The original USFL was short-lived, but it made an impact on professional football.
Although the league halted after three seasons in 1985, the product on the field was regarded as solid. With a big enough budget to sign star players, including three consecutive Heisman Trophy winners in Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie, and Mike Rozier, the following future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees played in the USFL: Reggie White, Gary Zimmerman, Jim Kelly, Sam Mills, and Steve Young. Additionally, Hall of Fame coaches and executives Sid Gillman, Bill Polian, George Allen, and Marv Levy were all a part of the original USFL.
Now, the relaunched USFL is already making a healthy dent on NFL rosters since the end of its inaugural season. Thirty-eight former USFL players have already signed with NFL teams.
Players from USFL finding NFL employment
Since the end of the season, with the spring-summer league set to resume play in 2023, USFL players have been in heavy demand.
USFL Defensive Player of the Year Chris Odom, a former NFL defensive end with the Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, and Washington franchise who led the USFL with 12 1/2 sacks, six forced fumbles, and four blocked kicks for the Houston Gamblers, has worked out for the Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs. He signed with the Browns and now making his bid for a roster spot.
Every day, more USFL players join or audition for NFL teams.
Here’s a look at the confirmed signings so far:
Arizona has added wide receiver Victor Bolden of the Birmingham Stallions. He was the Most Valuable Player in the championship game and an All-USFL selection. Undersized and fast at 5-foot-8, 178 pounds, Bolden has NFL stints with the San Francisco 49ers, Buffalo Bills, and Detroit Lions. He has 535 career return yards and one catch for 10 yards.
Wide receiver Bailey Gaither played for the Pittsburgh Maulers. He is a former Green Bay Packers undrafted free agent from San Jose State. He caught 135 passes for 2,227 yards and 18 touchdowns in college.
The Carolina Panthers signed former Birmingham Stallions defensive back Tae Hayes.
The Chicago Bears signed former USFL linebacker DeMarquis Gates, who played for the USFL champion Birmingham Stallions.
The Cleveland Browns signed former New York Giants and USFL wide receiver Derrick Dillon. Dillon played for the Tampa Bay Bandits in the USFL, catching 28 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns. He went undrafted out of LSU and signed with the Giants. The Browns signed pass rusher Chris Odom, the USFL Defensive Player of the Year.
The Bengals have signed defensive tackle Domenique Davis and linebacker Tegray Scales, both previously with the Houston Gamblers. Davis, previously with the New York Jets, had 57 tackles and 3 1/2 sacks for the Gamblers. Scales, previously with the Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Bengals, has played in five NFL games.
Linebacker Christian Sam of the New Orleans Breakers was the first USFL player to sign with an NFL team after the season, joining the Cowboys. He has played for the New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, and Detroit Lions. The Cowboys officially signed former USFL MVP KaVontae Turpin, a former Texas Christian standout wide receiver and kick returner, according to a league source. Turpin led the USFL with 540 receiving yards on 53 receptions, rushing for 129 yards. He scored six touchdowns for the New Jersey Generals, helping to boost them to a 9-1 record.Turpin, who has 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash at 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, was kicked off the TCU team by former coach Gary Patterson due to a domestic violence case.
The Broncos signed former New Jersey Generals wide receiver Darrius Shepherd.
The Detroit Lions have signed former Tampa Bay Bandits offensive tackle Darrin Paulo. The Lions also signed former Philadelphia Stars wide receiver Maurice Alexander Jr.
Green Bay Packers
Tight end Sal Cannella (New Orleans Breakers) and wide receiver Osirus Mitchell (Birmingham Stallions) have signed with the Packers. Cannella played collegiately at Auburn and was an All-USFL selection who caught 34 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns. Mitchell, who played collegiately at Mississippi State, is a 6-foot-5, 206-pound former Dallas Cowboys player who helped the Stallions win the championship. He caught 23 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns. The Green Bay Packers signed wide receiver Ishmael Hyman (Michigan Panthers). Hyman went undrafted out of James Madison University. He was previously with the Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers.
The Jaguars added quarterback Kyle Sloter of the New Orleans Breakers. Sloter, 28, has also been with the Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, and Las Vegas Raiders. At Northern Colorado and at Southern Miss, he passed for 2,656 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He passed for 1,798 yards to rank second in the USFL.
The Jacksonville Jaguars signed running back Matt Colburn, previously with the Philadelphia Stars in the USFL. Colburn was originally signed as a rookie free agent byt Los Angeles Rams and has spent time with the XFL’s New York Guardians, the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts and most recently, the Stars. He played in four games for the Stars and rushed 102 times for 457 yards and eight touchdowns. At Wake Forest, he rushed for 2,528 yards to finish sixth in school history.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs signed former Philadelphia Stars wide receiver Devin Gray. Gray has also played for the Baltimore Ravens and the Atlanta Falcons. He had 215 receiving yards for the Stars and two touchdowns.
