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Three Heisman Trophy Winners Who Dominated the USFL

Back in the 1980s, the NFL had some competition, it wasn’t the only league in town. The United States Football League, or USFL as it became known, was founded back in 1983, and it started out hot, spending big in the hopes of usurping the aforementioned NFL as the biggest football league in the country. Those hopes were extinguished in just three years.

Last year however, the league was rebooted, admittedly without the fanfare of the Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson-backed XFL, but the USFL was back. It featured the same eight teams from its predecessor, namely the Michigan Panthers, New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Stars, Pittsburgh Maulers, Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers, New Orleans Breakers, and Tampa Bay Bandits (who have since rebranded as the Memphis Showboats).

The inaugural campaign was won by the Birmingham Stallions. They defeated the Philadelphia Stars by a score of 33-30 at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Ohio. Bovada’s best football lines and futures make the Stallions the favorites to retain their crown this season, which will get underway on April 15th.

The USFL has some way to go before it can repeat the success of its predecessor, however. As we all know, when it comes to football, there’s no denying that the Heisman Trophy is among the most coveted awards for any player. It represents the pinnacle of achievement for anyone who truly loves the game, and back in the 80s, the USFL managed to draft the Heisman winner in each of the three seasons they were active.

These days, each and every Heisman winner go on to have a successful NFL career. Back in the day, however, America’s current number-one football league wouldn’t allow juniors to be drafted. The USFL took full advantage of the loophole and drafted these three superstars.

Herschel Walker

When you talk about exceptional athletes, running back Herschel Walker’s name always crops up. After being a standout in college, winning the Heisman Trophy in 1982 following an impressive three-year stint with the Georgia Bulldogs, he was drafted to the New Jersey Generals in 1983 to begin his professional career.

Walker was one of the league’s most dynamic forces, racking up over 5,000 yards in his three-year tenure. Ultimately, his success in the USFL paved the way for his NFL journey, where he went on to become a pro-bowl running back multiple times. He is beloved in Texas courtesy of his stint with the Dallas Cowboys, who even retired the number 34 jersey in his honor.

Mike Rozier

In the mid-’80s, Mike Rozier was one of the most promising running backs in the world of college football. In 1983, he had a stellar year with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, racking up a whopping 2,295 rushing yards and 29 rushing touchdowns on his way to the Heisman Trophy. The USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers were paying full attention and drafted Rosier in their 1984 draft.

He didn’t have the best of years in Pennsylvania however and was traded to the Jacksonville Bulls for the 1985 season. There, he would pick up over 1,300 rushing yards, before making his way to the NFL once the league disbanded.

Ultimately, Rozier landed with the Houston Oilers in 1985, where he would spend five seasons and establish himself as a dominant force in the game. He would move on to the Atlanta Falcons in 1990, winding down the final two years of his career in Georgia.

Doug Flutie

Last but certainly not least, we have Doug Flutie, the quarterback who proved that good things come in small packages. Flutie burst onto the scene back in 1984 when he heaved a legendary ‘Hail Mary’ touchdown pass for Boston College to break the hearts of his rivals, the Miami Hurricanes.

Flutie was a wizard on the field and even though his short stature was seen as his biggest detriment, he silenced all his critics during his time in the USFL. Playing for the New Jersey Generals, Flutie racked up over 2,00 yards in his first and only season with the franchise. This led to some incredible opportunities in the NFL, and he would enjoy a nine-year career in the league, featuring for the Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills, and San Diego Chargers.

While he never quite lived up to the hype in the end, he will always have that Hail Mary to look back on, which will go down in history as one of the greatest moments in the history of college football.


As you can see, there have been many Heisman Trophy winners who found an avenue for their talents in the USFL. While the league may have been short-lived, it gave an opportunity for players to showcase their abilities and make a name for themselves on a grand stage. We can’t imagine that too many Heisman winners will feature in the league in the coming years, but nothing is for certain in the world of football.

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