It’s been an eventful week as NFL teams make their final roster cuts, finalizing the 53-man squads for the 2023 season. And if you’ve been watching closely, you’ll notice a growing trend—the United States Football League (USFL) is proving to be a fertile ground for NFL-ready players. Let’s dive into the details.
A League of Opportunity
Let’s kick off by acknowledging the work of USFL President of Football Operations Daryl Johnston and the GM’s of all eight USFL teams. Johnston couldn’t be prouder, stating that the USFL has not only produced MVPs like KaVontae Turpin but also sent 24 players last season to either active NFL rosters or practice squads.
Two USFL Players Make Active Rosters
Brandon Aubrey, a former Birmingham Stallions kicker, and LaBryan Ray, a defensive tackle from the Philadelphia Stars, are among the notable mentions. These two have carved their own unique paths, surmounting odds and turning their USFL experience into a life-changing opportunity.
The Kicker Who Could
If you’re a fan of the underdog story, you’re going to love this. Brandon Aubrey, the former soccer player turned Stallions’ All-USFL kicker, sealed his spot with the Dallas Cowboys. His journey through the USFL was an illustrious one, with him winning two Championships and even earning All-USFL honors. Aubrey shined during the preseason, securing his spot on the 53-man roster and establishing himself as a name to watch.
The Defensive Dynamo
LaBryan Ray, perhaps a lesser-known name, has taken his USFL experience with the Philadelphia Stars to new heights. After finishing a promising season with 10 tackles and three sacks, he garnered attention from multiple NFL teams. Ultimately, it was the Carolina Panthers who recognized his worth, adding him to their final roster.
Not Just a Flash in the Pan
Of the 39 players transitioning from the USFL to the NFL this year, it’s essential to note that many like Austin Watkins, Frank Ginda, and Alex McGough—although not making the 53-man rosters—still demonstrated their worth during the preseason. There’s a high chance we’ll see their names on practice squads or picked up off waivers.
The Numbers Speak
According to the USFL’s records, 31 out of 32 NFL teams have signed players directly from their league, a testament to the quality of talent being produced. As for the NFL contracts signed by USFL players over the first two seasons, the number has now surpassed 100.
So, as we rev up for the 2023-24 NFL season, keep your eyes peeled for these emerging talents from the USFL. They’re not just making up the numbers; they’re players to keep an eye on.