Former ECC All Americans help

Former ECC All Americans help lead Xtremes to championship

by Kevin Cody

Xtreme running back Saladin McCullough (24), is stopped, but not easily, by the San Francisco Demons in Saturday’s XFL championship game. Photo by Kevin Cody

Two former El Camino College running backs, and a Hermosa Beach Strand resident helped lead the Los Angeles Xtremes Football team to the XFL championship Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The win was the first professional football championship in the Coliseum since the Rams won the NFL in 1951. (The Raiders 1984 Super Bowl Championship win was in Tampa).

Saladin McCullough, El Camino’s All American tailback in 1995, carried the ball 20 times for 117 yards as the Los Angeles Xtremes demoralized the San Francisco Demons 38-6.

Wide receiver Latario Rachal, an El Camino All American in 1992, took a ten yard pass into the end zone to give the Xtreme’s an insurmountable 38-0 lead early in the fourth quarter of the championship game.

Enjoying the game from the sidelines was Hermosa Strand resident Greg Campbell, the Xtreme’s finance manager.

Campbell’s job Saturday was to e-mail the players their $26,000 victory bonuses. The championship was labeled the Million Dollar Game because league founder Vince McMahon promised the winning team a $1 million bonus, to be divided evenly between the team’s 38 players.

The XFL has struggled in its first season to earn respect from both the media. Its NBC Saturday night coverage is rumored to be in jeopardy for next year. Coverage in the Los Angels Times has been spotty. And the Daily Breeze did not cover even the championship game.

But despite the lack of media coverage, fans support has been growing, Campbell said.

Saladin McCullough shows All American form in 1995 at El Camino. Photo by Dwight Ueda

Attendance at play-off games averaged 21,000, and was 24,153 for Saturday’s championship game, said Campbell, whose previous experience includes serving as the Clippers Basketball comptroller, and as a Kings Hockey financial analyst.

McMahon, who also heads the World Wrestling Federation, founded the eight-team XFL because he thought the NFL with its high salaries and expensive tickets, had lost touch with young people and middle class families, Campbell said. XFL quarterbacks receive $50,000 for the 16 week season; kickers receive $35,000; and other players $45,000. Players also receive $2,600 bonuses each time their team wins. Tickets are $20 to $35, roughly half the price of NFL tickets.

McMahon has also attempted to liven up the game for the MTV generation by putting microphones on the players, and even putting microphones in the stands so the cheering never drops below a roar.

Campbell said he wants fans to know that the Xtreme will be back at the Coliseum next February, for the start of their second 16 week season. And he’s optimistic that the games will be televised, if not on NBC, on a major cable.

What Xtreme fans might not see next year are McCullough and Rachel. Even before Saturday’s game the Los Angeles Times described the 5-ft-9, 195 pound running back as the league’s top NFL prospect. At El Camino, in a game against Cerritos, McCullough scored five touchdowns in the first quarter. But his NFL career was derailed last year when he was injured at the Raiders’ training camp.

On Tuesday, "Sports Xtra" radio, which had largely ignored the XFL during the season, announced that 90 XFL players have been invited to NFL training camps. McCullough was fielding offers from at least three NFL teams.

"I just want to find an NFL team where I can run and catch the ball help the team," McCullough said Monday.

"Right now, McCullough might be the best player in the XFL," Xtreme general manager J.K. McKay told the Times. "He has speed, size, moves you can't teach, and catches the ball as well as any running back his size I've ever seen."

El Camino Coach John Featherstone described McCullough as having exceptional strength and speed, and an uncanny instinct for finding openings.

Xtreme finance manager Greg Campbell prepares to distribute $1 million in bonuses to his players following Saturday’s championship game.

McCullough credited El Camino for putting him back in a winning frame of mind after USC offered him a full scholarship and then withdrew the offer.

Rachal played for the Chargers in 1997 and is also considered a strong NFL prospect for next year.

McCullough said he and Rachal plan to express their appreciation to El Camino and coach Featherstone during a visit to the campus this week. ER