdown, Smart even had four returns for 74 yards in a Super Bowl with Carolina. His regular season kickoff return for a touchdown against New Orleans in 2003 is one of only 10 in Panthers history.
However, Smart was famous before he stepped on the field inside the former Ericsson, now Bank of America Stadium. Prior to joining the NFL, Smart was the most famous athlete among the XFL during its one season. Gaining notoriety for his “He Hate Me” jersey, Smart flourished in a league centered around amusement instead of football.
World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) chief executive, Vince McMahon, recently announced a return of his failed football league, the XFL. Scheduled to kick off in January of 2020, a new and improved version for his style of professional football is sure to, at least initially, draw fan interest in much the same way as the original. Sustaining that enthusiasm is where McMahon and the organization failed in their last attempt.
As January 2020 approaches, the Panthers could attach themselves to some of that excitement by recognizing Smart before one of their home games. Although the future of the franchise remains cloudy in terms of ownership, the team mantra of “Keep Pounding” is expected to live on.
For the past six seasons Carolina has developed an on-field tradition just before kickoff.
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"Immediately following the coin toss before every home game, an honorary drummer rallies the entire stadium by hitting the massive six-foot Keep Pounding Drum four times to signify four quarters. Keep Pounding Drummers come from a variety of backgrounds and occupations, but all have overcome a great trial or adversity that has not only made them strong but also pushes them to make others around them stronger."
McMahon’s vision for the XFL isn’t to compete with the NFL, hence a January start date, but rather to give football fans something to keep them entertained during the offseason. Charlotte likely won’t be one of the eight cities elected to host a team in the first year of the XFL, but they can assist in the excitement and promotion of the product by uniting the two worlds for a brief moment prior to a single game.
If so, a “He Hate Me” return would be another score for the Panthers, NFL and XFL as the excitement builds.