Las Vegas Raiders
Wide receiver Isaiah Zuber (Houston Gamblers) and cornerback Ike Brown (New Orleans Breakers) were added by Las Vegas. Zumer caught 22 passes for 322 yards with zero drops. He has previous practice squad stints in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, and New York Jets and signed with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent from Kansas State. He has two catches for 29 yards and two runs for 21 yards with New England.
Brown played in seven games for the Breakers, recording 14 tackles and two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. He’s a former Buffalo Bills undrafted free agent from Florida International.
Los Angeles Chargers
Defensive end Carlo Kemp from (Pittsburgh Maulers) was added by the Chargers. He played collegiately at Michigan. He has also played for the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos. He was a team captain in college and a Defensive MVP in the Hula Bowl. He went undrafted and signed with Green Bay. The Chargers signed tight end Sage Surratt. He was previously with the league champion Birmingham Stallions in the USFL. Surratt is a former Detroit Lions undrafted free agent from Wake Forest. He was cut from their practice squad last season. <BR>
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams added quarterback Luis Perez of the New Jersey Generals. Perez, who was previously with the Rams and has stints with the Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, and XFL, led the Generals to a 9-1 record and had a 145.9 quarterback rating and a 71.7 completion percentage. He has also played in the Alliance of American Football.
The Dolphins signed standout USFL cornerback Tino Ellis, formerly of the Michigan Panthers. Ellis had a previous stint with the Dolphins. Ellis played collegiately at Maryland. He has also played for the New Orleans Saints. The Baltimore native is 6-foot-1, 196 pounds and played high school football at powerhouse DeMatha Catholic.
New York Giants
Offensive lineman Garrett McGhin joined the Giants after playing for the New Jersey Generals. He played collegiately at East Carolina. He has played in two NFL games and has previous stints with the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars.
New York Jets
The Jets signed wide receiver Rashard Davis of the Tampa Bay Bandits. Davis played for the Philadelphia Eagles and earned a Super Bowl ring when Jets general manager Joe Douglas worked for the NFC East franchise. He won a national championship at James Madison University. He ranked 10th in the USFL with 369 receiving yards. He had 1,549 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns at JMU and averaged 28.4 yards per punt return as a senior with four touchdowns. He led all USFL returners with 223 yards and returned one for a score. He has played for the Eagles, Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Kansas City Chiefs, and the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
New England Patriots
New England added defensive lineman Jeremiah Pharms of the Pittsburgh Maulers. Pharms (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) had two sacks for the Maulers with 50 tackles.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints signed former Tampa Bay Bandits defensive back Quenton Meeks. Meeks had an interception and a blocked punt against the Houston Gamblers. He has played for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Chargers.
Wide receiver Lance Lenoir played for the Michigan Panthers. The former Western Illinois standout. Lenoir previously signed with the Dallas Cowboys and has also played for the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks.
Defensive lineman Doug Costin of the Birmingham Stallions was signed by the Steelers. Costin started nine games for the Jacksonville Jaguars as a rookie and had 32 tackles. He went undrafted out of Miami (Ohio).
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers signed former Houston Gamblers defensive end Tomasi Laulile.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have signed tight end Jonathan “Bug” Howard, according to his agent, Lamont Smith. Smith played for the Philadelphia Stars in the USFL. He’s a former Indianapolis Colts undrafted free agent from North Carolina. He has spent time with the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills. He caught 124 passes for 1,770 yards and 14 touchdowns in college.
The Titans signed former Pittsburgh Maulers defensive back Shakur Brown. He played collegiately at Michigan State. The Titans have also former Pittsburgh Maulers defensive back Terrell Bonds following a successful workout.
Washington added cornerback Channing Stribling of the Philadelphia Stars and cornerback DeJuan Neal of the New Jersey Generals. Stribling led the USFL with seven interceptions and has spent time with the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, and Los Angeles Chargers. Neal, 25, signed with Washington as an undrafted free agent from Shepherd University. He had 16 tackles for the Generals. The Commanders signed offensive tackle Alex Akingbulu, previously with the Philadelphia Stars. The Commanders are signing former USFL cornerback De’Vante Bausby following a successful workout, per a league source. Bausby signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent in 2015. He broke his collarbone during mini-camp in June 2015 and was released by the Chiefs with an injury designation. He was with the New England Patriots’ practice squad last season.