Former SIU defensive back Tatum continuing his pro aspirations in XFL

Roman Tatum (24) is playing for the XFL’s Orlando Guardians in his home state of Florida. (Photo by XFL/Orlando Guardians)

By Dan Verdun

Former Southern Illinois cornerback Roman Tatum is still chasing footballs and NFL dreams.

The 28-year-old Florida native is two games into his second season in the XFL as a member of the newly formed Orlando Guardians.

“It’s the opportunity to continue to play football,” Tatum told Prairie State Pigskin last week in a telephone interview. “I have goals and aspirations of making it to the NFL, and being in the XFL gives me a fair shot and opportunity to do that.”

Making an NFL roster has been an ambition of Tatum’s since his days growing up in Winter Garden, Fla. and starring at West Orange High School.

His prep career first led him to the University of Delaware a decade ago. After two seasons as a Blue Hen, Tatum transferred to Southern Illinois where he reunited with a familiar face, then-SIU assistant Nick Hill.

While Tatum was playing high school football, Hill was also in Florida playing for the Arena Football League’s Orlando Predators and coaching in the Sunshine State’s prep ranks.

“He (Hill) was just like me in a sense because he was still pursuing a professional career. He would coach whenever he wasn’t playing football,” Tatum said.

“Whenever Coach Hill would meet up with some of his guys to throw, I’d link up with him. So, there I was in high school, covering his receivers that played for the Predators,” Tatum said. “It’s crazy to think that there I was getting introduced to the Arena game and in a few years I’d be playing for the Predators. Just crazy.”

Carbondale corner

Before beginning his pro football journey, Tatum was a consistent starter in the SIU defensive backfield.

Tatum in his SIU days (Photo by

“Southern Illinois was a great, great time for me,” he said. “I came there in the summer of 2016. Coach Hill was a guy I had a great relationship with.”

Tatum also had the opportunity to play with his cousin, Saluki running back Daquan Isom. Tatum developed friendships with fellow defensive backs Craig James, Ryan Neal and Jefferson Vea.

“We did the things you’d expect college students to experience,” Tatum said with a laugh. “I made some relationships there that I’ll have for a lifetime.”

Pursuit in the pros

Tatum has spent his post-collegiate days continuing his pursuit of pulling on an NFL jersey. Certainly, it’s been a long and winding road.

First, he played at the semi-pro level. Tatum suited up for the Wenatchee Valley (Wash.) Skyhawks of the American West Football Conference where players are paid $150 per game before taxes with no other benefits.

Sandwiched by stints in Arena football and the Texas-based The Spring League, Tatum’s first go-around in the XFL occurred in 2020 with the Los Angeles Wildcats.

When the eight-team XFL was rebooted for this season, Tatum’s former LA team was no longer around. After working out for four different teams, Tatum found himself drafted by the Guardians (formerly the New York franchise).

Playing in Orlando appealed to Tatum on many levels.

“It was in my best interest to come back to the XFL,” he said. “I’ve played in a bunch of different leagues, and I consider this (XFL) the best opportunity that I had on the table.

“I’ve been to Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles. My family really haven’t been able to see me play football in person . . . Most haven’t seen me play live since high school.”


Tatum is quick to evaluate his strengths and areas that need improvement.

“(I have) football awareness. I believe that I’m a pretty great football player, but what you don’t know, you don’t know. I haven’t been in the NFL yet. I can’t even tell you what it’s like to be in the NFL, but being in the XFL gives me a taste of what it’s like to be in the NFL,” he said.

“The game speed will be faster (in the NFL), so I know there are things mentally that I can improve on like formation awareness, situation awareness, things like that. I believe as I continue to develop those over the course of my XFL season it will put me in a better position to be ready whenever I do get that call to go into the NFL.”

Coming up Thursday: A look at Ze’Veyon Furcron, another Saluki playing for Orlando.

One response to “Former SIU defensive back Tatum continuing his pro aspirations in XFL”

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