Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson pays Houston a visit to cheer on XFL's Roughnecks

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Tuesday, February 21, 2023
'The Rock' discusses creating the XFL, a league of 2nd chances
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"I wish I had the XFL when I was coming out of the University of Miami. We have put a lot of effort into creating a league of second chances, a league of passion, a league of grit," XFL owner Dwayne Johnson said.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is one of the most commercially successful actors of his generation and he will be hoping that his success at the box office translates to his new venture: the XFL.

And as the American football minor league kicked off on Saturday, "The Rock" delivered an impassioned speech worthy of one of his movies before the Vegas Vipers and Arlington Renegades faced each other in the first match of the season.

"When they told you that the dream was over, but here's the truth: your dream is just beginning," he said, addressing the players.

"Because what you're going to do, you're going to come out on this field and you're going to line up and you're going to show the world what it's like to be truly hungry with that chip on your shoulder," Johnson continued. "I know because I've got that same chip and we're here because the X of the XFL represents the intersection of dreams and opportunities. You bring the dreams, we brought the opportunity. Now let's get to the game that we all love and why we're here today."

Johnson and a group of investors bought the XFL rights for about $15 million in August 2020, after the league had entered bankruptcy during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is the third incarnation of the XFL, a spring football league, which first launched in 2001 and collapsed after a season, before it was revived in 2020 until the pandemic forced it to a premature conclusion.

"So I say this, to all the players, all the coaches, and most, of all, to all the fans, we say this with great gratitude and humility and an insane level of excitement. I declare these words as we kick off our season. XFL, let's ball out baby!" Johnson added as the crowd cheered.

The Arlington Renegades defeated the Vegas Vipers 22-20 in the XFL's first game of the season. Six other teams are competing in the league: the DC Defenders, the Houston Roughnecks, the Orlando Guardians, the San Antonio Brahmas, the Seattle Sea Dragons and the St. Louis Battlehawks.

SEE RELATED STORY: 6 things to love about the XFL as league backed by Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson

Johnson was actually in Houston over the weekend for the Roughnecks and Guardians matchup.

The Roughnecks look to continue where they left off in 2020. They were 5-0 when that season ended, and they showed out in their first game of the 2023 season, winning 33-12.

"When you look at how these Houston Roughnecks are playing, there's an experience that they're already playing with based off (head coach) Wade Philips. You can see that on the field," Johnson said during a press conference after the game.

Johnson and his team said they believe there's a real possibility that they are going to do something that's transformative.

"I wish I had the XFL when I was coming out of the University of Miami. We have put a lot of effort into creating a league of second chances, a league of passion, a league of grit," he said.

Johnson's ex-wife Dany Garcia, who is part owner of the organization, was also there and shared some words.

"We have about 65% of our players with NFL pedigree, so it is so fantastic to see these guys on the field. They are ambitious, they're excited to show what they haven't had a chance to display just yet, and they bring a leadership quality to our younger guys. I think it's amazing," she said.

The Roughnecks take on the Arlington Renegades Sunday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. on ABC13 sister network ESPN2.

CNN Wire contributed to this story.