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Roughnecks react to season ending

The team was undefeated and looked to become champions

Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker (11) celebrates after a touchdown during an XFL football game against the Los Angeles Wildcats, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson)
Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker (11) celebrates after a touchdown during an XFL football game against the Los Angeles Wildcats, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020, in Houston. (AP Photo/Matt Patterson) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Everyone knew P.J. Walker was the best quarterback in the XFL.

He had spent time with the Colts learning from Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett. Naturally, when Luck’s dad Oliver helped mold the XFL this season, Walker was one of the first quarterbacks he thought of.

Walker wowed people in week one of the XFL with four touchdowns and a two-point conversion. Each week, it only seemed to get better. Now, his time with the XFL is over, due to the season being halted in wake of the coronavirus.

“It’s especially a heartbreaking ending for us, because of the way we were playing,” Walker said.

Houston also became known as one of the most loyal XFL fanbases. Fans filled the stands at TDECU, and for the away games, hundreds of fans traveled as well. Walker feels for them, too.

“Especially for the fans, for the city... it’s devastating,” said Walker.

Houston was set to host the XFL championship.

Head coach June Jones has seen a lot as a veteran coach. But this is unprecedented.

“Everybody is disappointed because we thought we had a chance to run the table and go, and I think the kids were starting to believe in each other,” Jones said.

“From a coach’s standpoint, I like to see that chemistry come together more than anything else, because I think that carried us through some of the games we’ve had already,” said Jones, who also added Thursday’s practice was the best he thought they had had all season.

Jones said he’s sure they will all feel the pride of an undefeated season, but he knows these guys will feel disappointment as well.

“They’re going to look back on it and say, ‘Hey, that was one of the best times we ever had,’" said Jones.

“I’m extremely proud,” said Walker. “It wasn’t easy, we had some ups and downs in games, but it was one of those moments where we were like, ‘This is really what we have in this locker room,’ and it was just cut short.”

“A lot of guys are shocked, but we know health is a lot more important than everything we got going on right now,” Walker said.

The only possible bright side? The players are now allowed to talk with NFL teams.

"The league office assured us that if anyone wants to get out of their contract for those opportunities, they’re willing to do that, " Jones said.

“I just hope to get a fair chance and fair opportunity if I make it there, hopefully.... so we’ll see what happens," said Walker.

Jones is also happy XFL owner Vince McMahon is being financially supportive.

“I can’t say enough about Vince McMahon and the XFL,” Jones said. “He’s taking care of the players, paying them all the way through as if the season went through, and insurance is going to fly them home.”

Jones expressed his heartbreak for every athlete, high school and college, who doesn’t get to finish their seasons.

“It’s a time we all kind of need to come together, band together, and get through this thing, because it’s going to be billions of dollars in losses and jobs, and that’s just from the athletic cancellations.”

Walker said he saw being in the XFL as a blessing.

“It was something God sent me to be, an opportunity he put in my possession to take full advantage of, and that’s what I did,” Walker said.

As players dragged their bags out of TDECU Stadium, exchanged numbers and said good-bye, it was a mixture of emotions. The looming feeling is simply what could have been, which is the hardest part for Walker.

“We all know what we had in this locker room."