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Former Boise State kicker Tyler Rausa may owe a bit of thanks to former NFL star Chad Johnson for his successful debut in the XFL last Saturday.

It was at a tryout designed for Johnson two weeks ago in Houston, that the DC Defenders saw enough in Rausa to sign him as their primary kicker heading into the season.

Maybe the best part? The former ‘Ocho Cinco’ didn’t show up despite the workout being set up at his request.

But Rausa was there, and impressed the Defenders enough to land a contract to kick for them in the new professional football league.

In a 31-19 win for the Defenders over the visiting Seattle Dragons in the inaugural game of the revived XFL on Saturday, Rausa made two of his three field goal attempts — including a 54-yarder at the end of the first half.

“Oh gosh, it was awesome,” Rausa said in a phone interview with the Idaho Press. “There were so many emotions going on during the game. It was my first time kicking outside in a game since 2016 at Boise State, so I just had to get back out there and go through everything. It was fun stuff.

“It’s something that was a dream come true, but I have to continue the dream and stay on top of my craft.”

Rausa kicked at Boise State from 2013-16 and was the primary kicker his junior and senior seasons. He was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist and the first-team All-Mountain West kicker as a junior after setting Boise State’s single season record with 25 field goals. He went 25 for 30 in 2015, and finished second among all FBS kickers with 134 total points — a mark that established a new Mountain West record.

He went 9 for 13 on field goal attempts as a senior and a perfect 58 for 58 on PATS, but didn’t get nearly the number of opportunities he did as a junior due to Boise State’s offense finishing more drives with touchdowns.

He had a few NFL tryouts, but only could land a spot in the National Arena League, where be played for the Columbus Lions and the Massachusetts Pirates. He kicked in The Spring League to try and attract interest from NFL scouts, but has mostly been kicking daily in Boise and staying ready for an opportunity.

That came two weeks ago with the new XFL.

“It’s been a long journey, but it’s all been worth it,” Rausa said. “To look back at everything I’ve done, the grind I’ve gone though, I’ve just continued to prepare myself to be ready. Now I just have to take advantage of this and take it to the next level.”

Rausa did that Saturday. Playing on national television on ABC in the first game of the new XFL, he connected on a 34-yard field goal midway through the first quarter for the first points in the league’s history.

Broadcaster Steve Levy congratulated Rausa after the kick for being the first XFL player to reach the scoresheet.

“That was really cool,” Rausa said. “I didn’t think about it too much in the moment, but on the sidelines, everybody was saying that … It’s pretty cool that I could be the answer to a bar trivia question that people are playing while drinking or something. It’s pretty funny.”

But everything didn’t go perfectly for Rausa. His second field goal attempt from 35 yards early in the second quarter went wide to the left. Making things worse, he had to do an interview with ESPN sideline reporter Dianna Russini just minutes after missing the kick as part of the XFL’s live in-game interviews.

“That was definitely different,” Rausa said. “I didn’t expect it, but our media guy came up to me and said, ‘They are going to interview you now, it’s a new thing in the middle of the game they are doing,’ and I said, ‘Sure,’ because I’m never going to deflect anything. What happened, happened and you just have to do the quick interview, and she was supportive and nice about it.”

Rausa said Russini told him after the interview that she’d be back to interview him after he made his next field goal. That proved to be true when Rausa banged in a 54-yard attempt as time expired at the end of the first half. Instead of interviewing the coach as the teams headed to the locker room, the halftime interview was with Rausa.

And the 54-yarder was a big one for Rausa after missing his previous attempt. Kickers are a dime a dozen in the NFL and XFL, so multiple missed kicks in the first game may have been enough to get Rausa cut.

“I needed that,” Rausa said. “I definitely needed that 54-yard one because I was either going to have a job or I wasn’t going to have a job after that kick, in my mind. I needed to come through, and our team needed the points.”

Rausa said his phone hasn’t stopped going off since Saturday with calls, texts and social media messages from friends, family, former teammates at Boise State and fans in Boise.

“It’s been great,” Rausa said. “Everybody has been reaching out and that’s one of the reasons why I love the city of Boise and the fans. Once you’re a Bronco, you are always a Bronco. It’s why you go to Boise State and then stay in Boise afterwards. There’s been so much support and I need to thank everybody because they’ve all stuck with me on my journey and been so positive. It’s been great.”

The XFL features a number of rules changes, but the most unique element may be the $100,000 on the line each week for the winning team to split. The win means another $2,000 or so for Rausa on next week’s paycheck.

“The win bonus is real nice,” Rausa said. “That’s kind of been a big thing and a driving factor to want to win even more. It makes it that much more competitive because if you win, you get more money.”

One funny, odd note from Saturday? The ABC broadcast referred to Rausa as ‘Ty Rausa’ despite his name being Tyler. A check of the DC Defenders website also shows that he is listed as ‘Ty’ on the roster.

Rausa is not sure where the change from Tyler to Ty came from, but said he’s all for it at this point.

“If they are going to keep me on the team and keep paying me, I don’t care what they call me,” Rausa said with a laugh.

Rausa is one of two former Boise State players on XFL rosters, and they both appeared in the same game. Defensive end Durrant Miles, who last played for the Broncos in 2018, saw action on special teams for the Seattle Dragons.

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