XFL: D.C. Defenders at Vegas Vipers

The 2023 XFL season is just about in the books, but there is one more game remaining on the schedule to determine their champion. On Saturday, May 13, the Arlington Renegades will take on the D.C. Defenders in San Antonio in the XFL's own version of the Super Bowl

On Friday, the league announced its 2023 season awards, including Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Special Teams Player of the Year and Coach of the Year. All of the awards were voted on by each team's head coach and/or director of player personnel. Let's check out the best of the best from this past season in the XFL:

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Jordan Ta'amu, D.C. Defenders

The Defenders were an electric team from the beginning of the season to the end, and while Gregg Williams and their stingy defense headlined the year, credit should be given to quarterback Jordan Ta'amu as well. He is your 2023 XFL Offensive Player of the Year. 

Ta'amu finished the regular season third in passing yards with 1,894, third in passing touchdowns with 14 and threw just three interceptions. His interception total ranked lowest among XFL quarterbacks with more than 150 passing attempts. Ta'amu also added 298 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Under his guidance, the Defenders offense ranked No. 1 in scoring (29.6 points per game), per the XFL's official website.

Ta'amu played his college ball at Ole Miss, and went undrafted in 2019. He spent time with the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions, Washington Commanders and Carolina Panthers, but hasn't played in an NFL game. He played for the XFL's St. Louis Battlehawks in 2020, and the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL last year.

Defensive Player of the Year: LB Pita Taumoepenu, Vegas Vipers

Taumoepenu recorded 26 total tackles, 7.5 sacks (tied for second in the league) and led the XFL in forced fumbles with four. He played his college ball at Utah, and was a sixth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers back in 2017. Taumoepenu also spent time with the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos. In 11 total NFL games, he has recorded five combined tackles. 

Special Teams Player of the Year: WR Darrius Shepherd, St. Louis Battlehawks

Shepherd led the XFL with 907 kick return yards, and had a long of 80 yards. He averaged 24.5 yards per return, which ranked No. 2 in the league among players who returned at least 10 kicks. Shepherd wasn't just a successful special teams player, as he caught 48 passes for 519 yards and six touchdowns as well. 

Shepherd went undrafted in 2019 out of North Dakota State, but spent some time with the Green Bay Packers, Chiefs, Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, Pittsburgh Steelers and Broncos. In 14 NFL games from 2019-20, he returned 20 kicks for 374 yards (18.7 yards per return). 

Coach of the Year: Reggie Barlow, D.C. Defenders

Barlow took over the Defenders franchise from Pep Hamilton, and found immediate success. D.C. went 9-1 this year, and won the North Division Championship. Offensively, the Defenders had the No. 1 rushing attack in the league with 1,408 total rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns -- led by XFL rushing leader Abram Smith (791 yards rushing on 158 attempts, 7 TDs). No other team even reached 970 rushing yards. D.C. scored more touchdowns than any other XFL team with 33, and also had a league-leading four pick sixes. The Defenders will take on the Renegades next Saturday in the XFL Championship game.

Barlow previously served as the had coach at Virginia State and Alabama State. As a receiver, he was a fourth-round pick in the 1996 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars, and also played for the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.