Jan. 23—Northwest Missouri State athletics are known for a lot of things, including a successful Division II football program which has seen the most playoff appearances and the most national titles by any D2 program.
There have also been athletes that have taken the next step in their football careers from Northwest, and that's no different for 2021 graduate Imoni Donadelle, who recently got a taste of the new and revamped professional league, the XFL.
The former Northwest wide receiver last played for the Bearcats during the 2021 season, where he had 530 yards receiving and seven touchdowns. In the playoff matchup against Central Washington, Donadelle had two touchdown receptions.
Since the end of the 2021 season, Donadelle has been making noise in various leagues. He had been in contact with the New England Patriot, and his journey was just beginning.
"My agent set up another opportunity for me to go to the NFL Alumni Academy in Texas, where I spent three weeks out there," Donadelle said. "I played with a gang of NFL players that had already won championships, some had a few years in the league, so it was like way better competition."
The NFL Alumni Academy was described as a training facility for free agents in the NFL and other professional leagues. After participating, he received a guaranteed training camp invite to the XFL team the Seattle Sea Dragons.
This journey has opened up new connections, with Donadelle meeting and competing against quality competition, including former NFL wide receiver Josh Gordon.
"My time there was like, it was pretty good. It was fun because I got to really go against like some vets there that like already was in the league, like some experienced DBs," Donadelle said. "I made plays against NFL players and I feel like personally, I'm an NFL player too."
One major surprise to him was the amount of film studies and meetings that take place, with each film session running at least five hours long. While studying for a long period of time may seem daunting, it shows what lies ahead in the professional leagues.
"It felt good to go out there and actually experience a pro lifestyle, to really wake up and get paychecks," Donadelle said. "Actually get paid to play football without school and stuff."
The Sea Dragons' wide receiver coach is Larry Kirksey, who helped coach a Super Bowl winning San Francisco team, where Jerry Rice set records for receiving yards. Having experienced and motivated coaches was a huge stepping stone in getting Donadelle to where he believes he can be.
"Just to learn from different types of receivers and learn from different coaches that coached in different places, it helped me advance my game a lot," Donadelle said. (Helped me) see different things and actually learn more coverages in the back end to help me get open."
With a heavy roster filled with 15 receivers, Donadelle is now a free agent working to find his next team within the XFL or USFL. In his time with the XFL, he learned that the league can be the perfect for not only him, but for others.
"I kind of look at it like JUCO. The NFL is kind of like Division I, and you look at XFL like junior college," Donadelle said. "I was a junior college kid, so I know what it feels like to need a second chance. I feel like the XFL has given all of us a second chance."
Calvin Silvers can be reached at email@example.com.