An old country song released about the time I was headed to college was called “Louisiana Saturday Night.” It was about having a good old time on a weekend in the Bayou State.
For Lincoln Parish football fans, this upcoming Saturday can rename that song “USFL Football Night.”
Are you ready for some football, Lincoln Parish football fans? I know I am.
About that same time I headed to college in the early 1980s, the USFL kicked off its original spring football season. And it lasted three seasons before quickly dying before owners ridiculously decided to go head-to-head with the NFL and move the league season to fall.
That season never happened.
But like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the USFL was reborn this spring with eight teams playing a 10-game regular season. And the league did so under the names and very similar uniforms/logos to their 1980s versions.
Remembering the likes of the old USFL’s first championship quarterback — Northwestern State’s Bobby Hebert, who as a Michigan Panther and went on to become a starter for the New Orleans Saints, along with member of his fellow Who Dat in the Saints’ offense backfield, former New Orleans Breaker Buford Jordan from McNeese State, made me curious about this new version of the USFL, especially with the smart return to spring play.
And the team Hebert and the Panthers beat in that first USFL title game was the Philadelphia Stars, coached by eventual Saints head coach Jim Mora, who later directed New Orleans to its first NFL playoff game.
The 2022 USFL Offensive Player of the Year, Darius Victor, caught the eye of many of Saints’ fan last season before being a late cut, while the 2022 USFL MVP, receiver KaVontae Turpin, faced the Ruston Bearcats a few times as a Neville Tiger before playing college football at Texas Christian University.
Making things even more exciting for more about this new USFL was the fact that former Louisiana Tech head football coach Skip Holtz was named head coach of the Birmingham Stallions. Suddenly I had two teams to watch and root for this spring and summer.
Even better, both teams were two of the four that will open the USFL playoffs on Saturday.
And they’ll face each other at 7 p.m. Saturday night in a game to be televised on NBA.
The Breakers have an interesting mix — their quarterback is former NFL journeyman Kyle Sloter, who was named the top QB in the USFL season. He’s backed up by former Ole Miss/Michigan Wolverines signal caller Shea Patterson.
And a few other Breakers, like TE Sal Cannella (Auburn), WR Johnathan Adams (Arkansas State) and running backs Jordan Ellis (Virginia) and Anthony Jones (Florida International), look solid enough to potentially be in NFL training camps next month.
Holtz’s Stallions? They should probably be called the Bulldogs, because they truly are almost LA Tech North.
Former Bulldogs J’Mar Smith (QB), Adrian Hardy (WR), Bobby Holley (FB), Mike Rodriquez (OT), O’Shea Douglas (OT), and Trey Baldwin (LB), are all currently playing for the USFL’s Stallions.
And Neville High School graduate Bill Johnson, who coached at Tech (1988-89), for the Saints (2009-16), and at LSU (2019-21) among other programs, is the Stallions’ defensive line coach.
Bruising former Alabama Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough is also a Stallion and looks like he might deserve another chance at the NFL.
The USFL teams have played in a “Birmingham Bubble,” this first season, with teams avoiding COVID by living together in hotels and playing all their games in Alabama’s capital city, giving the Stallions an unmistakable home advantage.
But the USFL is banking on making the league a TV-centric league first before letting hometown crowds help it grow in future seasons.
Later season television ratings have continued to grow — enough to warrant at least a season two for this “old but new” upstart league.
The quality of play is good and games have been competitive, and technology used by the league is a literal “camerapalooza” that has included drones hovering over players wearing helmet cams with shots from every angle imaginable has definitely made for spectacularly fun viewing.
Maybe the best thing is that unlike what happened in the mid-1980s, this USFL isn’t trying to compete with the NFL — it realizes it can’t. But it can provide a little offseason fun for us NFL and NCAA football fans that seem to crave a little gridiron action on a weekly basis, even when hoops and/or hardball are happening.
So yes, I’ll be in “that number” this weekend (as “When the Saints Go Marching In,” says I should do), having a good old “Louisiana Saturday Night” while wearing Breakers Blue.
And if they lose, I’ll be cheering for Holt’s Stallions in the USFL Championship Game on July 3, just like I believe a good “Lincoln Parish Who Dat” should do.
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