Scales gets second chance in XFL

As his pro football dream persisted, Tegray Scales tried to keep his phone close but also at a distance.

The promise of a call kept the former All-American linebacker in the weight room at his alma mater Indiana, readying for potential openings on NFL rosters. Opportunity is just an injury away. At the same time, constantly wondering if his phone was about to buzz wasn’t good.

“I tried not to think about it too much. It stresses you out,” Scales said. “It’s best to keep your mind off of it. If it happens, I’ll be ready.”

So in the months following his latest chapter in the NFL — cut by the Pittsburgh Steelers at the end of the preseason — Scales returned to IU and continued to train. For some extra cash, he spent a couple of days a week with former teammate T.J. Simmons, working at a packaging and distribution center for pharmaceutical chemicals in Indy.

To occupy even more of his time, Scales downloaded the Lyft app and drove his car around Bloomington, taking strangers wherever they needed to go.

Scales would get his phone call, eventually. From working out at IU, to splitting 1,000 pounds of cornmeal into 12-pound bags, to driving around Bloomington, his life would intersect with football again. Just not the NFL. Not yet.

A nearly 13-hour drive south landed Scales in Dallas as a member of the XFL’s Renegades. He’s one of several IU alums giving the new league a shot, including defensive lineman Bobby Richardson with the Tampa Bay Vipers and receiver Simmie Cobbs with the D.C. Defenders.

It’s not all glamor. Scales lives out of a hotel, rooming with another former All-American linebacker, Maryland alum Tre Watson. Killing downtime for early 20-somethings means copious amounts of video games. “People come to my room and be getting beat in Madden all the time,” Scales said. “Nobody wants to play me no more. I’m lonely right now.”

But on weekends, there is more than enough action to be had, as Scales and Watson meet rushers in the backfield and chase quarterbacks out of the pocket.

“Honestly, it’s pretty cool. It’s kinda like I started the whole process over again,” Scales said. “I didn’t get drafted to the NFL. I went through that process, but this new opportunity came about and I got drafted and I’m playing a lot. It was like a second chance.”

Like many who don an XFL uniform, Scales knows what it’s like to ride the ups and downs of a football life. Positive assessments from scouts and coaches got his hopes up going into the 2018 NFL Draft. He shed tears when his name wasn’t called. He signed with the Rams in May 2018, only to get cut within four months. That December, he was on the Colts practice squad for two weeks. Scales then signed a contract with the Steelers in January 2019, but, again, didn’t make it out of training camp in August.

If that was the end of his NFL story, Scales could have accepted it. But his agent was still getting calls from interested NFL teams. This past fall, when Scales was working a shift in Indy, repackaging, he ended up with about 10 missed calls on his phone. IU assistant William Inge, strength coach Rick Danison, his agent — they were all trying to reach Scales because the Raiders wanted to fly him out for a workout that night.

He’s flown to New England, New Orleans, Tampa, just to name a few others. A constant cycle of fly-out-workout-fly-back has been both motivating and disheartening, though Scales has tried to minimize the latter feeling.

“That’s what kept a chip on my shoulder. I still have an opportunity, and, when my time comes, I’ll be ready,” Scales said. “But flying out to all these places and nobody is signing me, it gets stressful. All these thoughts go through your head. But you just have to stay positive. I’m a positive person. I believe everything happens for a reason.

“Maybe it was meant for me to be in the XFL.”

In fact, during Scales’ exit interview with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, the rebooted XFL was mentioned. If he didn’t get picked up by an NFL team, this other league would be an opportunity for the speedy linebacker to get more plays on film and stay in a groove football-wise. Scales asked his agent to put his name in the XFL draft pool.

The scouting manager for the Renegades just happens to be Robert Morris, who spent years as a coach at IU under Bill Mallory. In the XFL’s October draft, Scales was snatched up.

Luckily, Scales had his own connections in Dallas, too. A former teammate, Chris Covington, a linebacker for the Cowboys, let Scales stay at his house in Frisco when he first arrived. Simmie Cobbs also started with the Renegades in training camp, before later departing to Washington.

“It’s like a freshman coming into college. You have to bond with your team,” Scales said. “Not that it’s about money or anything like that, but we all pretty much get paid the same in this league. There are no egos. We were able to put our differences aside and, in camp, we were able to bond faster. We helped each other out. I’m on a great team.

“We have 30-year-olds, we have people fresh out of college. But we were able to combine pretty fast as one group.”

Watson, his roommate, has turned out to be his best friend on the team. Scales has also found himself with his share of responsibility at the heart of the Renegades’ defense, wearing a headset and helping call in plays for his unit.

