The Value Of Non-NFL Pro Leagues Like The USFL
One of the primary mission statements for leagues like the USFL is the opportunities they create for football players to continue their professional careers.
Opponents of alternate spring pro football have always questioned the quality of players playing in these leagues. However, the last three spring pro football leagues in America have all debunked that notion by producing quality players for the NFL.
As the ancient saying goes, the proof is in the pudding.
The Alliance of American Football, in 2019, has seen several of its players continue on in the NFL, XFL, and USFL, like Atlanta Falcons All-Pro kicker Younghoe Koo.
The XFL in 2020, despite playing only five weeks of regular season games, has nineteen of its players currently on NFL rosters. Players who have inhabited NFL rosters for the last three seasons. A true testament to lasting quality. Eleven of those league’s players are on 53-player rosters heading into Week 15 of the 2022 NFL Season.
The ultimate selling point for spring pro football in the United States is seeing these league’s players succeed. Because when that happens, it validates the value and viability of non-NFL leagues in the football landscape.
21 USFL 2022 Players Currently On NFL Rosters
USFL Players On NFL 2022 Rosters (Entering Week 15)
Active/53-player NFL Rosters (2)
WR/KR: KaVontae Turpin (Generals-Cowboys)
*DE: Chris Odom (Gamblers-Browns)*Injured Reserve*
NFL Practice Squads (19)
LB: DeMarquis Gates (Stallions-Bears), DL: Domenique Davis (Gamblers-Bengals), WR: Victor Bolden (Stallions-Broncos), LS: Mitchell Fraboni (Maulers-Broncos), LB: Carlo Kemp (Maulers-Chargers), DB: Tino Ellis (Panthers-Dolphins), DB: Tae Hayes (Stallions-Panthers), K: Taylor Bertolet (Breakers-Chargers)
OT: Alex Ikingblu (Stars-Commanders) WR/KR: Maurice Alexander (Stars-Lions), OL: Darrin Paulo (Bandits-Lions), K: Rahmiz Ahmed (Maulers-Packers) DB: Micah Abernathy (Gamblers-Packers), LS: Tucker Addington (Gamblers-Patriots), DT: Jeremiah Pharms (Maulers-Patriots), WR: Isaiah Zuber (Gamblers-Raiders), CB Ike Brown (-Breakers-Raiders), QB: Case Cookus (Stars-Rams), DT: T.J. Carter (Panthers-Rams)
No name stands out more on this list than USFL 2022 MVP KaVontae Turpin. The 26-year-old TCU star took a unique path in his professional career to get to the point where he is now, under a three-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys.
Turpin is leading the way for playoff-bound Dallas, returning kicks and punts all season. KaVontae has averaged 23.7 yards per kick return through 13 games, with 11.7 yards per punt return. Turpin’s longest returns are 63 and 50 yards in both categories. He hasn’t scored yet. But as New Jersey Generals and USFL fans know, it’s coming. It might even happen in the playoffs.
The fact that Turpin has made it to this point after playing in multiple leagues is a testament to him and the value of the USFL.
USFL 2022 Success
The USFL, in 2022, not only created a new avenue for pro athletes to play, but it opened the doorway for nearly 60 players since the summer to get onto or back on an NFL roster. Some players had quick stints, while others have seen time with NFL teams during the 2022 season, like Pittsburgh Maulers’ standout WR Bailey Gaither, who is on the fringe, hoping for another way in after being released three times by two different NFL squads.
Ten USFL players have seen elevations to NFL gameday rosters this season. Players like Maurice Alexander and Micah Abernathy have swung back and forth up and down their teams practice squad. Alexander was even released at one point for roster gymnastics purposes by the Detroit Lions.
The life of a fringe NFL player is always wrapped in uncertainty. There are weeks where USFL players on practice squads have been elevated to active NFL rosters this season. And several weeks, where players have been released and brought back on, only to be cut again.
As per usual, the bottom end of an NFL roster is subject to change on a daily and weekly basis. But as the final four weeks of the NFL regular season have arrived. The 21 current USFL players on NFL rosters have survived the unfriendly nature of life in the biggest league.
Getting into the NFL is exceptionally challenging. According to the NCAA, Less than two percent of all draft-eligible college football players make the big league every year. Staying on an NFL roster, even if you get your foot in the door, is also daunting. That’s because the average NFL career is four years. The reason for that is partly injuries but also the numbers game. Hundreds of new players enter the NF annually, replacing the same amount.
The USFL has provided an avenue for players to extend and further their pro careers. If the NFL won’t have these players. The USFL’s existence offers a home for them to circle back to if necessary.
The original USFL’s list of players who transitioned into all-time greats in the NFL is legendary. Reggie White, Steve Young, Jim Kelly, Gary Zimmerman, Herschel Walker, etc. It would be hard-pressed for any non-NFL league to produce that type of otherworldly talent. But it was a different world back then. The old USFL was a direct competitor to the National Football League. The latest version of the USFL is a friendly habitant in the pro landscape. Times may have changed, but the value of alternative pro football leagues hasn’t. The current USFL is proving that.