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Inside Defenders training camp: Day 1

Defenders QB Cardale Jones at Day 1 of training camp in Houston

HOUSTON -- Three weeks and nearly 1,500 miles later, the DC Defenders were back on the practice field.

After a three-week minicamp wrapped up at the University of Maryland, and the players headed home for the holidays, Head Coach Pep Hamilton’s squad reconvened at Rice University on Sunday for the start of XFL training camp.

Sunday morning, under the bright Texas sun at the home of the Rice Owls, the Defenders were able to practice as a team, outside, for the first time as an entire unit.

The focus of Day 1 was fitness, conditioning, and getting back on the same page. 

Also on-hand at Rice Stadium for Day 1 of Defenders training camp was XFL Director of Football Operations Sam Schwartzstein, who starred at Stanford as an offensive lineman when Hamilton was the Cardinal’s offensive coordinators.

But Schwartzstein wasn’t there to relive college moments. He was there to monitor the implementation of the XFL’s new coach-to-player communication system. With the official XFL rules being released on Tuesday, Schwartzstein was on-hand to work with the skill position players and coaches to get comfortable with the new technology.

Quote of the Day:

What we did, with conditioning before practice, that is an outstanding, tremendous challenge to face on Day 1. But that is going to build fortitude. it's going to build grit.

Defenders head coach Pep Hamilton

Defender of the Day: Sam Montgomery, DE

Off the field, defensive end Sam Montgomery is a peach. The former LSU Tiger and 2013 NFL Draft pick is incredibly polite, respectful, and just pleasant to be around. On the field, “Sonic Sam” is one giant quick-twitch muscle. The offense had difficulty getting into a rhythm during an organized walkthrough because he only has one speed. Both turnovers produced by the defense on Sunday were caused by the Greenwood, SC native.

Meet the newest Defenders:

Nick Brossette, RB: It was just a year ago that Brossette finished his senior season at LSU with over 1,000 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Now he's the fifth addition to a loaded backfield.

Frank Brown, WR: The 5-11 speedster from Bethune-Cookman is another deep threat for the arm cannons of quarterbacks Cardale Jones and Tyree Jackson.

Donnie Ernsberger, TE: The former two--time All-MAC selection at Western Michigan is a big body with a big motor and big hands. He’ll compete at tight end along with Khari Lee, Derrick Hayward, and Adrien Robinson.

Will Likely, WR: Arguably the most electric collegiate return specialist since Devin Hester, Likely set a litany of school records despite an injury-shortened tenure at the University of Maryland. Likely saw time at cornerback with the Terrapins, but is lining up at wideout for the Defenders.

Kalani Vakameilalo, DT: The 320-pound Hawaii native played in all but two games in his four-year career at Oregon State. When the regular-season hits, the pace of play is going to ramp up, and you cannot have enough solid linemen to run in and out.

Jordan Westerkamp, WR: The former Nebraska magician is famous for a Hail Mary catch against Northwestern in 2013, and a behind-the-back catch against Florida Atlantic in 2014. He is instant magic. Also: He has a great mustache.

Antwione Williams, LB: There’s no unit in lock-step as much as the Defenders’ front-seven, and that was apparent as former Georgia Southern star was coached up by his fellow linebackers as the drills progressed. By the end of practice, the former Detroit Lions’ draft pick was calling out assignments.