By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, mgray@afro.com

Pep Hamilton’s football odyssey has returned to where it started as he tries to build a championship franchise from the start.  The former Howard University quarterback is the first head coach and general manager of the Washington XFL franchise that will open to play next year when the remix of the new league kicks off in February 2020.

Hamilton was a reserve on Howard’s 1993 Black College National Championship football team and has become one of the top offensive minds in football. In two decades, Hamilton has assistant coached five NFL teams and at two of the college football’s premiere programs college programs: Stanford and Michigan.

Pep Hamilton is the first head coach and general manager of the Washington XFL franchise which kicks off in February 2020. (Courtesy Photo)

This wasn’t a career path that was a part of his plans while playing at Howard.  Hamilton was prepared to become a banking executive in his hometown of Charlotte, NC when former Bison coach Steve Wilson offered him a chance to break into the business working on his staff in Northwest D.C. following his senior year.

It was apparent early that Hamilton would become more than just a coach once he became a full timer on Wilson’s staff.  After two seasons as quarterback coach he was promoted to offensive coordinator where he served for the final three years at his alma mater.

“Becoming a coach was something I never thought seriously about when I was at Howard,” Hamilton tells the AFRO.  “It was such a great opportunity I turned down an opportunity with Bank of America in my hometown and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Hamilton’s ascension in the coaching ranks defies the perception that many Black coaches have lamented in recent years.  There is a perception among the new generation of coaches at HBCUs that those who coach too long in those ranks may never escape to enjoy the professional mobility that has defined his success. This hire appears to be more than just a publicity stunt designed to endear the organization to a predominantly Black city naming a coach and executive who resemble the audience they are trying sell on purchasing tickets.

Vince McMahon, who started World Wrestling Entertainment, is the founder and owner of the remix version of the XFL whose next generation begins the weekend of February 8-9 2020.  McMahon is personally funding this relaunch of its spring football league, which traces its origin to the turn of this century. The original XFL played only one season in 2001, but promises to innovate the sport with rule changes that promote a faster pace and more fan-friendly.  Washington’s yet to be named franchise will play at Audi Field, home of the D.C. United soccer team.

“It’s meaningful that Pep will lead our team in Washington,” said XFL Commissioner and CEO Oliver Luck.  “Through his hard work and dedication Pep earned this opportunity to become a head coach for the first time in his career.”

In 10 years as an assistant coach he has specialized in developing NFL quarterbacks.  Hamilton has mentored Jay Cutler, Brian Griese, Andrew Luck, and Alex Smith who is recovering from a horrific leg injury suffered while playing for Washington in December.  He returns to the District after time spent on coaching staffs with the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers and New York Jets.

His second decade of experience has been heavily influenced by former NFL quarterback and Super Bowl head coach Jim Harbaugh.  Hamilton was Harbaugh’s receiver’s coach and offensive coordinator at Stanford before joining his staff at the University of Michigan where he was the assistant head coach and passing game coordinator for two years.