SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Former Tennessee wide receiver JaVonta Payton completed his first XFL season with a championship ring as his Arlington Renegades defeated the D.C. Defenders, 35-26, on Saturday night in the XFL Championship Game.
Payton, who was a member of the 2021 Volunteers, caught two passes for 21 yards in the title game. His big-play skills were on display in the postseason as he caught seven passes for 142 yards—second-most among XFL players—with two touchdowns. That came after a regular season in which he hauled in 11 passes for 164 yards.
The Defenders featured VFL tight ends Alex Ellis and Ethan Wolf. Ellis, who played three NFL seasons, registered four touchdowns during the regular season. Wolf caught 13 passes for 106 yards and one touchdown during the regular season and hauled in a 26-yard touchdown pass in the division final victory.
Payton joined the Vols in June 2021 in Josh Heupel‘s first season as a graduate transfer from Mississippi State. In his one season with UT, Payton led the SEC with 22.9 yards per catch and ranked third on the team with 413 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns. He excelled in explosive plays, ranking second in the league and third in the FBS with two 70+ yard scores.
Payton continued a stellar championship season for VFLs in 2023. Former All-SEC offensive lineman Trey Smith won a Super Bowl LVII ring with the Kansas City Chiefs in February. Smith serves as the Chiefs’ starting right guard and became the 40th former Vol to win at least one Super Bowl title.