Updated: Feb 23, 2021
For this week's episode of Real Talk with QBV we talked with XFL/NFL Quarterback Chad Kanoff!
Kanoff played college ball at Princeton University and was a 3 year starter. After graduating he went to work and entered the NFL draft, and later signed as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals. Later continued his football in the XFL with the New York Guardians and the Los Angeles Wildcats.
Kanoff walks us through his pre draft process and how he is still finding a way to train through the pandemic. He also gives advice for younger athletes about getting offered scholarships.
How was your experience in the XFL?
“ Yeah it was a great experience, if your in the NFL as a 3rd QB which I was, on the practice squad, you don’t get a lot of reps. You really only get to play in the pre season. I was looking forward to getting some reps and getting to play which I did get to do. That was really fun, I haven’t played in 2 years since college, it was well run. It was normal football, the talent was really good. There’s a lot of players that are on the cusp of the NFL. A lot of those guys on the bottom of the roster are somewhere interchangeable interchangeable and those guys are playing in the XFL. It’s a very hungry league. “
What was it like to be a part of XFL history? (Chad was involved in the first ever XFL trade)
“Haha I don’t know that but it was awesome, I’m from Los Angeles, it was like a dream come true. Most of the XFL had started practicing in like November and I hadn’t because I was still on the Buccaneers. So then I signed over and I think I had 10 practices with the Guardians and then I got traded and had like 5 with them and then just go play. It was kinda like playing when you were younger, you just kinda go out there and play with no film and stuff in your head.”
How was losing communication to your coach mid-game ?
“Yeah I probably could have handled it a little better, but we had it go out in a scrimmage and he was just having me call plays. This time, I thought a pretty critical 3rd down and the wide receivers headset went out and my headset went out, so he’s running the wrong route, I got sacked because he didn’t hear the call."
"That was really frustrating, it was more frustrating at the XFL. As a starter up not everything is perfect, but it just sucks because the whole thing is predicated on the headset working because there’s no huddle. So if the headsets don’t work, you can’t run plays basically because if you don’t know the play clock is shorter. I should have known but the headsets going out is a part of football so I could have handled it a little better probably.”
Are you excited for the new XFL?
“ So I was just talking to norm the other day and he was really excited about it and that was great. He talked to some of the higher ups there and thought it was going to come back in full force. Dwayne the rock Johnson is like the perfect person to own it because he was one of these players."
"He played in the CFL before his acting career. He seems like he really wants to put the time in and seems like he has Financial resources which will be able to sustain it assuming there’s not another pandemic. I think it will be a great league just like it would have been.”
Walk us through scoring the first touchdown for the Wildcats in franchise history?
“ It was awesome, I think I only scored 1 or 2 rushing touchdowns in 3 years of starting at college, so to run was definitely different. It was something I have been working on, I played with Kyler Murray for a season a half and the off season in the NFL and that I’m not even remotely on the same level of athlete of him but it does make you kind of think that you have to be able to move a round. So that was something I really worked on running and moving, so I was happy to be able to run one in.”
What have you been doing to stay in shape during all of this?
“I have a quarterback coach out here, he was my highschool coach and I work with him one a week. Then there is another wide receiver from the XFL, Nelson, and I have two other guys recently released from an NFL teams that are based in Los Angeles. So I try to throw a couple times a week, I lift 4 times a week,"
"I was doing a different program through a bit of a shoulder problem after this league so I got a new therapist through Andrew luck. He actually went through Germany and Amsterdam to work with these guys that have a very different kind of way of doing things. So I been working with them over zoom and they gave me a pretty comprehensive shoulder program and weightlifting program that I have been doing. I really like it,"
"I’m someone that has sampled different workout programs and training programs. I went down where Drew Brees worked out and Brady worked out but you have to find what works for you. I think this is what works with me and I’m really happy to have found something that I feel good about."
"I been doing that 4 times a week, to doing footwork with my coach and make sure I throw as much as I can. I do some of the Tom house shoulder exercises I don’t know if you guys are familiar with those, he kinda just blew up. He has a app coming out soon and that’s going to be pretty cool.”
Do NFL players reach out to train with you or do you get support from past teammates?
"It's all mostly through the grapevine, quarterbacks are always looking for wide receivers and wide receivers are always looking for quarterbacks and LA seems to have a high proportion of receivers some QBS too but there seems to be more WR than QBs. So I just kinda found out from word of mouth and In LA most of the fields have been closed so it’s just kinda finding a place to go and usually there’s a bunch of people there.”
Have you done any coaching or mentored any younger QBs?
