On The Line: Cole Boozer
The DC Defenders had a wildly successful -- albeit truncated -- 2020 XFL season. The team sat atop the East Division with a 3-2 record following a Week 5 win over the St. Louis BattleHawks. All three victories coming at home, inside the friendly confines of Audi Field made the venue the best home-field advantage in the XFL.
With COVID-19 pandemic cutting the 2020 XFL season short, all we have left are the memories of five incredible weeks of football. We decided to reach out to offensive lineman-slash-fan-favorite Cole Boozer for his thoughts on the season, the Defenders fanbase, and how he is staying busy given the current situation.
Here is the transcript of our chat with Cole Boozer.
ON THE LINE: COLE BOOZER
So, what has life been like for you the past few weeks. Have you been able to settle into anything resembling a routine?
Cole Boozer: I actually just kinda started building a routine today. it's been tricky the last two weeks or so getting anything other than a run in or doing push-ups and sit-ups at home. I need to map something out tho that includes jumping jacks, push-ups, squats, more bodyweight-esque stuff given the limited amount of weights I have. But I've talked with the trainer about some different things I can do around the house, like pick up furniture and stuff like that.
Everyone has a lot more free time on there hands now. How have you stayed busy other than working out?
Boozer: I've been playing a lot of video games and watching movies. Trying to learn new things. Like, for example, I'm trying to learn Spanish right now.
Oh yeah? Are you using an app or going old school with a textbook?
Boozer: I've had an app for a while. It's been good. You speak into it and it has different questions that are multiple-choice and write-ins. It keeps me busy and is kinda challenging.
I think Jon Toth [Defenders center] is fluent in Spanish. I feel like I remember reading that in his college bio or something.
Boozer: Really? Dang, if I knew that I could've had him teach me during the season.
Speaking of your teammates, when you were told that the season was being suspended, and ultimately canceled, what were the thoughts and discussions like between players?
Boozer: It was tough at first. But we all started to have a feeling once the NBA shut down we would be next. Then all the hockey teams shut down, so going into the team meeting, we were all pretty much aware of what was likely to happen. We had such a good thing going at the time, with the big home win to sit in first place in the East. It was a bit tough to swallow.
Have you stayed in touch with your teammates?
Boozer: A couple. Donnie Ernsberger. We spend a lot of time on XBox and playing Fornite and Call of Duty. He is definitely someone I stay in touch with. I also talked to Scooby Wright the other day to check up on him and see how he was doing.
You and Donnie were both members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the same time, right?
Boozer: Yeah, we were roommates together. He's a good guy.
I was looking at Bucs headshots of you two just before this call and you both look identical. It was hilarious. I probably found it funnier than it actually was.
Boozer: Hah, yeah that was right when I had to shave my head all the way down. Funny timing. One of the offensive lineman told me about a Pediatric Cancer event going on for the Bucs, and was basically like 'either you're gonna get your hair cut here or we're gonna cut it for you,' so I said 'yep, alright let the kids do it.' Hah. It made more sense. Do it for the kids.
Defenders: Exactly. For the kids.
You mentioned earlier that the team was in a good place after Week 5, having beaten St, Louis at home, which featured one of the crazier atmospheres I've every seen. And I kinda want to dive into the atmosphere, because it really did play a big role in the identity of the team. Lets start with Week 1 vs. Seattle. Do you remember what the feeling was like after such a wildly impressive debut performance?
Boozer: I thought it was amazing. The amount of support was unexpected for sure, but because there was just so much of it. We had the best fans in the league and it was the first time we got to experience it all. I was so happy, so joyous I went out to hang out with my family and I had fans come up to me after the game and be like 'OH MY GOD YOU'RE BOOZER, NUMBER SIXTY-NINE. NICE,' just freaking out and I'm just standing there smiling, like, this is my favorite thing ever. Like, this is probably the most fun team I've ever played for. The support from the city and the camaraderie on the team were unreal, and I think all of us knew early that we were something special.
