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A Trio of Former Tennessee Players Set for XFL Championship Game

JaVonta Payton
Former Tennessee WR JaVonta Payton now plays in the XFL for the Arlington Renegades. Photo via Tennessee Athletics

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s initial attempt at reviving the XFL seems to have been fairly successful in its debut season. With a strong broadcasting partner such as ESPN/ABC, games have been easily accessible and several talking points, storylines, and clips have made their way over to social media to continue the conversation.

After a full regular season slate over the past 10 weeks, plus a semi-final playoff game, the Arlington Renegades and the D.C. Defenders are now set for the XFL Championship game on Saturday, May 13.

No matter who wins, a former Tennessee player will be hoisting the championship trophy.

The D.C. Defenders have a pair of former Tennessee tight ends: Alex Ellis and Ethan Wolf.

Wolf, on the season, had a total of 13 receptions for 106 yards and one touchdown in seven games played during the regular season. Ellis, on the other hand, had eight catches for 59 yards and four touchdowns in the nine regular season games that he played in.

Both former Tennessee tight ends had one reception in the Defenders’ semi-final win over Seattle as Wolf caught one pass for 26 yards and a touchdown and Ellis caught one pass for 10 yards. The Defenders’ primary quarterback is Jordan Ta’amu, a former standout at Ole Miss.

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Jumping to the other side of the field, the Arlington Renegades have one former Tennessee player that was acquired mid-season in wide receiver JaVonta Payton.

The former Mississippi State and Tennessee product finished the regular season with 11 receptions and 164 yards over nine games played. Payton’s 164 receiving yards were also fourth-most among all pass-catchers on the Renegades’ roster.

Payton was phenomenal in the Renegades’ semi-final win over Houston, showing flashes of what made him so dangerous at Tennessee in his one year under Josh Heupel. Payton led the team with 121 yards on the day, finishing with five catches and two touchdowns as well. Payton’s two trips to the endzone in the semi-final matchup were his first touchdowns of the XFL season.

The connection between the Renegades, the Defenders, JaVonta Payton, and Alex Ellis is a fascinating one, though.

Payton started the season with the Orlando Guardians while Ellis began the season with the Arlington Renegades. On March 6, 2023, a big trade was completed as the Guardians sent Payton to the Renegades while the Defenders received Ellis in a three-team deal.

The XFL Championship game between the D.C. Defenders and the Arlington Renegades will take place on Saturday, May 13, 2023. The game will be broadcasted at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC and ESPN+ from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

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