“ I have volunteered Coached for my quarterbacks coach who was a Head coach. He has like a monthly newsletter that I write a little blurb in. I’ll occasionally train with some of his guys but I haven’t been personally coaching any body."
What was your pre-draft process like?
“ I have always wanted to play in the NFL, there’s not a lot of Ivy league That do. I applied to jobs in the fall, had a job in consulting and I basically graduated in the winter after the season and I just went full scale training I went out to a Academy place and got signed by a agent. They basically put you up in a hotel in that facility where you just train nonstop for 6 weeks and lift 6 days a week and with a QB coach for 3 days a week, then some film study and they prep you basically for your Pro day."
"You also work with a sport psychiatrist which I think that was the most helpful thing, because I have never spent time with someone like that, I would highly recommend that or reading “Mind Gem”. quarterback is such a mental position, basically any body can go throw but are you going to throw when people are watching you and there’s a ton of pressure on you and I think mastering that is really important."
"If you have a ton of confidence naturally and I feel generally quarterback are very confident people. I don’t know if I’m overly confident so that was really good for me to make sure you are thinking the right thoughts. You think wrong thought, you think right thoughts, so that was really good. Then I had my pro day at Princeton with three of my friends, I had a good pro day but didn’t get invited to the combine which is frustrating."
"You can’t control that but still frustrating but I was pumped to get signed after the draft because a lot of guys who went to the combine didn’t get signed. That training camp, I had a ton of good luck, Sam Bradford was hurt, Josh Rosen ended up getting hurt so I got a ton of reps."
"There are tons of QBs who go undrafted basically don’t practice, they are their as a camp arm. And then basically get cut. Then I got enough reps to prove myself and make the practice squad and eventually make the active roster that year. You have to take the good future for the bad fortune, it’s all about opportunities and you just have to make sure you are ready for yours. I hope I get another chance but if I don’t I’ll be happy with what I had.”
Did you pick the cardinals?
“Yes I did , I was talking with the chargers and I can’t even remember the others but I committed to them pretty early. In the 6th round they called me and were like hey if you don’t get drafted will you come to us."
"I had a really good relationship with their QB coach, who I think really highly of. It was a good situation even though they drafted a QB because If your coming in as undrafted your more or less trying to compete to be a backup."
"They had a older quarterback room and I saw that and if the coaching staff had stayed I could have eventually became a back up their if everything stayed the same. It was a good decision and a good place for me. But I think I had firm offers from anyone else but I did commit somewhat early to them. It’s sorta like recruiting, it’s like a game of musical chairs at the end of the draft. I wasn’t the most sought after guy, some guys get a 15,000 sign on bonus and I was not one of those people.”
How was it being around Kyler Murray and Brett Hundley?
“ It was great I learned a lot from both of them, Brett is a great A human being and he’s been around a lot of great players like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Also he was from Arizona which was cool we got to meet all the locals. Kyler is one of the most impressive people I have seen athletically, most guys that are that fast can not throw that well and usually people who throw well can not run that fast. Kyler is as accurate and as fast as they come. It’s not surprising that he’s having success in the league now.”
Talk about your experience being a recruit and going through that process?
“ I actually had a pretty weird process, I was committed to Vanderbilt for like 6 months back when James Franklin was the coach, They were my first offer and they offered me in the spring of my Junior year. I wouldn’t say I did it right at all and I know the pressure of getting an offer is a lot. It was one of the happiest days of my life and I couldn’t believe it. If I could do it over again I would do it differently."
"It’s a really tough process because you have professional salesman whose job it is to get you to go to their school. I would say stay true to yourself and figure out where you will be the happiest. Even if it’s committing really late, I would also say don’t discount anyone, takes Everyone’s call and just be happy with what you get. Also try not to feel too much pressure, I remember being so stressed and my parents being so stressed being like oh what should you do. Also any offer you get be really excited about.”
What was the biggest reason for your jump in play from your junior to senior year?
“ A ton of things, I got this question a lot in the pre draft questions because I was on not ones radar but I think As a player. I made it a point to get better every year and that spring I got to take the semester off because going into your fifth year you have to take a semester off in Ivy League. So I got a lot more time to train so that definitely helped but if your a QB you're a function of the system your in kinda."
"Your stats are a function of the system your in so the year before I played really well but I didn’t have great stats because I spilt time with another QB who is a fullback in the NFL for the Green Bay packers. So that can cut into your stats but it really didn’t matter so I would say partly that. He ended up getting hurt the next season so he wasn’t there so I basically took every snap, so numbers wise I was going to have more."
