FARGO — Former North Dakota State linebacker Nick DeLuca didn’t want to be done with football.
DeLuca played in nine games for the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018, including two starts. The Miami Dolphins waived him last August prior to the start of the NFL season.
“It’s one of those things you go through and bounce back the best you can,” DeLuca said earlier this week on WDAY’s Hot Mic with Dom Izzo radio show.
Enter the reformed XFL, which starts Saturday. The eight-team professional league is having its games televised on major networks. DeLuca plays for the New York Guardians, who play the Tampa Bay Vipers at 1 p.m. (CST) on FOX at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“I’m just excited to continue playing football and have that opportunity,” DeLuca said.
Kevin Gilbride, a veteran NFL coach, is the head coach for the Guardians. DeLuca is listed at No. 2 at strong side linebacker for the Guardians, according to the team’s website.
Matt McGloin is the starting quarterback for New York. He played in college at Penn State and also in the NFL for multiple teams, including the Oakland Raiders.
“A lot of guys want to get back to the NFL and who have been there,” DeLuca said.
The XFL's rules are similar to the NFL, but is also touting five game innovations, including the point-after for touchdowns. After a touchdown, each team has a chance of running a play from the 2-, 5- or 10-yard line. A successful conversion is 1, 2 and 3 points with each of the corresponding lines. No kicking plays are allowed.
The overtime rules are also unique. Each team will have five rounds of single-play possessions from the 5-yard line. Similar to a soccer shootout, the team with more points after the five rounds is the winner. If a team can’t mathematically catch the other team earlier than five rounds, the game ends. Each overtime score is worth two points and the defensive team can’t score.
The XFL also has modified rules for kickoffs, punting and a double-forward pass rule as long as both passes are behind the line of scrimmage.
“Everybody is kind of learning on the fly,” DeLuca said. “Everybody involved is excited. … I was just so open-minded. I didn’t really know what to expect.”
DeLuca said practices leading up to the XFL opener have felt similar to an NFL practice.
“To my surprise, everything is as smooth as you would think at the pro level,” DeLuca said. “I definitely had my reservations at first. … It’s good-level football.”
Vince McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment owns the XFL, which operated for a single season in 2001. The league is scheduled to have a 10-game regular season with two rounds of playoffs, including a championship game slated for late April. The four opening-weekend games will be televised on ABC, FOX and ESPN.
The Seattle Dragons play the DC Defenders at 1 p.m. (CST) Saturday, Feb. 8, on ABC. The Los Angeles Wildcats and Houston Roughnecks play at 4 p.m. Saturday on FOX. The St. Louis Battlehawks play the Dallas Renegades at 4 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.
The 6-foot-3, 236-pound DeLuca is hoping the XFL can help him get back to the NFL.
“Why would I stop here when I am this close?” DeLuca said. “I’m excited and trying to have fun with it. … For an individual goal, (the NFL) is definitely out there.”