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If you haven't heard of it already, the UFL (United Football League) recently finished their inaugural season this past November. The League was a semi success, drawing some attention and reeling in some big name sponsors (headed primarily by Mens Warehouse.) I, personally, love the idea of a supplementary league to the NFL and hope that the UFL is able to hang around for quite some time. Despite posting a $30 million deficit after the first season, the league plans to break even by season number three.
The first year of UFL football was great, and now it's time for them to continue to get their name out there and really iron out their own identity. The league advertises that is the league "Where Future Stars Come To Play," and I hope this happens. The UFL rosters this season were made up of some past their prime NFL'ers looking to get a second chance at a playing career, but there were some players who really invigorated their career and may have caught some ideas in the realm of the NFL teams. No better example of this than QB Brooks Bollinger, who after being a backup in New York and Minnesota, took the reigns of the Florida Tuskers and won the leagues first MVP award (sponsored by Motorola.) A big time quarterback in college at the University of Wisconsin, Bollinger was never able to secure a starting job in the NFL, but after a stellar season in the UFL and with the current state of quarterbacks in the NFL, Bollinger may be looking at a chance to compete for a job somewhere (Just think of the teams that could use a solid pocket passer; Oakland, St. Louis, Arizona, San Francisco, Seattle; Hasselback is hurt way too often, Tampa Bay, Washington, Cleveland, and Denver.) All could have been possible destinations for Bollinger. And despite him deciding to play another season in the UFL, it shows that the league has some pull with players who are looking to continue to improve their game and get playing time.
This is crucial to the success of the UFL. Not only do they need timely expansion and continued success in the marketing aspect of the league, but they need to become a developmental league for the NFL. They need to become a league where people can come out and watch their local home grown college players get a shot at playing pro football even if they weren't NFL worthy. Beyond that, they need to get that perfect blend of young unknown talent, and sprinkle in a couple of steely veterans from the NFL, not only as a team building/leadership asset, but also to raise revenue. People will came to watch Ricky Henderson play in the minor leagues, and people came to watch Jerry Rice in Seattle, so the same situation applies here. Simeon Rice was the UFL's example this past season. A former NFL star in the twilight of his career coming down to the UFL to get some playing time and enjoy being a star again.
Another crucial step in making the UFL work, keeping a traditional brand of football. Unlike the CFL (Canadian Football League), the UFL really needs to maintain a more traditional style of football. It's like quarterbacks from Big 12 schools where all they run in the spread offense. Exhibit A is Graham Herrell, former Texas Tech star QB, who was snubbed by NFL teams because they were unsure he could perform in an offense that was built for the more physical NFL game. The UFL cannot become a league like the CFL, because it's future success hinges on whether or not they can provide the NFL with future stars who weren't given an opportunity to shine coming out of college.
And finally, they need to follow in the steps of the former USFL and secure a big name college stud to pass on the NFL and come play in their league. Herschel Walker skipped out on the NFL to play in the USFL, and the UFL needs to follow suit. The UFL needs to start to attempt to lure bigger name players out of college and into their league, rather than the NFL. A great example in past years would have been a quarterback in the ranks of Troy Smith of Ohio State or Pat White of West Virginia. Both quarterbacks were drafted into the NFL as purely wildcat quarterbacks, but perhaps a chance to start as a quarterback on a UFL roster would provide these quarterbacks with a chance to develop the skills necessary to play in the NFL. Scheme quarterbacks such as Graham Herrell and Colt Brennan would also flourish in the UFL.
The prospects for the league only lead up... if they play it right. Personally, I couldn't be more excited for the opportunity to watch this league grow and flourish and truly become a draw to the American public. I highly advise any football fan to give this league a chance, you won't be disappointed.