Our Ron Lippock caught up with former Steelers quarterback Landry Jones, who just became the first player to sign in the 2020 version of the XFL.
First, congratulations on signing with the XFL – what drove the decision to sign there?
Well, we were going back and forth for quite a while. It was just a matter of time really. We just got to a place where both sides got together. It was something I wanted to do, to get back to playing again.
Do you know how the XFL rules differ from the NFL? I spoke with Jonathan Hayes who told me about having a specific ref for ball placement to speed up the game. Any others?
Oh yeah? I didn’t know that. That would be cool. That’s a good idea. I think they allow you to throw the ball behind the line and throw it forward again. I don’t think it’s anything drastically different. I’m just looking forward to playing again. I’ve been a backup for six years and didn’t see the field a whole bunch. That’s part of the gig, I know, but I want to play.
How difficult is that, knowing you have a guy like Ben Roethlisberger ahead of you? How do you deal with that frustration of not seeing the field much?
It’s not about it being hard or anything like that. It’s just, you put in all of the effort during the week but there’s no reward on Sundays. You want to win and be successful, but when you put in that effort you want that reward. You want to play. It can be frustrating, barely getting the chance to play.
Did the coaches talk to you at all about that and help you with that?
They didn’t say a whole lot, but that’s not their job either. Their job is getting guys ready to win games. I wouldn’t expect them to talk to me about that sort of thing.
Stepping back, were you surprised to be drafted by Pittsburgh in the first place? What did they tell you on draft day?
I was more surprised that I fell so far. That was much more surprising than the fact Pittsburgh drafted me. When I was drafted Mike Tomlin called me and asked if I wanted to be a Steeler. I was like, “Yeah, sure!” My mindset then was more, I just want to be drafted by somebody please.
Did anyone help mentor you as a rookie on or off the field? How, if so?
Bruce Gradowski was great. He was there for me all the time. We ended up living down the street from on another too. We got close. We became friends. That guy has a million cousins!
But as far as mentors, there’s no one there really holding your hand. Guys befriended you. It was more about that kind of thing: inviting you to dinner, regular friendships, that kind of stuff.
I spoke to Cody Wallace, who spilled the beans on some Nerf battles
Ha. Cody, me and Michael Palmer, we were all close. On away gams we’d pack our Nerf guns and barge into rooms and shoot guys up with them. We got into some fun fights with players — big wrestling matches. I remember when Mike Adams and David DeCastro roomed together, that was one of our bigger battles for sure!
Getting back to the XFL, what does success year one look like to you?
Oh wow. That’s a hard question and success is a tough term. Hard to measure. I think at this point I’m just looking forward to getting back to playing. So I’d say success for me is getting to play again.
It’s a draft process in the XFL right? Any city you’d care to play for most?
It is a draft yes. We all get put into a big pool for the draft. I’m sure they’re figuring some of that stuff out too. I don’t know who else they’ve been speaking to and plan to sign, but I’d love to play here in Dallas for Coach [Bob] Stoops.
Pretty cool being the first ever player signed by the XFL?
It is pretty cool. It’s a cool process getting involved at the ground floor of the league. If it takes off, that would be very cool. Football needs a good semi-pro type league that gets players more experience and gets them a chance to get some good tape on their play. And I’m encouraged by the league not just for that reason. There are a lot of good people involved in the league. Guys that know football. That’s another reason why I like this league so much too.
Backup quarterbacks often seem to be in tough situations when it comes to fan acceptance and appreciation. Did you get a sense of any of that fan heat during our time in Pittsburgh?
To be honest, I tried to do all I could to not pay attention and read anything or listen to anything. No Twitter, no Instagram, no reading Sporting News. I never read an article that left me feeling encouraged about anything, so I stopped reading any of it.
Do you think about going back to the NFL, with the XFL being a way to get that tape on your play as well?
Getting back to the NFL some day would be great, I guess. Being in the NFL was an awesome experience. But I don’t know about any of that right now. Right now I’m thinking about being here. I’m not thinking about the NFL right now.
I hardly played. Truly, I just want the chance to play right now. I was mostly sitting for six years. Right now I just want to play.
Lastly, what other memories of your time there stand out to you?
Most of the stuff I remember most and think about most are not about stuff that happened on the field. It was more about being with the guys I was close to, when all of us were getting ready. Once you’re on the field it’s all business.
The games against Baltimore were always me memorable, they were such a big rivalry. And games against New England were always big too, they always mattered a lot and were good games.