Saturday. This day was made for football. Russell Wilson leads NC State to the best record in the ACC. Alabama gets a win off Arkansas in a dramatic fourth quarter comeback. Boise State solidifies a victory on the blue turf against Oregon State.
A good day of college football was coming to a close. It was a little after eleven so I began flipping through the channels looking for a no name game, or maybe to just catch some highlights. I came across something that caught my eye.
Sacramento vs. Orlando.
It said "football" so I felt obligated to check it out. It was obviously not the National Football League or Canadian Football League. Sacramento doesn’t have an Arena Football team. So what was it?
The United Football League. My immediate instincts told me to change the channel, but I didn’t. It may have been one of the best decisions I've made in a while, because I saw something I hadn’t seen in a professional football game in a very long time.
The Sacramento Mountain Lions, led by quarterback Daunte Culpepper, took on the Brooks Bollinger led Florida Tuskers. It sounded like a really bad NFL game from 2003. It ended up being anything but that.
Sacramento entered the fourth quarter trailing 17-7, giving up 14 unanswered points after an early 7-3 lead. I then watched Daunte Culpepper do something nobody has seen since his Pro Bowl days in Minnesota.
Culpepper marched his team down field, setting up an early field goal. Sacramento got the ball back, and this time Culpepper led the team 80 yards for a touchdown. Florida responded, hitting a field goal with 2:53 remaining, putting the Tuskers up 20-17.
But Culpepper wasn’t done. Looking poised in the pocket he led the Mountain Lions down the field again. The team was easily in range for kicker Fabrizio Scaccia, who can apparently kick the ball nearly 70 yards.
Culpepper had other plans, hooking up with wide receiver Rod Windsor on a beautiful 33 yard touchdown throw with 31 ticks left in the game. Culpepper rushed down field to celebrate with Windsor because in the UFL, you are allowed endzone celebrations.
“Daunte was a warrior down the stretch,” head coach Dennis Green said. "We wanted to take our chances. (Culpepper) had the opening and he took it.”
Yes, that’s the same Dennis Green that coached Culpepper in Minnesota. The “they are who we thought they were” Dennis Green.
After all of this being said, it wasn’t the exciting finish that caught my attention. What did catch my attention was that every player on the field was playing as if this game was the Superbowl. Receivers were diving for passes, running backs were fighting for every inch, and defenders were recklessly throwing their bodies into tackles. There was nobody taking a single play off.
Every player on the field was there for one of two reasons. They either truly loved the game of football, or they weren’t considered good enough to play in the NFL and this was their last chance. Either way, it made for a game filled with passion and the desire to succeed, something that I haven’t seen in the NFL for a very long time.
So who are some of the current players in the UFL? I bet you didn’t know many of them were still playing football.
Daunte Culpepper, Brooks Bollinger, Odell Thurman, Dominic Rhodes, Jeff Garcia, Morlon Greenwood, Maurice Clarett, Ahman Green, Rogert Ferguson, Calvin Lowry, Josh McCown, Lorenzo Booker, Kevin Jones, Tim Rattay, Marcel Shipp, Michael Ray Garvin, Cato June.
The UFL began play in October of 2009 under owner Paul Pelosi (husband of US Rep Nancy Pelosi). The league currently has only five teams. Although the league has no connection with the NFL some speculation is that the league could become a “developmental” league for the NFL, much like NFL Europe used to be. Others question whether or not it could eventually become a competitor to the NFL.
With the possibility of a player lock-out or strike in the NFL next season, there is opportunity on the horizon for the UFL. The NFLPA has suggested that players cut from teams in the NFL consider playing in the UFL.
The UFL has plans to expand in 2011, adding a sixth team to the league. Although specifics are still unknown, the franchise will be located in the Norfolk region of Virginia. Former NFL quarterback Doug Williams will be the general manager for the team. The league says depending on the economic situation of the league, they see potential for up to 14 teams in the future.
Unfortunately, the chance for the success of the league isn’t great. That being said, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire organization. Even if nothing else comes from the league, they gave me the chance Saturday evening to watch one of the best games I’ve seen in my lifetime.
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