Sports column: For Price, Stamps and others, the XFL and USFL have plenty of value
Published 10:55 am Sunday, March 5, 2023
There’s an old saying in the South that there are two seasons — football and spring football.
It’s a thought that’s going national nowadays.
Two pro football leagues are making a go of it this spring. The XFL launched — again — in February with its third iteration, and the USFL will kick off its second season on April 15.
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The two leagues have their critics who cling to old stereotypes like the football is bad and crowds are small. Or, in the case of the XFL, that it’s pro wrestling dressed up as pro football thanks to its original WWE-backed version from 22 years ago.
Most of those critics are the annoying types who can’t seem to find the fun in anything. The football is still at least as good as most of the college games we enjoy, and the crowds are respectable for what is essentially minor league sports.
The critics also seem to lack an appreciation for what the leagues truly offer — opportunity.
There are only about 2,200 roster spots for NFL players at a given time, and the window to earn one is fleeting. Generally, once you stop playing for more than year your career is over.
Being able to play, stay in shape, and build a resume against quality competition, then, is invaluable to the players in the XFL and USFL. They are blue collar leagues for players hungry to stay in the game or get a big break that can launch a career.
They are guys like former Vicksburg High star Norman Price. The offensive lineman has survived to the final preseason cut with three NFL teams and spent a season in the Canadian Football League. He’s currently on the roster of the XFL’s San Antonio Brahmas, seven years after he starred at Southern Miss, keeping his name out there and making a living at the game he loves.
It’s also opportunity for the league’s coaches, whose number includes former Warren Central football standout Chris Stamps. The 26-year-old is a quality control coach on the staff of the XFL’s Orlando Guardians, and the experience he’s gaining and connections he’s making will certainly help him later in his career.
“I consider it a unique opportunity. I’m developing as a young coach, and I’m taking advantage of it,” Stamps said.
For other coaches, it’s a chance to show that they can lead a team. Terrell Buckley, a Mississippi native and longtime college assistant at Mississippi State and Ole Miss, is the head coach with the Guardians. Succeeding in that job might help him get a college or NFL head coaching position down the line.
So if you happen to be flipping through channels this weekend and catch a glimpse of an XFL game, give it a chance for a few minutes. It’s not the NFL, but it’s not supposed to be.
We should appreciate the XFL and USFL for what they are — places where players, coaches and staff can make a living and continue their dreams while giving us all something to cheer for on a lazy late winter weekend.
Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
XFL ON TV
Sunday, March 5
Noon FX — St. Louis at D.C.
3 p.m. FX — Orlando at Arlington
7 p.m. ESPN2 — San Antonio at Houston