Sports

Get hyped: The USFL season is finally here

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

alex mcgough has a 50-50 chance of owning a unique slice of history on Saturday, which is why he might be paying a little closer attention to the coin toss than usual.

Either McGough, quarterback for the Birmingham Stallionsor New Jersey Generals QB louis perez will gain the distinction this weekend of handling the very first snap as the United States Football League gets underground.

“It is a pretty cool opportunity to be able to say something like that,” McGough told me in the telephone conversation this week. “I hope it’s me.”

Skip and Shannon look ahead to the USFL opening weekend I UNDISPUTED

Skip and Shannon look ahead to the USFL opening weekend I UNDISPUTED

New Jersey General face the Birmingham Stallions on Saturday.

the USFL takes its first steps with its eyes open. Leagues other than the NFL have sprung up at various times over the past several decades. The most recent efforts — the rebooted XFL (2020) and the Alliance of American Football (2019) — collapsed before they were able to make any genuine headway.

Yet investors and entrepreneurs continue to return to the concept for a simple reason: America loves football so much that it’s hard to believe the appetite for watching it extends to no more than 18 weeks of the year, plus playoffs.

Any new enterprise in American sports faces a pair of instant challenges. The first is to snag a national broadcast contract in order to take the product to as many sets of eyes as possible. The other is to first gain a foothold, then hopefully a passionate following, in the local market or markets.

Every USFL game is to be broadcast and shared between FOX, FS1, NBC, Peacock and USA Network across the 10-week regular season, with playoffs to follow.

All games in the inaugural campaign will be in Birmingham, Ala., with the players staying in the same downtown hotel and the matchups to be split between Protective Stadium and Legion Field.

USFL: Exclusive look at the helmet cam

USFL: Exclusive look at the helmet cam

The USFL is getting ready for the inaugural season starting on April 16th, and with the new season, a helmet camera will be featured on key moments and drives.

That arrangement puts McGough’s Stallions in an interesting spot. They’re essentially the home team even when the schedule says otherwise, in a region and state that adores football like no other. This weekend’s season opener comes on the same day as the University of Alabama spring game, and there are plenty of football fans who will be bound first for Tuscaloosa, before racing back to catch the USFL kickoff in person (Saturday on FOX at 7:30 pm ET).

“That’s one thing we’ve actually talked about a lot,” McGough added. “We have the home advantage here. We have the ability to tap into the love for football in Alabama and to show this community what we can do.

“Every game is a home game for us. We want to give Birmingham a team to be proud of and to add to the legacy of football in this state. Just by being here a few weeks you can see how football means everything here. It is part of everything.”

Football has gained its grip on American life because of its excitement but also because of its difficulty level. To get onto an NFL team is fiendishly hard. To stay there for any length of time is even tougher.

McGough and the rest of the 360 ​​players spread around eight teams have all had their own journey. But each athlete, he insisted, shares one key attribute.

“Hunger,” McGough told me. “That’s just the best way to put it. Everyone here has the ability, it just didn’t work out the way they thought. A little bit of luck here or there can make all the difference. That’s what everyone is working for now. “

USFL’s Birmingham Stallions release uniforms

USFL's Birmingham Stallions release uniforms

The Birmingham Stallions release their uniforms ahead of the United States Football League re-launch this spring.

McGough was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks as a seventh-rounder in 2018 and holds the distinction of being the only QB picked by Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll since Russell Wilson in 2012. After a 2018 campaign on the Seahawks practice squad, McGough spent time with jacksonville and houstonthen did a second stint in Seattle that ended just before the start of last season.

“The biggest things I learned from guys like Russell and Deshaun Watson with the Texans was how to be a pro,” McGough said. “How to go from game to game and not linger your head on past success or failure.

“To have the ability to move on. That’s where I’m trying to keep my mind at now. Every team in the USFL wants to make a fast start. Every player wants to make an impression. If you can keep your head on straight , you have the chance to let your ability speak for you.”

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider Newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.


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