As the XFL booted back up in early 2023, it served as a league to give players an opportunity to keep playing the game they love.
That’s what the league did for Federal Way High School alumnus Charlie Taumoepeau, who plays fullback for the Seattle Sea Dragons.
“My plan is to get back in the NFL, that’s my goal … I truly love the game of football,” he said.
Coming out of Federal Way, Taumoepeau had just one offer to play college football — and that offer was from a Division 1 school two and a half hours south of Federal Way.
“A lot of schools would drop by for Jared Pulu and Chico McClatcher … I remember talking to a couple different schools. I only had one offer from Portland State when it was all said and done,” Taumoepeau said of two former FWHS teammates. “It was a blessing getting a scholarship to help my parents out. Also being in Portland made that decision easy.”
Taumoepeau played four years at Portland State University. During his career there, he received 2018 1st team All Big Sky Conference honors and was also noted as a second team All-American in three different polls during that season.
Over his career playing for the Vikings, he recorded 117 receptions, 1,876 yards and 11 touchdowns over 41 games. He had five of those 11 touchdowns during the 2018 season.
During a workout in Portland, Taumoepeau received an email invitation informing him he was able to participate in the 2020 NFL Combine. Taumoepeau tied for the second highest vertical jump of all tight ends in the combine (36.5 inches).
“I got excited because I got the official email inviting me to the combine … To me I don’t believe anything until it’s concrete, and when I got that email I was definitely happy,” Taumoepeau said. “As a kid growing up playing football and being a football fan, you dream of going to the combine.”
The 2020 combine went from Feb. 23 to March 2. The world changed two weeks after the combine ended.
“I remember getting on the plane and texting my agent, ‘Is this COVID thing real?’ And he told me to just be smart, wash my hands. Right after the combine I remember everything shut down,” he said.
Leading up to the draft, Taumoepeau would tune out most of the rumors that had his name involved. But a couple of times he was informed by his family and teammates.
“I tried to stay away from the draft rumors and things like that,” he said. “But sometimes a teammate who was a fan would send me a text … I wanted to focus on what I was doing.”
Taumoepeau’s name wasn’t called during the seven rounds of the NFL Draft. Midway through the third day of the draft, he was in talks with the Dallas Cowboys in case his name wasn’t called.
“Of course I wanted to hear my name get called but at the same time I knew I had the opportunity to live out my dream and I was grateful for that opportunity,” he said.
Over his first year in the NFL, Taumoepeau played for three different teams. He went from Dallas to Indianapolis, then San Francisco’s practice squad rosters. Taumoepeau was released by the 49ers in October of his rookie year.
“I didn’t really know what a practice squad was. I was just trying to enjoy every single part of the way. It was all new to me,” Taumoepeau said.
It was difficult for Taumoepeau to not play football. Over the last four and a half years, he had been all football, all the time.
But now he was at home and he was itching to get out and compete.
“It tested me mentally, but it made me stronger. It made me stronger in my faith too. ‘I walk by faith and not by sight.’ Especially since there was nothing in front of me, I just had to work my butt off,” he said.
In May 2021, Taumoepeau signed with the Detroit Lions. He thought this was the place he would make his debut and shine.
“I was so emotional when I got the call because I knew how prepared I was and I was not coming back … I was overfilled with joy at the fact of having another opportunity because I didn’t know if I’d have another one,” he said.
But on Aug. 16 of that year, Taumoepeau’s career would be thrown another curveball. That night he was a passenger in a DUI car accident with a teammate. As a result of the wreck, he suffered a fractured fibula and had a couple of fractured ribs.
“I took it as a challenge. I was having a great camp. I was doing some really good things and hitting my stride. But the accident put everything on hold,” he said. “It gave me perspective that the game and life can be taken away from you at any point … It helped me not take any of the little things for granted.”
Taumoepeau stayed under contract while rehabbing and getting closer to being back on the field. The Lions released him almost a year ago on March 16, 2022.
“I eventually did get healthy. It took a long time, but to get where I am today, it took a lot,” he said.
Playing in Seattle
His career was able to stay alive with the third inception of the XFL. He was a 14th round pick of the draft, but was selected to the St. Louis Battlehawks.
Instead of waiting for the NFL calendar year to start, Taumoepeau wanted to play football. He had been rehabbing and doing physical therapy for over a year and wanted to get out on the field.
“I can go play football. The only way to get better at football is to play football … When the next opportunity does come with the NFL — I’ve been getting better playing the game of football and I’ll be ready,” he said.
Thanks to a trade in late January, St. Louis sent Taumoepeau to Seattle to play for the Sea Dragons.
“My family was really excited … They are Seahawks fans but had never been in the stadium, so their first time in the stadium was to watch their son,” he said.
But with the way the XFL is set up, Taumoepeau didn’t spend as much time in Seattle as his family thought: “My little brother thought I’d be in Seattle. But we practice in Texas so I’m only home for games … I think I’ve been home a little too much,” he said with a laugh.
So far this season, Taumoepeau has recorded two catches on both targets he has over three games with 25 receiving yards on those catches. It’s not all about the stats for Taumoepeau, but the dream of getting back to the NFL.