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Michigan State football: Spartans in the XFL end of season recap

How did the Spartans in the XFL fare?

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Michigan State football
© Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

This year saw five former Michigan State football players in the XFL. Even better, two earned All-XFL honors. Here’s how everyone did.

The XFL season officially ended last weekend, with the Arlington Renegades defeating the D.C. Defenders 35-26. Let’s see how our former Michigan State football players’ seasons went.

Shakur Brown, CB, Arlington Renegades

Stat line: 34 tackles, 1 interception

In case you had not heard, Shakur Brown is an XFL champion. Brown started every game he played this year for coach Bob Stoops. He had 12 starts in 26 games as a Spartan, recording seven interceptions in the green and white. He has bounced around the offseason and practice squad teams for four different NFL teams. Brown was a fifth-round selection in the XFL draft for defensive backs. Hopefully, his contributions to the champion Arlington Renegades will earn him one more chance in the XFL.

Unfortunately, Brown ended the season on injured reserve. He was placed there on May 8, so this would be a concern for getting him any looks by the NFL.

Jacub Panasiuk, DL, D.C. Defenders

Stat line: 19 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL

In order to win the championship, Brown’s Renegades had to beat Jacub Panasiuk’s D.C. Defenders. Panasiuk is the most experienced player in Spartan history, with his 57 career games currently being a school record. Panasiuk was unable to make the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Washington last year but did not have to move very far after the XFL draft. There, Panasiuk was a third-round selection by the D.C. Defenders for the defensive front seven phase. He put together a solid year, with half-sacks in games against San Antonio and Vegas. In the championship game against Arlington, Panasiuk recorded a tackle for loss.

Montae Nicholson, DB, D.C. Defenders

Stat line: 6 tackles, 1 fumble recovery

Of all the players on this list, Montae Nicholson is the longest removed from his time as a Spartan. Nicholson started 23 games for Michigan State, including the 2015 Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff Semifinal. During that time, Montae recorded four interceptions and 200 career tackles.

Much like Jacub Panasiuk, Nicholson spent time with Washington before ultimately finding his way back to D.C. in the XFL. Nicholson was a fourth-round selection by the Commanders in 2017 and had starting experience with the team before issues off the field paused his career. Nicholson found his way back to football in D.C. this year, signing with the team after the XFL draft.

The defensive back has struggled to stay healthy for most of his career, and the XFL was no different. His season ended on April 18, when he was placed on reserve. It looks grim for Nicholson’s hopes now, but the starting NFL experience, including an interception of Tom Brady, makes him an enticing comeback story. After all, he is only 27. There could be a lot of good football left in the former Spartan standout.

Drew Beesley, DL, San Antonio Brahmas

Stat line: 27 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 7 TFL, 1 interception, 1 touchdown

Alongside Jacub Panasiuk, Drew Beesley is among the most recent Spartan alumni in the XFL. Additionally, he also was quite tenured with Michigan State, playing in 42 career games. In the XFL draft, the 23-year-old was a 10th-round selection in the phase for front seven players.

Beesley was one of the best defenders in the XFL this season, finishing it tied for fifth in sacks. This effort was rewarded with a nod to the All-XFL team. Beesley’s best play this year came against Orlando, as he recorded a pick-six in a two-point victory for the Brahmas.

After such a strong season, I am hoping Beesley will get a chance with to break into the NFL.

Mike Panasiuk, OL, St. Louis Battlehawks

Stat line: 10 games started

Mike Panasiuk is the greatest success story of Spartans in the XFL so far. As I have covered in a few articles on this site, the converted defensive lineman went from going undrafted by both the NFL and XFL into an all-star. Panasiuk was the starting center for one of the best offenses in the XFL this season, buying time for A.J. McCarron and paving the way for Brian Hill on their way to a 7-3 record.

Unfortunately for Panasiuk, his Battlehawks went 0-2 against little brother Jacub’s D.C. Defenders. However, they did defeat former defensive line-mate Drew Beesley’s San Antonio Brahmas. His efforts on the field earned him a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ rookie minicamp, where he hopes to earn his way back into the NFL.

As I covered previously, earning a roster spot would have him reunite with a few other former Spartans in Cody White and Connor Heyward.

Michigan State Media and Information Management Class of '22. Emmett covers primarily football, recruiting, and basketball for Spartan Shadows. He has also written for Spartan Avenue, Basic Blues, and Hail WV.

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