It wasn’t the start to the XFL season Pooka Williams envisioned.
After a reportedly strong camp with the D.C. Defenders, Williams was made inactive before his first game due to a hamstring injury suffered late in the preseason. Ditto for his second week.
But the former Hahnville High School great is back on the field again – and helping to propel his team to wins. The Defenders are getting ready to face off with the Arlington Renegades in the XFL’s championship game at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. That game will be broadcast Saturday night at 7 p.m. on ABC – and there’s a very good chance Williams might be the first player to touch the ball in front of a nationwide audience.
Williams made his return to the field late in the regular season and did not take long to make an impact once he did, stepping up as D.C.’s kick returner. Against a San Antonio Brahmas team attempting to reach the postseason with a win in its final game, Williams tallied 182 yards on six returns for a 30.3 average, including one of the biggest plays of the game – a 79-yard return that set the Defenders up for a field goal – important points in what was ultimately a 1-point win for D.C., 29-28.
Then in D.C.’s semifinal playoff battle with Seattle, Williams again flashed, this time on a 52-yard return in what became a 37-21 victory. That first quarter return set his team up in the redzone and displayed the skills Hahnville observers have long admired about the all-purpose weapon – he made a tackler miss and shot through traffic toward the sideline and was off to the races.
What seemed to be a lost season for the former Kansas Jayhawk and later Cincinnati Bengal looks now to be anything but, with a spotlight upon him as a potential difference making return man for pro clubs in the market. Before that, however, Williams could earn himself a championship ring.
D.C. is 9-1 this season and if it adds a 10th, it will mean the Defenders have earned the first XFL crown in more than 20 years – the inaugural league season was in 2001 before the league disbanded after one year, and in 2020 a reboot was cut off midway through the season due to COVID-19.
It’s a team with a flair for the dramatic – the Defenders’ final four regular season games all ended as one-point games, with DC going 3-1 in those. One of those came in Week 9 against the same Arlington team it will see Saturday night, a 28-26 D.C. win.
During Williams’ senior season at Hahnville, he cemented a legacy. He led Hahnville to the 2017 Class 5A championship game in a season he took the prep world by storm in Louisiana, rushing for nearly 1,500 yards in the postseason alone and more than 3,000 on the season. It represented the highest single season rushing total in Louisiana’s prep football history. He scored 40 touchdowns that year and was named Louisiana’s Mr. Football.