USFL: Why you need the ‘Cats

By Eli Berk

The final whistle blew on the NFL season just over a week ago, but that doesn’t mean football fans need to sulk until the next kickoff. The United States Football League announced its return after folding in 1986. Back in the day, the USFL produced an alternative product to the NFL. It would kick off shortly after the Super Bowl and give enthusiasts of the gridiron year-round football. Featuring young startup talents like Herschel Walker, Jim Kelly and Steve Young, to name a few, the USFL gave former college football players a chance to improve their draft stock and get professional experience before departing to a bigger stage.

The new USFL features eight teams with city affiliations across the nation, with all games for the 2022 season being played in Birmingham, Alabama. The playoffs and championship will occur later in the summer, just outside the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Former NFL coaching legends will lead the way for their new franchises, looking to hold the moniker of the first USFL champion in 37 years. 

On Tuesday evening, the USFL will officially get its season underway with the first day of its two-day draft event. The teams will spend 35 rounds filling their rosters for the opening weekend starting April 16, and many questions are being raised about who will hear their name called.

Now, if you’re a long-time reader of this website, you may have read a similar story last April about which NFL teams should look out for the Northwestern Wildcats, and I’m proud to say that I’m here to do just that again. It’s no surprise that the 2021 season was a rather disappointing one for the ‘Cats, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t promising players on the field. They made explosive plays on both sides of the ball and proved why the USFL needs the ‘Cats.

Stephon Robinson Jr., WR

Offense has never been what Northwestern football is known for, but Robinson made the most of his opportunities at wide receiver. Setting a career-high 46 receptions in 2021 along with a pair of touchdowns, the grad transfer became an instant threat for any opposing defense. Known best for his big-play abilities, USFL coaches should look out for the wideout.

Coaching legend Skip Holtz finds himself at the head of the Birmingham Stallions. His offensive nature matches perfectly with Robinson’s — all that’s needed is a quarterback that can deliver the ball downfield. Robinson’s speed and talent to shed defenders allows coaches to target a pocket-style quarterback rather than a scrambler, where journeyman quarterback Chase Litton could be his signal-caller. 

Chris Bergin, LB

Bergin used his extra year of eligibility to the best of his ability and ranked second in the nation in solo tackles. He proved to be the anchor of a lackluster defense and can surely fit into any defensive scheme. His ability to read the offense with incredible speed and plug any holes in the interior run game make him a needed pick for many young units.

My pick? Jeff Fisher’s Michigan Panthers seem to be the right fit. Fisher is known for his ability to build a strong defense, as he did as the head coach of the Rams, shaping Aaron Donald and Trumaine Johnson into stars. Fisher would be elated to have a young linebacker that plays with Bergin’s caliber so he can focus on structuring a working offense as well. 

Joe Spivak, DT/FB

It has been a long road for easily the most energetic player ever to hit the shores of Lake Michigan, who started as a walk-on and ended his collegiate career as a team captain. His signing a NIL deal with the WWE and being honored with the prestigious number one jersey are just some of the accolades Spivak picked up on his way to being one of the faces of this NU program. His energy translates to his abilities on the field, and USFL teams need a presence like his to make a splash in their inaugural campaigns.

Spivak lightens up the field every time he trots out to his position, whether part of a defensive front or in the goal line offensive package and his wild card nature will surely be a welcome addition to any of the USFL rosters.

The cards have been laid out, the stage is set and the lights are shining. The USFL draft begins at 6:00 p.m. CST, and the Michigan Panthers are officially on the clock.