I have spent the entire offseason championing the moves the Stars made to bring back key players like Channing Stribling, Cody Brown, Dexter Williams, Matt Colburn, and Case Cookus, preaching continuity with every chance.
The offensive line seemed to be the main unit hit by losses, with two key components leaving. With Alex Akingbulu, and Gunnar Vogel as your bookends last season, the Stars allowed a total of 24 sacks all season long. With both tackles ironically headed for DC, albeit different teams and leagues, that number leapt to 23 in just 5 games.
This had all but sunk the offense and left them feeling stagnant, and created a nearly impossible situation to succeed for Case Cookus, or the rushing attack. The Stars, loyal nearly to a fault to their players, and restricted by strict USFL roster constraints tried to weather the storm by bringing in a piece here or a piece there to plug holes on the offensive line.
By the time week 7 had come to pass the Stars had signed T Antonio Garcia, G Khalil Keith, OL Drew Himmelman, and seen some players return from injury. This led to not allowing a sack against the Breakers, and allowing just one in week 7 to the Maulers. We have also seen the rushing attack start to hit it’s stride once again, producing 238 rushing yards in the last 2 games bringing their total for the year to 500 yards.
One thing we had not seen to this point was the addition of more offensive playmakers. The team believed they had the depth on the roster, and were simply trying to solidify their two biggest weaknesses in their offensive line, and their run defense. Now we finally have gotten the addition of a rather recognizable playmaker on offense.
Cyril Grayson, Wide Receiver
Cyril Grayson is a 29 year old wide receiver born and raised in Louisiana. He would attend LSU, but not to play football, he in fact was a track star. In his chosen collegiate sport, there weren’t many with a more polished resume than Grayson. While at LSU he ran in the 200, 400, and 800 meter sprints, and collected several awards along the way, including being a 4-time NCAA Champion, 1-time SEC Champion, 7-time All American, and 5-time All SEC. This included a personal best of 45.91 in the 400 meter sprints. This left him just outside the fastest men in this event in the world in 2016, when the Olympic record was set at 43.03.
At Archbishop Rummel Grayson wore many hats, being the most athletic man on the roster, he saw time at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. While he still stands 7th all time in career receiving yards according to the school, he did so on just 28 career receptions. Given that Grayson did not add to that career total in college, trying to get his foot in the door at the professional level was nothing short of the longest odds any player could ever face. Despite this, Grayson hired an agent, and started attending work outs. First it was the CFL in January of 2017, then it was Seattle in April of 2017, where he landed a contract with the Seahawks, an unbelievable feat for a man who had not played any college football.
For the next three seasons Grayson would do his best to develop as a receiver despite playing for 7 different teams in 8 stints during that stretch. There was a reason he kept receiving opportunities, and it began to finally show through we he was paired with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. Signed in December of 2019, Grayson would see action in just 2 games during that season catching 1 pass for 3 yards.
During the 2020 season Grayson again returned to Tampa but this time on the practice squad after being released during final cuts. He was called up for all 3 games he was allowed on the season without losing practice squad eligibility, but logged just 1 kick return for 20 yards. At the end of the 2020 season Grayson would collect a Super Bowl ring with the Buccaneers, although he hadn’t played in the game. Finally in 2021 Grayson would get involved on offense, while he was active for 5 games, he logged statistics in just three games.
October 31st, 2021
On Halloween, Grayson gave the Saints a scare, catching 1 pass for 50 yards and 1 touchdown, in what ended up a 36-27 loss.
December, 26th 2021
Playing against the division rival Carolina Panthers, Grayson would see a career high in offensive touches when he caught 3 passes for 81 yards, including a long of 61 yards, and added 1 carry for 14 yards as well.
January, 02, 2022
Playing in week 17 of the regular season against the New York Jets, Grayson was targeted early and often collecting 6 receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown, in the role once filled by Antonio Brown who famously ripped off his jersey and left the field of play, and never again suited up for the Buccaneers.
For the season he averaged 21.2 yards per reception on 10 catches collecting 212 yards and 2 touchdowns. He produced 8 first downs, 4 plays over 20 yards, and 2 over 40 yards showing how explosive he could be. Add in his 14 yard carry, and it looked like Grayson was primed to have a chance for a bigger role in the playoffs, and 2022. However this just never occurred, in two playoff games Grayson didn’t see an offensive touch.
During the offseason Grayson again was given a chance to crack the active roster for the Buccaneers, and again failed to do so. This time the Buccaneers opted to save their practice squad spots for younger players, and Grayson was left to look for work elsewhere. In the midst of the season only one other team took enough interest to sign him, the Cleveland Browns. He would spend just 8 days with the Browns.
November 15th, 2022
Grayson was released by the Browns on November 15th, 2022, and not sign another NFL contract for the rest of the season. Grayson has now turned to spring football, now 6 months removed from his last NFL contract, and the Stars add an intriguing deep threat for the stretch run. My biggest question about this signing lies on special teams, Grayson’s speed has always been intriguing to teams which is why he has found his way onto rosters, but the USFL’s stance on kick offs, allows for a larger number of returns, and a chance for Grayson to display a side of his game he has not shown off much at the NFL level with just 2 career returns.
The Stars may have finally found their midseason form, and opened up a one-game lead on the division, but they aren’t happy to rest on their laurels, and assume they have enough offensive firepower down the stretch with all the injuries they have suffered at wide receiver.
In other news…
Also on this transaction list, we see Ralph Holley transferred to the inactive list, I assume this is injury related although we will know more when the injury report drops on Friday.
The bigger news here is the retirement of former NFL 3rd round pick Antonio Garcia. Garcia was once drafted by the New England Patriots in the 3rd round of the 2017 draft. Major health concerns developed that made it nearly impossible for Garcia to continue his playing career at that time and he was placed on the non-football injury list due to developing blood clots in his lungs. Just over a calendar year after drafting him, the Patriots cut bait knowing it would be extremely difficult for Garcia to have a long-term career.
Garcia would spend the two seasons on practice squads in the NFL trying to regain his strength after losing over 40 pounds due to this illness. He never latched on anywhere due in part to continued concerns about his health.
After falling out of the NFL, he pursued every avenue of alternative football to try and continue his career playing for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Edmonton Elks, Vegas Vipers, DC Defenders, and now the Philadelphia Stars, but it appears the Patriots fears have been realized, and the once promising offensive linemen has decided to hang up the cleats and focus on his long term health.
Drew Himmelman, OL
Drew Himmelman was ironically pushed to spring football in part due to a man I mentioned in my preamble, Alex Akingbulu, who remains on the Washington Commanders, but the straw that broke the camel’s back in Washington for Himmelman, was former St. Louis Battlehawks offensive tackle Jaryd Jones-Smith. Himmelman was released in favor of Jones-Smith, and just 2 weeks later lands in the USFL and will now replace retired Antonio Garcia.