Charles Headen is a name you may not have heard yet unless you’re an Indoor Football League fan. Allow me to familiarize you with a future USFL, XFL, CFL, ELF, and possibly NFL star.
Headen is a 5’8 190 pound wide receiver, and return man who might be one of the most explosive and elusive players you’ve ever seen with a football in his hands. On 78 touches he scored 13 touchdowns in 2023, while this may come as a surprise to some, it certainly didn’t surprise Headen who knew he had this in himself the whole time.
Charles Headen College Career
Charles Headen is a Philadelphia native, which helped influence him to choose Shippensburg University to begin his college career. Redshirting in 2016, He would spend four seasons with the school before moving on in 2021 to Southern Methodist University.
While at Shippensburg he ironically only returned 15 kicks in four years averaging just 18.3 yards per return. He was involved on offense as well collecting 80 receptions for 909 yards and 14 touchdowns. Adding 3 carries for 7 yards. In 2021 for SMU he appeared in 2 games but didn’t log any statistics.
At the time he wasn’t viewed as the electric return man he now will be. The former high school defensive back got to showcase several skills he hadn’t gotten an opportunity to display in college. This is just one more reason why alternative football leagues are so necessary.
UnDrafted but Not Without Options
After his college career he went unselected in the 2022 NFL draft before signing with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. He spent the offseason trying to make their roster, but ultimately would up released and searching for his next home. Due to the timing of the CFL season, Headen wasn’t able to latch on with another team in 2022, but he was able to attend an XFL showcase in an attempt to garner attention for the 2023 XFL Draft.
With the CFL, XFL, USFL, leagues like the LFA, ELF, or GFL or even the indoor and arena football teams it was only a matter of time before Headen found a home. It turns out that home was with the Frisco Fighters an IFL team that led the league with a 15-3 in 2022, and a 15-4 record in 2023. In 2022 they lost in the first round of the playoffs, while this season they fell by just one point just one game away from the championship. While Headen wasn’t the only difference from 2022, he was one of the biggest contributors who didn’t play with Frisco in 2022.
Versatility is the Name of Today’s Game
Charles Headen scored in four different ways during his first professional season. With a reception, rushing, kick return and punt return touchdowns. I’m fairly certain given the opportunity he could play wildcat QB as well. Displaying next level burst, and unrivaled vision he found a way to score on a punt return despite the fact that punts are a rarity in the IFL, so rare in fact he had just two returns all year and AVERAGED 41.5 yards per return. Did we mention this is a 50 yard field?
In 2023 in 15 games for the Fighters he managed 13 touchdowns, including 7 on returns. There are special teams weapons, and then there is the one man army that is Charles Headen in the open field. They say a ball carrier’s job is always to make one man miss, but Headen often went above and beyond his normal duties. It was a common sight to see Headen make a crisp cut and leave a defender grabbing for thin air where Charles once was.
IFL special teams and defensive units are likely praying that Headen doesn’t return to the Indoor Football League in 2024. Many men were made to look silly on film, and many more will face the same fate no matter where Headen plays next season indoors or outdoors. In total Headen had 78 touches, including 52 kick returns, 17 receptions, 7 carries, and 2 punt returns. On those 78 touches he managed 1,495 yards and 13 touchdowns or an average of 19 yards per touch for 15 games straight.
In two playoff games this season he added
2 carries for 6 yards, 3 receptions 58 yards, 1 touchdown, 6 kick returns for 87 yards. Headen was very involved in the conference championship round vs Sioux Falls when he ran twice, caught two passes, and returned 4 kicks. If he returns to Frisco next season I fully expect him to take on a larger role on offense, but he and Frisco would be smart to continue with him being the primary kick returner as well.
At his 2022 pro day in 2022 Headen was clocked at a 4.50 but to me a receiver’s first step is much more important than the overall number. Headen managed a 1.5 10 yard split. In other words, the same number Tyreek Hill managed when he ran a 4.29 40-yard dash. Anytime as a receiver, or return man can boast and speed related numbers that match Tyreek Hill arguably the fastest man in the NFL, teams need to take notice. In fact, Headen also managed a similar vertical leap as well with 39.5 inches. Headen may be a step slower than Hill in the 40 in a pro day setting but on the field, with the ball in his hand, there are few men more electric than Charles Headen.
At an XFL workout with the Vegas Vipers, Headen ran a 4.44 laser timed 40, or a 4.33 hand timed 40. Much faster than what he put up just about a season before at his pro-day. Headen has proven he can produce, and he’s shown the requisite athleticism, versatility, and work ethic to make it outdoors. More importantly he has shown that he is a humble, and respectful person, whose only desire is to play football at the highest level possible. You won’t here complaints from his coaches, or teammates, many will echo the same statement, Headen is a great teammate and person.
There’s one facet of football that translates no matter the name of the league, and that’s special teams play. At a minimum Headen deserves an opportunity to make a roster as a return man, then earn a role on offense from there, although something tells me once the coaching staff sees him with the ball in his hands, they’ll be dreaming up ways to get him involved on offense as well.
Just keep in mind, Headen scored 7 return touchdowns in his first professional season after no logging a single one in college, and only having 15 return attempts. In other words there could still be room for Headen to get better in this aspect of his game, a statement that is nearly impossible to comprehend considering his performance in 2023. Regardless where he plays in 2024, I for one will be playing close attention because any team that employs Headen is always just one touch away from the endzone.
Just hours after this article was released it was announced Charles Headen was named Special Teams Player of the Year.
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