Last Sunday, 113 million people watched the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles play in Super Bowl LVII. The game wrapped up the NFL season in Glendale, Arizona, but for Cheshire’s David Dykeman, the year of pro football has just begun.
As vice president for football operations with the XFL, Dykeman is thrilled to see his league kick off with two games on Saturday and Sunday.
“We are the spring football league,” Dykeman said. “After the Super Bowl ended, we entered our 10-game regular season and two weeks of the playoffs.”
Dykeman spent 10 seasons as head football coach at Cheshire Academy, but in late 2021, XFL president Russ Brandon approached him about joining the league as director of special projects football.
Brandon’s son Jack played quarterback under Dykeman at CA.
“This was a great opportunity to work in professional football,” reflected Dykeman. “The vast majority of our staff are NFL people.”
Since starting his new position in January 2022, he has worked with team directors to oversee all aspects of football operations. Dykeman attends free agent workouts and summer showcases.
He also handles player and personnel aspects, including player evaluation, roster development, and recruiting.
“I’m excited about where we are right now,” Dykeman said. “Our ownership group is outstanding, with Dany Garcia, Dwayne Johnson and RedBird Capital. They are committed to making it as incredible as possible.”
The XFL has undergone a series of reforms since it was founded by Vince McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment. The league started in 2001, but only lasted one season.
The XFL was brought back in 2020, however due to the pandemic the league was shut down again.
On August 3, 2020, a consortium of Garcia, Johnson and RedBird Capital purchased the organization and began preparing for its eventual return this year.
In the revamped XFL, the St. Louis Battlehawks, Seattle Sea Dragons, Arlington Renegades, San Antonio Brahmas, Houston Roughnecks, DC Defenders, Vegas Vipers and Orlando Guardians will play this year.
“I think these cities are starving for it (football),” Dykeman said. “I think they’re excited about it.”
After the regular season, the semifinals for the North and South Divisions will take place from April 29 to 30. The winners will play for the title on Saturday, May 13 in San Antonio.
“We have a good league that is getting a lot of support,” said Dykeman.
XFL rosters have a mix of college athletes and former NFL players.
“It’s impressive to see the makeup of these teams and what they’re putting together,” said Dykeman.
In reporting on the XFL, Dykeman admits it’s important that the league now partner with the NFL on features like health, safety and officiating.
“So many people want to compete with the NFL and you’re not going to,” Dykeman explained. “Our hope is that our players continue to play in the NFL.”
Growing up, Dykeman developed a passion for football on Cape Cod. He excelled on the field, but fractured his C-5 vertebrae while playing linebacker in his senior year of high school.
“It was one of the darkest times of my life,” Dykeman recalled. “I was a three-sport athlete and couldn’t play again.”
Although unable to compete at the next level, Dykeman became a student assistant coach at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts.
“My head coach, Dan Allen, has taken me under his wing. He changed my life,” Dykeman reflected. “I don’t think if I hadn’t been injured, I would have gone to coaching. Things happen in life for a reason.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in history and education from Holy Cross, Dykeman received his master’s degree in education administration from the State University of New York at Albany.
He wanted to extend his coaching career and chose to take positions at the high school, elementary school, and college levels.
“It gives you a great perspective,” Dykeman said, of coaching more places. “I can see how we can do things with less now.”
From 2008 to 2012, Dykeman served as the head coach and postgraduate program coordinator at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts. From there, he came to California to lead the soccer program and work as head of the associate school.
With the Cats, Dykeman led the football team to multiple titles. He has had more than 200 players go on to play in college and six athletes have competed in the NFL.
“My greatest success has been watching young people catch up and play college football,” Dykeman reflected. “I’ve known some of those guys since they were kids. Building relationships is one of the most fulfilling things you can have.
Tarik Black, a 2017 CA graduate, signed with the NFL’s New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens last year. As a 2019 graduate, Army outside linebacker Andre Carter II completed a stellar career this year and garnered interest from the NFL.
“He was late in football and didn’t have much tape going into college,” Dykeman recalled. “I’ve had the chance to see Andre play a couple of times this year. He has a great character and to see him have the success he has had is incredible ”.
When Dykeman was hired by the XFL, his former assistant Daniel Mehleisen became the head football coach at CA. Mehleisen took on his new role last fall.
“Dan is one of my best friends. I think the world of him,” Dykeman said. “I don’t think people understand how competitive their league is.”
Dykeman believes the XFL compares favorably to prep school in that the teams have players from different areas of the country and the world.
“Love the game, man,” Dykeman said. “I think it’s the greatest sport and life lesson there is. You surround yourself with people of different origins and ethnicities”.
Dykeman believes football teaches people to overcome adversity. In the fall of 2020 at CA, he was happy that his team was able to play three games during the pandemic.
“We tested every week and there were no cases of COVID,” Dykeman recalled.
While no longer a head coach, Dykeman had the opportunity to assist with the Cheshire High School football program last fall. Led by head coach Don Drust, CHS (7-5) won its first state playoff game since 2009 and reached the Class L semifinals.
“I just wanted to be helpful. I was so impressed with the staff, especially Don,” said Dykeman, whose daughters will both be attending CHS in the fall. “If I can, I’d like to continue helping with the program.”
After assisting with the Rams last year, Dykeman traveled to Arlington, Texas to work on a mix of XFL duties. Since Jan. 2, he’s been attending senior all-star games and pro days, as well as helping plan training camps.
“We want to make sure we’re ready for the season,” Dykeman added.