PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — At 30 years old, Portland State alumnus Dame Ndiaye is getting another shot at professional football. On Nov. 16, the 6-foot-4 defensive end was drafted into the XFL for the second time by the D.C. Defenders.
After years of trying: Changing schools, changing coaches, changing positions, changing teams, changing leagues, changing countries, Ndiaye is set to get his first true shot at a stable professional football career.
“This is the chance,” he told KOIN 6 News.
Much like the XFL, which will attempt its third inaugural season in February of 2023, Ndiaye’s sports career has been long and chaotic. Born in Senegal, Ndiaye’s father moved him to New York City at the age of 6.
“He came to America for a better opportunity,” Ndiaye said. “Coming to NY from Africa, I didn’t speak any English. I was so confused.”
Ndiaye spent the second half of his adolescence in a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn. There, he unknowingly committed himself to a life of education and football, quickly picking up English at school and football at home. With a 2005 copy of the now defunct football video game franchise NFL2K, the one with his favorite player, Terell Owens, on the cover, he learned how to play the game that would ultimately become his profession.
“I learned football from playing video games,” he said. “I appreciated sports from afar.”
In his teenage years, Ndiaye was recruited as an athlete at Hoover High School in San Diego, where he initially dedicated himself to basketball. As a high school shooting guard he averaged 16 points and seven rebounds per game and earned All-CIF honors for two seasons. It wasn’t until his senior year that he played his first down of football, which ultimately led to a recruitment from the University of Arizona.
In Arizona, Ndiaye saw the first of many career coaching changes, which he said resulted in a lack of playing time. That’s when he transferred to Portland State, where he had a successful career playing edge rusher and tight end.
“My experience at Portland State made me tough mentally as a football player,” he said. “That’s what Portland State did for me. If I had to go back in my journey, I wouldn’t change a thing.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in Communications and social science from PSU in 2016, Ndiaye began his long and turbulent pursuit of a professional football career, starting with the Tri-Cities Fever, Kennewick, Washington’s now-defunct National Indoor Football League team. From there, he bounced around between the Canadian Football League, the Spring League, which ultimately became the United States Football League, and back to the National Indoor Football League. He also found time to earn a masters in educational leadership and administration from New Mexico State.
“I just had a mindset that I would never give up,” he said.
Then, in 2019, he was selected as a late-round draft pick in the 2020 XFL Draft by the Los Angeles Wildcats. An opportunity that ultimately fizzled-out when the league canceled its second inaugural season and went bankrupt following the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The league was ultimately rescued from its second demise by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his business partners, who purchased the league in August of 2020. With The Rock on board, the XFL is now set to reboot in February of 2023 and will work in partnership with the National Football League to potentially allow desirable XFL players to transfer directly into the NFL.
After getting a workout with the Arizona Cardinals a few weeks ago, Ndiaye said that he’s ready for his long-awaited opportunity to prove that he can succeed at the highest level.
“[The Cardinals] really liked me,” he said. “They told me to stay in shape. They are watching me, I could get a call from them at any moment. When I heard from them, it made me realize that I’m so happy I never gave up. If I would have given up in 2016 when the door was shut, I would have never gotten this opportunity years later.”
While he’s excited for his XFL career, Ndiaye said that his ultimate goal is to play in the NFL.
“The goal is the NFL for most guys,” he said. “That’s what the XFL is, the league of opportunity, and our coaches preach that. I’m grateful for the opportunity and I’m so proud of myself for not giving up. I’m here now because of that persistence — stubbornness too — but hey, it worked out.”
As he prepares for his shot at the big times, Ndiaye said that he remains thankful for the time he spent in Portland. He’s also still an avid Blazers fan.
“I’m a Portland State alum and I want the world to know I’m a Portland State alum,” he said. “I have nothing but love for Portland.”