"I think honestly we were the worst team too, we were behind a lot so we had to throw a lot. My coach before, he’s now the head coach at Brown now and my offensive coordinator is now a OC at Oklahoma State and at Rutgers so we were throwing it a little more than in the past. It was a combination of a bunch of things we also had two guys who are now Tight ends in the NFL which I don’t think we had the years before.
What's it like balancing school and football at an Ivy league school?
"Yeah I think it's really hard it is challenging which is good though you want to be challenged I think a lot of guys that go to school just to play football you don’t grow as much as a person it doesn’t benefit later in your life to just play football through college that’s not the purpose of college."
"Most people are not going to be able to play professionally and if you do its pretty unlikely you make enough money to never work. Learning how to be a critical thinker is really important and learning how to balance time management is just life so I think it takes a ton of discipline, it takes structure you got to be on time you got to be accountable."
"Bouncing off those it was not easy but like I said taking the year off from school helped me improve because I just got to focus on training and writing a thesis but it was manageable. A lot of the guys on my team had worst grades in the spring when you didn’t have football tons of guys because they just relaxed it was surprising. You get in a structure for football getting regimented every week, when you don’t have structure sometimes everything can fall apart."
Its third and 10 on the 45 what play you want?
"There's not a lot of good calls there stuff you love. I would say this route that they had with the bucks called congo. It was trips right the number three can take the middle or break to the skinny seam if it is to high, the number two does an out versus cover 1 and cover 4 but then he hooks it up if it's anything else,"
"Then the third guy on the outside has a dig and then on the back side you can either tag or turn or a post curl or a comeback. I just think it gives you a lot of options, there is not a lot of good calls there and I love when the receivers have to read the coverage and make a decision based on what it is."
"I love stuff like that somewhat complexed that takes time, takes getting to know guys, takes a feel I think those end up being the best. Obviously you can't just run out there and run that play a ton of times but I actually think its got answers, the Bucs and Arians system is good about having most plays have answers against 1, 2, 3, 4, 2 man."
Any pre game rituals you do?
"Yeah, I do the same thing I have always done since high school, I come a couple hours before I get my script, I lay down in a really dark room basically so I rest close my eyes and I look through the whole, I do this the night before to, read every passing or every play that’s in the game and think about where you would go against different coverages."
"So, if this guys here you got to close your eyes and think about where they will be and then the defense over it I think you get better at doing that as you go. I would do that and then day of the games I wouldn’t do it for every play but definitely third downs and all redzone just visualize yourself going through it."
"Some guys, like Ryan Griffith he would hitch through every play on Friday like okay its here here, here, here, I personally just like to do it in my head. I would do that and stretch while I was doing that nothing to crazy it's basically like a meditation then I would go play."
Do you have a favorite drill to do whether its in season or offseason training?
"I actually don’t love Quarterback drills because I like doing stuff that’s really similar to in game so drills that I like are most similar to the game. I think the wave drills pretty similar that’s quick."
"So you drop a quick couple movements and then throw and there is this drill I have been doing since high school supposedly it’s a brady drill I don’t know if its true or not but you drop step 5 hitch up left hitch up right hitch up then throw, or I have always liked where guys come at you, you spin out throw, or guys comes at you got to hitch up and go under and protect the ball don’t think you can work on ball security enough."
If you were to go back to yourself before college what advice would you give yourself?
"Yeah man I would just say make sure you enjoy it. You only get to be in college once make sure you are enjoying being a student being a football player being at a college it’s a tiny period of your life so really enjoying it."
What was it like being around Larry Fitzgerald?
"He's a great guy I got to throw to him I went to his house both off seasons before I really knew him the first time I had only been there for like two months. So he called me out of the blue like hey what are you doing next week? I was like oh just training so I flew out to Minnesota I got to spend a lot of time with time with him there."
"So I think I got to know him a lot better then he's a great human really good role model for young players in the NFL both as a football player like getting your work done and off the field. He's a really smart business man I think people would be surprised to know how many business deals he's in, he's a very intellectually curious guy, and I think he’s a great ambassador for the NFL to obviously the Cardinals he's as good as they come to be able to transition his game as he's got older and still be an asset to an NFL is really impressive."
What are your plans for you after football is over?
"I'm not sure I am still figuring that out, I can see myself going back to some sort of graduate school. I don’t know what hopefully I can be one of the lucky ones that can paly football their whole life but if that doesn’t happen i'm not sure. Probably not going into coaching but that’s okay."
Any personal hobbies?
"Yeah I tried to become a little better golfer I have got into surfing I did some when I was younger but but I have a lot more time I love doing that it's been a good thing to keep you in flow feel like your in a game you can get that from surfing actually which is pretty crazy to me."