A reformed United States Football League (USFL) will begin play this weekend, with 8 teams providing a professional football fix between the NFL’s Super Bowl and Fall Camps. Former Oregon players will feature on several teams. Twists such as 3-point conversions and “best-of-3” overtime periods will be part of the League’s differences from the NFL.
Professional spring football is hardly a new idea. The original USFL operated spring/summer seasons in 1983, 1984 and 1985, and was scheduled to move its season to the Fall in 1986 which would have put it in direct competition with the NFL. This idea was part of a plan to force a “merger” between the USFL and the NFL in hopes the move would be as successful as the NBA/ABA merger a decade before. The USFL had also filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, and while it won the suit it was a Pyrrhic victory - the USFL received only $3 in damages and folded soon thereafter. By and large, the original USFL was considered to be playing some quality football. The XFL – a partnership between the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) and NBC – played one season beginning in the spring of 2001. It was considered a failure, although it did bring some broadcast innovations to football – such as skycams – that were ultimately adopted by the NFL and football broadcasts in general. The XFL also allowed players to have whatever they wanted on the back of their jerseys, such as the infamous “He Hate Me” worn by running back Rod Smith who played for the Las Vegas Outlaws. After reforming in 2018 a new XFL was shut down by Covid restrictions but is expected to begin play again in February of 2023. The league is now owned in part by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The original USFL featured the Portland Breakers in its final season. The franchise, which had played in Boston and New Orleans the previous two USFL seasons, went 6 – 12 overall, but was 6 – 3 in what was then known as Civic Stadium in Portland. The Breakers top player in Portland was expected to be Marcus Dupree, a former Oklahoma recruit who won Football News Freshman of the Year and Big Eight Conference Newcomer of the Year. He left Oklahoma in his Sophomore year. Dupree suffered what was thought to be a career-ending knee injury in his first game as a Portland Breaker, which took place on the road in Arizona. Dupree never played a game in Portland. He later played parts of 2 seaons with the Los Angeles Rams in the NFL in the early 1990s.
The 2022 USFL will feature 8 teams, many of which are located in the same cities and play under the same names as the original 1980s league. Several of these teams have former Oregon Ducks players on their rosters as the season gets underway. The Birmingham (AL) Stallions feature the largest number of Oregon players. They include: Cameron Hunt at Offensive Guard, Tony Brooks-James at Running Back and Tyree Robinson at Safety.
After redshirting his Freshman year, Brooks-James had a productive career in Eugene for the 2015-2018 seasons. He finished with 3,302 all-purpose yards, including 1,863 rushing, 392 receiving and 1,047 on kick returns. He scored 21 touchdowns and had 7 career 100+ yard games. A sprints specialist, Brooks-James also spent two seasons on Oregon’s track and field team where he competed in both indoor and outdoor meets. He was a member of the successful 4 x 100 relay squad which finished 10th at the NCAA Championships and earned All-America status for the 2014-15 season.
After redshirting in 2014, Tyree Robinson played in 52 games over the next four seasons for Oregon, making 201 tackles and intercepting 6 passes. As a Senior, he returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown in the Las Vegas Bowl. During his Junior season in 2016, Robinson played more snaps (984) than any other Duck.
Cameron Hunt developed a reputation as a ferocious blocker for Oregon’s offensive line during his 2013-2016 career, winning membership in the Pancake Club during his senior season. He was the first true Freshman to start on Oregon’s offensive line in over 15 years when he debuted in 2013. He was a consistent starter throughout his 4 seasons at Oregon, including in the National Championship game against Ohio State.
The New Jersey Generals have one Duck on their roster, Defensive End Bryson Young. Young played from 2016-2019 at Oregon, racking up 73 total tackles in 49 appearances. Young had a break-out senior season for the Ducks, during which he started all 13 games and had 56 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. Young had 4 tackles in each half of the Pac-12 Championship Game win against Utah that year.
The Philadelphia Stars feature former Oregon Defensive End Gus Cumberlander. After redshirting his Freshman year he played the 2016 - 2019 seasons in Eugene. Limited by injury, he appeared in 30 games for the Ducks, accounting for 23 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Cumberlander was named Pac-12 Defensive Linemen of the Week for his performance against Stanford his Senior season.
The Houston Gamblers, Michigan Panthers, New Orleans Breakers, Pittsburgh Maulers and Tampa Bay Bandits are taking their chances by having no former Ducks on their rosters (yet).
The USFL opens play on Saturday, April 16 as the New Jersey Generals face off against the Birmingham Stallions in Protective Stadium in Birmingham. The game will be televised on the Fox Network and NBC. On Sunday, the remaining teams will begin action - Houston will play Michigan on NBC; Philadelphia will play New Orleans on USA Network, and; Tampa Bay will face Pittsburgh on FS1.
ATQ wishes all these Ducks great success! If you’d like updates on the Oregon players in the USFL as their season progresses, let us know in the comments.