A week after what was likely the world’s most publicized kicking tryout, Eric Sollenberger, known by his Barstool Sports persona as PFTCommenter, got a FaceTime call from DC Defenders head coach Pep Hamilton. Hamilton explained to PFT that he was among the many cuts the Defenders coaching staff had elected to make, in an effort to whittle their final roster down to fifty-two.
Today, a day after he discovered his fate, PFT released a video on Barstool’s website detailing his inspiring journey, cut short by a team that clearly wanted him but couldn’t make it work.
The video begins with PFT practicing in character, sporting shades beneath a crimson red Defenders helmet. His practice kicks were clean, well-executed, and relatively consistent. From what was shown, he looked as good as any mid-tier Power 5 kicker in college football and it appeared he had a legitimate chance to make the final roster when he stepped on the turf in TDECU Stadium for his big moment.
As dozens of players, coaches, team executives, and media watched, PFT nailed more than half the kicks he attempted from various spots on the field. He explained to Pep that he was an “inside specialist” who, despite lacking long range, was accurate to “90% within 40 yards.”
The few kicks he missed clearly had the distance but were just slightly overcompensated laterally as he kicked from the opposite side’s hash mark. At the end of the tryout, there is easily discernible audio of, what is strongly implied to be, Coach Hamilton saying “very impressive,” inspiring confidence in both PFT and his fans watching the video online. Ultimately, Sollenberger said he had a “50/50” feeling about his chances to make the team.
The following week, during the call with Hamilton, Sollenberger took the news very well, especially considering the public nature of his situation. Both he and the XFL had tweeted extensively leading up to the tryout itself, and about the coming announcement of his roster status on January 22nd. Despite all the media attention, and PFTCommenter’s announcement that he would donate his entire XFL salary to “a hospital” if chosen, the DC Defenders could not find room for him on their already-tight roster. Although the final roster announcements will not be made until next Monday, it is likely the Defenders elected to utilize former Northwester Wildcats punter Hunter Niswander as a placekicker and use the extra roster slot for one of the many skill players who showed promise in training camp this past month.
Though PFTCommenter’s fans may have provided a short term bump to XFL viewership, it’s this bold move that exemplifies the true difference between the original XFL and this new iteration. The old XFL wouldn’t have waited a week to tell PFT he didn’t make it, they wouldn’t signed him on the spot.
The old XFL wasn’t about football, it was about attention. PFTCommenter would’ve fit in perfectly between Rod “He Hate Me” Smart on the field and Jesse Ventura in the booth. Yesterday, the XFL took an unpopular but mature step towards making the league as competitive as possible, at the expense of an enthusiastic, entertaining, but admittedly average kicker. Though PFTCommenter has a right to be proud of his efforts and his performance, so to do the Defenders who are already looking like a top tier team after the preseason.
If this was really a legitimate, no-strings tryout for PFT, then Pep Hamilton made a tough call. If it was a media stunt, well, then it damn sure worked.
Either way, PFTCommenter can rest easy with a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 knowing that, even though he won’t get to be “PATCommenter,” he’ll still be hoisted into the annals of history as one of the most famous people to ever try out as a professional placekicker.