New Updated USFL site at:
Photo courtesy Carl Peterson, former GM of Philadelphia Stars
Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie, Tom Thayer, Maurice Carthon, Tom Ramsey, Jim Kelly, Dave Lapham, Steve Spurrier, Bobby Hebert, Dan Jiggetts, Jim Mora, Reggie White, Bart Oates, Sean Landeta, Ray Bentley, Carl Peterson, Marv Levy, Sam Mills and Anthony Carter!
Read about Howard Cosell and Al Davis testifying against the NFL and why the USFL left over $200 million on the table?
The USFL used the old AFL strategy of going after the big name quarterbacks like Steve Young, Jim Kelly and Bobby Hebert. “We borrowed the strategy from Al Davis to sign the quarterbacks,” says Steve Erhart, the former GM of the Memphis Showboats. “In our three years of existence, we swept the Heisman Trophy winners [Herschel Walker, Mike Rozier, Doug Flutie]. We tried to get the best young players into the league.”
True to Erhart's words, quarterbacks Kelly, Young, Hebert, Flutie, Walter Lewis, Tom Ramsey and Rick Neuheisel were signed out of college. The USFL also turned to veteran NFL quarterbacks like Cliff Stoudt, Brian Sipe, Doug Williams, Greg Landry and Vince Evans for instant respectability.
No quarterback was beyond approach -- not even Dan Marino and John Elway. The Invaders made a 64-year, $6.4 million offer to Elway. According to Ralph Wiley in the March 24, 1983 issue of Sports Illustrated, the $6.4 million was the base pay, at $100,000 a year through 2046, being the least Elway could make.
Elway turned down Oakland's generous offer.
While 26 NFL teams passed on Marino in the 1983 draft, the Los Angeles Express chose Dan as the league's first-ever selection.
While Marino never signed with the Express, the USFL showed they were looking to make an "impact" by going after the big-name quarterbacks out of college.
“Owner Bill Daniels sent his private jet to pick Dan up,” says Hugh Campbell, head coach of the Express in the '83 inaugural season. “I went to the airport along with actor Lee Majors [Lee had a small share of the franchise], to pick him up, and we spent the weekend with Dan.” Daniels, Majors, Marino and Campbell showed the star quarterback out of Pittsburgh what Los Angeles was all about, attending Hollywood events and some fine dinners.
Campbell recalls the meeting with Marino was very positive. “He gave us a good-look, but we went with Tom Ramsey, after Dan decided to wait for the NFL draft,” says Campbell, 22 years later. “Dan was very mature and handled things gracefully. Even if Dan knew he was going to the NFL, he never let on.”
The USFL - The Rebel League The NFL Didn't Respect but Feared