The entire front office noticed a huge shift, like, right out of the gate. I would get stopped on the street nearly every time I wore a Defenders jacket to our office downtown. The team had been working hard but the public hadn't been able to see it yet. What were your expectations like and did you notice the shift?
Boozer: Oh 100 percent it exceeded my expectations, for sure. I think for me, I could really tell after Week 2, when we shut out the Guardians, that the fan investment was there. You could tell because I would get messages on Twitter and Instagram and would see posts in the different Facebook groups. The fans bought into not just the team, but us having a good team being able to win the championship and bring another title back to D.C. Like, that's what the fans thought every single game they came to.
Defenders: It was really hard to talk about Audi Field and the fans and not sound hyperbolic, but like it was just that good. Home games were like nothing we had ever seen before.
Boozer: The fans, especially in the standing area, would be so loud that, like, when we were in the red zone, the offensive linemen would have to turn to them and wave our arms and try to calm them down, like 'WERE TRYING TO HEAR THE SNAP COUNT AND SCORE POINTS OUT HERE.' Everything was so new, and the clock so fast, the fan noise would shoot up after a big play and was so loud you couldn't quiet them down in time for the next play. But also, it definitely frazzled some teams this year and really helped our defense out.
So you had two weeks on the road and the results weren't great. But everything is moving so fast and you're finally back home against Jordan Ta'Amu and a really good St. Louis team. It felt like this game really, truly meant something. Despite being a new league in just its fifth week, Defenders vs. BattleHawks felt meaningful. What was it like heading into the game and after the impressive win?
Boozer: For us, to come home was the biggest thing. But then to be dogs going into the game all while still saying 'if we win we control our own destiny' really got a lot of us motivated -- and again -- the fans, I think the fans were educated and knew the game mattered a lot too. The energy for that game was incredible.
It always impressed me how quickly the team was formed and how quickly the players got to know each other. What was the bond like between you and the rest of the offensive line?
Boozer: It went really well. It was a bit like the NFL where guys arrive in groups and some bonds form and then you do things like group dinners and play a bunch of video games. And, oh, like, for us, we had a fine system, and when you were fined, you would pay money toward an account. We'd then use the account to go buy snacks and food for the group.
I think I actually got fined for cursing at my computer in one of the team rooms at training camp in Houston.
Boozer: Hah, yeah, that'll happen. But it went towards snacks. So that was one of the things we'd kinda bonded over, but we also hung out outside of football. Like for example, [offensive lineman] Malcolm Bunche and I went to one of the museums down in D.C. and got to know him a bit more which was cool. As the season progressed you could see the bonds form, which is why we were all really sad when things ended after Week 5. I miss those guys and getting to hang out with them every day.
Do you have a personal favorite moment from the season?
Boozer: My personal favorite moment was shutting out New York in Week 2 and having the beer snake go viral, and the whole thing was just crazy. I had a group of friends coordinate a bunch of people right behind the Defenders bench wearing T-Shirts with my name on it and cheering for me, getting all rowdy the whole game. Our athletic trainer came up to me and was like 'do you know all those guys behind the bench?' I turn around and the whole row is screaming, cheering for me when I make eye contact. Definitely my favorite moment.
You kinda became something of a cult icon. Fans were making custom T-shirts and asking you to chug beers. Did you expect that type of reaction? Also, how much fun was it to be able to react the way you wanted to react and not get in trouble?
Boozer: Well I mean, first off, shoutout to the guy who helped get me famous. PFTCommenter. So shoutout to PFTCommenter. So like, having beers like the locker room was definitely interesting. I didn't expect it. But once I saw it I was pretty excited because I've always wanted to drink a beer right after a game anyways, and they were pretty tasty too, I kinda liked the Bud Light Seltzers.
I don't know if you know this, but by the end of Week 2, we had already received somewhere between 40-50 messages from fans wondering when your jersey would be available in the team store.
Boozer: Oh man, so many people were tagging me on Instagram asking the Defenders when they could get No. 69 Boozer jerseys. It was crazy. But like, for real, I had people DM me if my jersey was available because they liked the way I play and I always found that really cool, to be a part of a team and be really recognizable. It was really cool.