Muscle Sport Magazine

A Look Back: XFL 2001 NY/NJ Hitmen


The second incarnation of the XFL kicks off in February 2020 and MuscleSport Media will be on top of all the action. Being based in New York, we are excited to have a local team (the New York Guardians), but will be covering the league as a whole. But since we are doing a series of articles on the 2001 XFL, we figured as good a place to begin would be with the New York/New Jersey Hitmen, who played their home games at Giants Stadium, the predecessor of MetLife Stadium, which will be the territory of the Guardians.

The Hitmen were a part of the league’s inaugural contest, a price time Saturday night affair at Las Vegas to face the Outlaws. The game was broadcasted by NBC and the ratings were outstanding, but the result was a one-sided 19-0 victory by the host club. Quarterback and New York native Charlie Puleri had a poor performance and became a lightning rod for criticism until being benched in favor of Wally Richardson in Week 3. The Penn State alum played fairly well and led the team the rest of the way, which resulted in a 4-6 record and third place in the Eastern Division.

Head coach Rusty Tillman had a hard time adjusting to the gimmicks that the XFL implemented and did not take well to them. The team struggled offensively, with their leader numbers paltry, even for a 10-game schedule. Richardson threw for 804 yards, with wide receiver Kirby Dar-Dar (404 yards) and running back Joe Aska (328 yards) rounding out the top three statistics.

Once the lone XFL season commenced, the players became free agents and much of the Hitmen’s roster consisted of players who had pedestrian, but successful, NFL careers and this was their last chance to make a splash. Puleri spent the next two seasons toiling for two teams in the Arena Football League. Richardson took a similar path, albeit it only one season. Tillman, who was an eight-year NFL veteran as a player and then joined the coaching ranks from 1979 through 1998, landed a job as the special teams coach for the Minnesota Vikings for three years after sitting home for a year once the XFL ceased operations.

Perhaps the most intriguing character to come out of the Hitmen legacy was David Catapano, a Brooklyn native who was both the Director of Player Personnel and defensive coordinator. In 1992, he lost a leg in a train accident but this did not thwart his success nor will to overcome his misfortune. He went on to become an accomplished chef, professional poker player, motivational speaker, screen writer and author.


As the head coach of the New York Dazzles of the Women’s Professional Football League, Catapano led the team to a league championship and two division titles. After his one season in the XFL, he went on to be the Director of Player Personnel for the AFL’s New York Dragons. But football was merely one part of his story.

He is considered a ‘celebrity chef’ and invented what he calls a “Twisted Mediterranean” style. Catapano has been numerous cooking, talk and reality television shows.

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