The start of the NFL preseason is less than four months away. The XFL is wrapping up a successful reboot, featuring NFL-caliber talent on (quite possibly) every team. And now, the relaunched USFL is returning for a second consecutive season. And you might recognize the names of some of these USFL players — guys who once played prominent roles in other leagues.
USFL Rosters: Former NFL, CFL, XFL Stars
Full disclosure: We’re going to use the term “stars” loosely. We’re not going to see Frank Gore in a Houston Gamblers jersey.
But yes, the following guys were “stars” in a sense. Some posted huge numbers to warrant the moniker. Others should be celebrated for making NFL starts — something only the tiniest fraction of people get to say they’ve done.
For example, more than 25,000 athletes have played in the NFL. But how many people could name more than 500 of them? Maybe 1,000 if you’re an utter fanatic.
The following guys established a footprint in one or more leagues before arriving at the USFL. Let’s take a moment to recognize a few of them and what they achieved.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson, New Orleans Breakers
Every league needs an old man or two — someone who can show the youngsters how things used to be, and how things really are.
McLeod Bethel-Thompson is barely middle-aged by NFL QB standards. But in the USFL, the 34-year-old is a wily veteran trying to help lead his team back to the postseason.
Last year, he did one better by helping to lead the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League to the Grey Cup Championship. The 12-year veteran quarterback also has seen time with five NFL teams but hasn’t gotten closer than the sidelines. Perhaps a big showing in New Orleans will garner some NFL attention once again.
Case Cookus, Philadelphia Stars
Another QB from a 2022 playoff team. Case Cookus might be better than Bethel-Thompson, or perhaps not. Both guys have plenty to work with on their respective teams.
But Cookus is younger and more mobile. Like Bethel-Thompson, five different NFL teams have signed Cookus over the years, yet he’s never seen game action. At only 27 years old, he has almost nowhere to go but up.
Kyle Lauletta, New Jersey Generals
The NFL’s Giants drafted Kyle Lauletta in the fourth round in 2018, as they were trying to prepare for life without Eli Manning. It turned out Lauletta was not the right fit. He appeared in two games, throwing four incomplete passes and an interception. He also ran once for -2 yards. It was a rough NFL stint.
In one of those fascinating coincidences, Lauletta was also signed by five NFL teams before the rebooted XFL kicked off last year, and the Pittsburgh Maulers drafted him in the first round. Yes, the eventual 1-9 Maulers. You can imagine how Lauletta fared.
Still, New Jersey signed him to serve (presumably) as their No. 2 QB, backing up De’Andre Johnson. Lauletta is still only 28 years old. Perhaps he’ll settle in and showcase more of what we saw in college.
Alex Collins, Memphis Showboats
If you’ve followed the NFL even semi-closely over the past few years, you know how good Alex Collins can be. It’s a bit of a coup that the USFL gets to feature the 28-year-old after a strong NFL career where he started 29 games.
And it’s important to note that he peaked in the NFL in 2017. In the USFL, he’s carved out a role as an elite RB for an offensively questionable team that desperately needs him. As long as his offensive line holds up, Collins could once again be one of the USFL’s top RBs.
Bo Scarbrough, Birmingham Stallions
The Stallions are the defending champions, and Bo Scarbrough is one reason why. He rumbled for 353 yards on 84 carries (4.2 yards per attempt) last year in a somewhat packed backfield. Not bad for the former Alabama product who was signed by (checks notes) five NFL teams.
What’s the deal?! Why isn’t there a sixth team signing any of these guys?!
Scarbrough is only 26 years old, and during his time in the NFL, he exhibited above-average abilities to break tackles and eke out yards after contact. While he might not earn a large enough role to garner more NFL notice, he’s certainly a name worth tracking.
Corey Coleman, Philadelphia Stars
The Stars have what I believe is a top-two passing attack. Corey Coleman might be in the top three. Might.
That’s how good the Stars are. The big question for Coleman is whether he can shine in a league with significantly less WR depth than he was accustomed to in the NFL.
In hindsight, Coleman had impossibly high expectations when the Cleveland Browns drafted him No. 15 overall in 2016. He caught barely 43% of his targets across two seasons. In fairness, his primary QBs were Cody Kessler and DeShone Kizer.
He was signed by four other teams (yes, five total NFL teams — not making this up) before joining the Stars earlier this year. At his best, Coleman can be a top-15 USFL receiver. And he has the QB (Cookus) to help make it happen.