Former LSU placekicker Cole Tracy opened the email and noticed the giant, bold 'X' right away.
It was an exclusive invitation from XFL commissioner Oliver Luck to join the startup professional football league's pool of available players for its first draft in October.
The resurgent XFL, which folded after its popular but financially unsuccessful first run in 2001, started sending about 800 invitations to priority free agents Aug. 7. The league's first games are in February, and its eight teams will each draft 70 players. Most targeted players are on the fringe of making NFL rosters.
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Tracy set five school records in his one season at LSU as a graduate transfer from Division II Assumption College. He had free agent tryouts with the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers in the spring, but the 23-year-old remains unsigned as he continues to train at home in Southern California.
Tracy hasn't given up on the NFL. He and his agent keep up with NFL transactions every day as players get signed and cut from teams throughout training camp. But the XFL invitation clears up his question-filled future.
"I'm excited that I at least have something in the future," Tracy said. "It's not necessarily a blurred end over the next few months. I at least have something."
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Tracy attended the XFL's Summer Showcase at Long Beach State on June 21. The kickers each got six field goal attempts and a few kickoffs in front of the league's scouts. Tracy went 6 for 6 on field-goal attempts with a long of 60 yards.
But Tracy knows what's holding him back: the distance and hang time on his kickoffs.
At LSU, he had been a field-goal specialist. True freshman Avery Atkins handled all the kickoffs, and his powerful leg led the nation with an 89.87 touchback percentage.
An NFL team can only carry 53 players on its roster — nearly half the size of a college team — which means there's less room for specialists and kickers must be diverse in what they can offer.
So Tracy has returned home to Camarillo, California, an hour's drive west of Los Angeles, and he's been working out with a personal trainer four days a week to strengthen his core and lower body.
Tracy said Zach Ray, who trains professional athletes at Live Athletics, is training him like a baseball player or a golfer, because both types of athletes require an immense amount of torque and balance in their lower body when they swing.
The workouts last just over two hours. In one, Tracy throws a medicine ball sideways against a wall while kneeling. In another, he holds dumbbells and hops off one foot while resting the other foot on a raised platform.
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And since Tracy began training, he made an unexpected friend: former All-American LSU nose tackle Glenn Dorsey.
Dorsey, who played nine seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers, still lives in Southern California and just so happened to also train at Live Athletics.
Tracy said he pulled Ray aside and said, "Is that Glenn Dorsey?"
"Yeah," Ray said.
"Oh, wow," Tracy said. "Is it cool if I introduce myself?"
The 5-foot-10, 184-pound kicker walked up to the burly Dorsey and said, "Hey Glenn, how's it going? My name's Cole Tracy."
Dorsey's eyes widened: Holy s---! What's up man? You had an awesome year!
"I'm like, 'Oh, my God, this LSU legend knows who I am,' " Tracy said.
Dorsey and Tracy are now the Tigers tandem that annoys everyone in the training facility every morning.
"We hype everything up," Tracy said. "'Oh, Death Valley! We're gonna be so good!' They're like, 'OK, we're sick of you guys.' "
LSU star outside linebacker K'Lavon Chaisson returned to practice Thursday afternoon after missing just over a week of preseason camp.
The workouts have produced improvements, Tracy said. He's "been seeing a lot more pop in my ball" on kickoffs, and he's been able to drill field goals from long distances.
Tracy made the final round of a sudden-death field goal competition at Kohl's Kicking Camp in mid-July at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The footballs were placed under plastic holders, and everyone started at the 48-yard line and kept backing up until they missed.
Tracy was one of three kickers, including Texas sophomore Cameron Dicker, who nailed a kick from 63 yards. All three kickers missed from 65 yards, Tracy said, and they were about to try again when the camp coach said they'd run out of time.
The camps are a way to keep Tracy busy, to test his skills in a competitive environment and to keep his name fresh in people's minds.
On July 27, Tracy attended the Carney Kicking Challenge in Carlsbad, California, which is hosted by John Carney, whose 24 years kicking the NFL included eight seasons with the Saints.
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And Tracy's NFL aspirations are literally within sight.
Each day, he practices kicking inside William Rolland Stadium at Cal Lutheran — the school where LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda once was college roommates with Texas coach Tom Herman.
Right across the street, not 500 yards away, is the Los Angeles Rams' temporary practice facility.
"Eventually I'll be there," Tracy said. "This is not my plan. I'm a firm believer in God's plan."
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