By Terrance Turner
March 23, 2020 (Updated Nov. 23)
Former Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker is signing with the Carolina Panthers, according to ESPN. He is the first XFL player to join an NFL team.
The move comes just three days after the XFL announced that it’s officially canceling its entire season due to the coronavirus outbreak. (XFL players are now free to sign with NFL teams, pending physicals.) The move also reunites Walker with Panthers coach Matt Rhule, who coached him at Temple University. According to the Houston Chronicle, Walker shined with the Temple Owls: “The 5-11, 214-pound New Jersey native played for Rhule at Temple, setting records for wins, passing yards, passing touchdowns, completions, attempts, total yards and total touchdowns as the Owls went to consecutive bowl games.” At Temple, Walker passed for 74 touchdowns and rushed for nine.
He was even more successful with the Roughnecks, leading them to an undefeated 5-0 season. Walker led the league with 15 touchdowns and 1,338 passing yards. In his most recent game, he helped the Roughnecks overcome their largest-ever deficit (14 points) and rally to beat the Seattle Dragons on March 7. His star-making performance led some to say that he should be the league’s MVP. When asked about that at the postgame press conference, Walker modestly demurred: “I’mma vote for Cam [Phillips],” he said, praising the Roughnecks wide receiver seated next to him. “I ain’t gonna vote for myself. I’m gonna vote for Cam.”
Watch the moment below.
BREAKING: The Carolina Panthers have traded QB Kyle Allen to the Washington Redskins. The team recently gave quarterback Cam Newton permission to seek a trade. This latest move indicates that Walker may be competing for the starting job with another recent signee: former New Orleans Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater. Stay tuned for further updates.
UPDATE: Tonight, P.J. Walker made his debut at quarterback for the Carolina Panthers during tonight’s game versus the Falcons. Starting QB Teddy Bridgewater was hit in the head by Falcons pass-rusher Charles Harris. The refs threw a flag. Harris was ejected for unnecessary roughness; Bridgewater exited the game. Walker, who has become the No. 2 backup quarterback, entered the game amid pouring rain. He took a shot right away, launching the ball across the field for a touchdown attempt. It didn’t take, but the drive resulted in a field goal.
Teddy Bridgewater just re-entered the game. Apparently he cleared concussion protocol. Stay tuned.
Update (Nov. 22, 2020): After Bridgewater suffered yet another knee injury, he was ruled inactive for today’s game versus the Detroit Lions. The Carolina Panthers named P.J. Walker the starter for today’s game. He delivered. Walker got his first NFL touchdown when he connected with Panthers receiver Curtis Samuel.
Despite two interceptions, Walker went 24-of 34 for 258 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers overwhelmed the Lions in a shutout, winning 20-0. This gives Walker a win for his first NFL career start. He is now undefeated as a pro football starter (5-0 in the XFL; 1-0 in the NFL).
“I didn’t actually envision this start; my mom did,” Walker said in a press conference. He said his mother called him a year and a half ago to tell him she’d dreamed he was on the Panthers. Walker didn’t understand at the time, as he was then with the Indianapolis Colts. Now, Walker’s on the Carolina Panthers, and he’s won his first game as an NFL quarterback. It’s the culmination of a lifelong dream: “This is something I’ve been dreaming about my whole life,” Walker said.