In a recent conversation with Bryan DeArdo of CBS Sports, USFL president Daryl Johnston, the erstwhile Dallas Cowboys legend and head of the USFL, unfolded his visions and aspirations for the USFL while touching upon the career graph of specific players, especially that of Justin Hall, whose non-inclusion in the NFL roster caught him by surprise.
“When recently asked to name the USFL player he is most surprised is not currently signed by an NFL team, Johnston quickly pointed to Justin Hall, a receiver/returner who spent this past USFL season with the Houston Gamblers.”
Hall’s journey initiated at Ball State where he exhibited phenomenal skills, catching 318 passes inclusive of 18 touchdowns. Following a brief stint with the Raiders and the Dolphins, Hall found his ground with the Houston Gamblers, finishing his first season in the top five for various statistics including receiving yards and touchdown catches.
Though overlooked, Hall’s dexterity places him as a potential candidate for NFL teams, including possibly the Chiefs, following their recent loss to the Lions.
Moreover, Johnston exudes pride while discussing the league’s alumni who have transitioned into the NFL. The stature of the league has been uplifted with the likes of KaVonte Turpin, Brandon Aubrey, and others making it to 53-man rosters, alongside Alex McGough, the USFL reigning league MVP, joining the NFL practice squads.
“I couldn’t be happier for these guys,” Johnston said. “It’s what we talk to them about and what we strive for as a league. I always remember Jeff Fisher saying it’s not about getting them to the NFL, because a lot of them have already done that. It’s about getting them the opportunity to stay in the NFL.”
Central to the league’s success are the Birmingham Stallions, a team that has witnessed a significant share of its talent securing positions in NFL teams, a phenomenon Johnston attributes to the robust connection between Stallions’ coach Skip Holtz and GM Zach Potter.
“He’s got great connections. He’s always trying to turn the roster over to get better,” Johnston expressed. “I think Birmingham is always going to be tough. Depending on what happens with Alex. Alex was the difference-maker in our league last year. He was just outstanding.”
However, the central argument Johnston proposes concerns the future positioning of USFL as a fertile ground for nurturing NFL-ready talents, surpassing even college football.
“As far as the USFL is concerned, Johnston feels that the league will eventually be a better alternative for players than college football when it comes to preparing to play in the NFL.“
The president substantiates this vision by highlighting the professional atmosphere that USFL extends, a platform where players fine-tune their crafts, mastering the intricate details of their positions — a precursor to a more fruitful and promising career in the NFL.
“What we’re providing with the USFL is invaluable because it allows these guys to get into a professional atmosphere, work on the day-to-day grind, work on the details of the position, get better at their craft,” he said. “We really feel like, once we get the momentum behind us, we’re going to be the better alternative.”
With Johnson steering the USFL, it appears the league is not just fostering talents but is on a steadfast journey to becoming an indispensable launchpad for players aiming to etch their names in the NFL landscape. The focused vision and strategic development plans underline a promising future, one where the USFL is seen as the premium ground for nurturing talents, ready for the challenges of the NFL.