Several Days after the Birmingham Stallions not only win their second consecutive championship, Skip Holtz saw his Kicker Brandon Aubrey earned the distinction of being the first player of joining the NFL ranks in 2023 from the USFL. Aubrey who spent the last Two seasons with Birmingham was confirmed to be joining the Dallas Cowboys who also continue to roster the 2022 USFL MVP KaVontae Turpin.
With the first USFL Player beginning the next wave of exciting transactions for the league, below are Ten USFL Players deserving of an NFL Opportunity come this August. It is worth noting this is not a ranking and simply a list of players deserving of an NFL Opportunity. All players listed have also not appeared in an NFL Regular Season game.
Levi Bell Michigan Panthers Defensive Lineman
Stats: 17 Tackles 4.0 Sacks
After getting drafted by the Panthers in the USFL’s February Draft, Bell had a quick stint with the Ravens before donning the Royal Plum, and Champagne Silver on May 10th. Bell was an instant contributor on the Panthers Defensive Line, adding another facet to the Panthers dominate defense that showcased NFL Vet Breeland Sparks and ALT-League Vet Frank Ginda. Bell was constantly creating havoc for opposing Offenses, and was named PFF’s highest rated player on the Panthers with a grade of 91.8.
Kyree Woods Memphis Showboats Defensive Back
Stats: 19 Tackles 2 Interceptions
Woods was probably to many the USFL’s most surprising player in 2023, earning the honor of being named PFF’s highest graded player by Ben Cooper (92.0). Woods who originally came out of San Diego State University in 2020, was victim of a nasty injury, tearing his ACL in 2019 and has been battling back to showcase his skillset ever since. After working as a Law Firm as a Researcher, and setting records in the IFL Woods, became one of the USFL’s premiere lock down Cornerbacks which should garner plenty of NFL interest in the next several weeks.
Mark Thompson Houston Gamblers Running Back
Stats: 135 Rushing Attempts 655 Rushing Yards 14 Rushing TDs 15 Receptions 90 Receiving Yards
Thompson returned to the USFL in 2023 and continued a dominate campaign enroute to being named USFL Offensive Player of the Year despite only playing in 8 games. Thompson’s toughness forcing a league-high 45 missed tackles and churning out the second-highest yards after contact per carry figure (3.7) per PFF, made him the most punishing Running Back in the USFL in 2023. While he is 28 Years old, Thompson may have earned another opportunity at the NFL, and could be on pace to make his regular season debut come this fall for a team needing extra support in their running back room.
Alex McGough Birmingham Stallions Quarterback
Stats: 2,105 Passing Yards 20 Passing TDs 5 INTs, 70 Rushing Attempts 403 Rushing Yards 5 Rush TDs
Probably the easiest choice, the 2023 USFL MVP dominated in every facet of the game, enroute to delivering another championship to the Birmingham Stallions. McGough who originally came into 2023 as the Stallions back up, was thrust into the starting lineup after a J’Mar Smith injury and took full advantage of it. The former FIU QB put together arguably one of the greatest seasons in Alt-Football history during a 10-game season and should be enroute to an NFL contract before Training Camp kicks off.
Frank Ginda Michigan Panthers Linebacker
Stats: 104 Tackles 1.0 Sack 3 Interceptions
The USFL’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to earning Four Defensive Player of the Week awards, gave Ginda the nickname Frankie Four Times. A part of a dynamic Linebacking Corps led by Coach Christian Runza, Ginda along with Levi Bell and Breeland Speaks formed one of the most dynamic trifectas in the USFL’s front sevens. Ginda has been around pro football since 2018, spending time with several NFL teams, along with time in the AAF, and XFL 2020. With two consecutive seasons as a top tackler in the USFL, Ginda has shown enough to garner another NFL opportunity at the age of 26.
Kyahva Tezino Pittsburgh Maulers Linebacker
Stats: 93 Tackles, 2 INTs, 9 TFLs, 2 Defensive TDs
Tezino was a tackling machine in 2023 earning Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 5, while also being named to the All-USFL Defense in 2023. Coupled with Rueben Foster, Boogie Roberts, and Mark Gilbert all assisting Defensive Coordinator Jarren Horton in leading a top tier USFL Defense, Tezino was the straw that stirred the drink in Pittsburgh. After two seasons in the USFL, in addition to spending part of 2021 with the Spring League’s Aviators, Tezino should create more buzz on the NFL transaction wire extremely soon.
Isiah Hennie Pittsburgh Maulers Wide Receiver/Return Specialist
Stats: 46 Receptions 474 Receiving Yards 3 TD 12 Rush Attempts 49 Rush Yards 22 Ret 387 Return Yards
Versatility is key in a Wide Receiver making the jump to the NFL, and Hennie could do a little bit of “Henniething”in the 2023 USFL season. The Sac State alum was an extremely valuable weapon in Offensive Coordinator John Tomlinson’s Offense serving as the Maulers #1 Offensive Weapon. While 2022 saw return specialist like Maurice Alexander, and KaVontae Turpin make impacts for their team’s this past NFL season, Hennie could be the next All-USFL player to make an impact on Sunday’s this coming fall.
Shamarious Gilmore Philadelphia Stars Offensive Lineman
Stats: 10 Games Started
After being signed to the USFL in March, Gilmore became one of the league’s most effective Lineman, providing a stabilizing force for Case Cookus especially during the backend of the season. According to PFF Gilmore allowed only 10 quarterback pressures all year and 15.4% of his run-blocking snaps having earned a positive grade (second best), Gilmore proved to be one of the USFL’s most well-rounded offensive linemen recording a 75.0-plus pass-blocking grade in eight of 10 outings. With Offensive Lineman always in short supply look for Gilmore to help aid in the trenches for a run-happy team this August.
Case Cookus Philadelphia Stars Quarterback
Stats: 2,295 Passing Yards, 15 TDs, 9 INTs, 52 Rush Attempts 277 Rush Yards
Despite missing the Playoffs, Cookus willed his team to contention while dealing with subpar Offensive Line play and injuries throughout the starting lineup. Cookus who had a cup of tea with the Rams in 2022, has like many players on this list put together two consecutive seasons of healthy and competitive football. With consistent production like that, Cookus should easily be on many NFL team’s short list once injuries arise during training camp.
Dondrea Tillman Birmingham Stallions EDGE
Stats: 32 Tackles 4.0 Sacks
A Small School Prospect from Division-II Indiana University (PA), Tillman became the Stallions highest rated player due to a late season emergence. Tillman amassed 30 quarterback pressures over his final five games pushing him into elite territory according to PFF. His grade of 90 put him in elite territory as he was only one of five pass rushers to achieve that milestone. After spending the last three seasons in Alt-Football Leagues, Tillman is deserving of an NFL opportunity, sooner rather than later.
As I was writing this article the Houston Gamblers announced that Josh Pederson will be signing with an NFL team, making him the second USFL player to earn an NFL contract. With over 60 USFL players earning NFL contract since the leagues return in 2022 the USFL has proven itself as a formidable entity in providing a successful pathway for players an avenue to Football’s premiere’s stage. While here at USFL News Hub we listed only 10 players, our list could of exceed 30 or 40 names as their is plenty of talented players deserving a shot at the NFL.