And the games are a rush. In the XFL, there are only 25 seconds between plays, 15 seconds less than in the NFL and NCAA. That keeps offenses moving and Scales running. It turns out, his training back in Bloomington with Danison, David Ballou, and Matt Rhea kept him ready.

Just being around the IU football team during the 2019 season, on the sidelines at games, in meeting rooms during the week, kept Scales’ mind engaged. He was encouraged.

“They used to tell me, you are too talented not to be on a team,” Scales said. “Keep working, you are getting faster. You belong.”

Scales showed that in his very first game in the XFL, racking up seven tackles, three for loss, including a sack. He came around a corner, just barely sweeping an arm into a quarterback’s foot and chopping him down.

That game didn’t end exactly as he would have hoped, because the Renegades fell to the St. Louis Battlehawks in their opener. But they’ve now rattled off two straight wins, and Scales continues to lead his team in tackles, racking up another seven in a victory over the Seattle Dragons in Week 3.

“Just this whole process, being in the XFL and being able to play on a team outside of college. … Going out in my debut and performing that well was huge, but I wasn’t surprised,” Scales said. “I’m not cocky, but I consider myself a playmaker. I’m always around the ball.

“Coaches put me in positions to make plays, and it’s my job to make them.”

And to have that job — for however long it lasts — is something Scales can’t help but appreciate.

“Definitely blessed,” Scales said. “I believe everybody’s path is their path. Mine is the way it is. But I get to play the game I love. Can’t ask for anything else.”

11 comments

  1. It is good seeing Scales get another shot at playing pro football. He seems to be doing what it takes to get noticed by NFL teams and it is good to see Scales getting quality reps this off-season.

  2. It’s gotta beat bagging cornmeal. Probably not his major at IU. The article did cause me to look up the XFL rules. I like the rules for the try (no kicks- run a play from the 2, 5, or 10 yd. line for 1, 2, or 3 pts.) and for speeding up play but not sure how the kicking rules will work out, will have to try and find a game on the boob tube.

  3. Oh, and two forward passes allowed on one play provided that the first pass is caught and thrown from behind the line of scrimmage. Makes three receivers to the wide side a lot more interesting.

  4. No place else to post this, but better be concerned. Saw a report that David Ballou was in Tuscaloosa, Saban is looking for a new S&C coach.

  5. Bad news gang. Our top notch S&C coaches Ballou and Rhea are headed to Bama. So I guess it’s a fact now, IUFB just isn’t allowed to have nice things.

    1. No official word on IU losing our S&C coaches yet and Alabama had pulled in several top guys to interview. If they do leave I will be sorry to see that happen but expect coach Allen to find another good hire. IU is at the point that success has programs coming in to scoop up our coaches. I hope we get a football guy as the new AD that understands what it takes to improve the program even more and hang on to good coaches. Even with that focus and changes even the better programs have coaching defections which is the reason we are seeing rumors about our S&C coaches as Alabama lost their S&C coach to Georgia.

  6. this season keeps on getting tougher and tougher. With the losing of so many players and coaching staff present quite the challenge for Tom Allen and his new staff. It will take two to three years to get back to normalcy with this many players leaving and the current coaching staff. LEO will be put to the test this fall and next fall. IMO, for all the players and coaching staff leaving (team distraction)….Tom Allen has earn a “mulligan” for the year 2020. Hopefully, he can pull this team and staff together and have a fairly good year……GOOD LUCK…coach Allen

    1. IU79, I am with you wish coach Allen and the team good luck with all the changes occurring this season. Fortunately, most of the player changes came about because of increased talent challenge starters and back ups. I hope the coaching changes bring about improved coaching or at least comparable coaching. It won’t be easy for IU in 2020 but there is time for everyone to get acclimated to each other and hit the ground running by the start of the season.

      1. Tough, tough off season. Lots of key departures. But the player changes didn’t come as a result of increased talent. That wasn’t the case with either Ramsey or Cronk.

        1. I would disagree as both were replaced by underclassmen that excelled while playing. Ramsey lost his starting spot and Cronk was going to have to move to Guard due to Bedford’s emergence. I would say both situations was due to increased talent as a result.

          1. Ramsey didn’t believe he would have an opportunity to compete for the starting job, so he left. Cronk was asked to move inside, not because he was beaten out by Bedford but because he was the best, most versatile lineman on the team and the only player who could do this. CC didn’t believe there would be a choice in this, but he wasn’t being moved because MB beat him out. The team isn’t better off without either of them.

            A very tough off season with several playing and coaching positions not in as good of shape as they were when the season ended.

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