USFL is back: Here are 10 college football players from Illinois in the new league
The United States Football League is back for 2022.
The USFL is scheduled to begin play April 16. There will be eight teams, split into two divisions. The North Division will include the New Jersey Generals, Michigan Panthers, Pittsburgh Maulers and Philadelphia Stars. The South will include the Birmingham Stallions, New Orleans Breakers, Tampa Bay Bandits and Houston Gamblers.
The league originally ran from 1983-85 before folding prior to the 1986 season.
Six of the teams include at least 10 players who played their college football in Illinois, including players from Western Illinois, Illinois, Northwestern and Northern Illinois.
Lance Lenoir, Western Illinois
The 6-foot, 207-pound Michigan Panthers receiver rewrote the record book at Western Illinois after a high school career at Crete-Monee. The 27-year-old bounced around the NFL, playing eight games with the Dallas Cowboys in 2017 and '18 and playing on the Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills practice squads.
Reggie Corbin, Illinois
The 5-foot-9, 205-pound Michigan Panthers running back is among the most prolific backs in Illini history. The 26-year-old Maryland native got a shot last season with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League but was cut in July.
Carroll Phillips, Illinois
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Philadelphia Stars defensive end was an all-Big Ten first-team pick for the Illini. The 29-year-old Florida native went on to play 11 games in the NFL between 2017 and '19 and played last year in The Spring League.
Stanley Green, Illinois
The 6-foot, 200-pound Houston Gambers defensive back played at East St. Louis before his career with the Illini, where he was an all-Big Ten pick. The 23-year-old was part of Hub Football's The CAMP last year before earning his first pro chance in the USFL.
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback was selected fifth overall by the Houston Gamblers in the inaugural USFL draft. The 26-year-old is the most prolific passer in Northwestern history, leading the Wildcats to a Big Ten division title and four bowl games. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, but bounced around to multiple teams, mostly on practice squads; he was on the New York Giants' active roster for two games in 2020.
Gunnar Vogel, Northwestern
The 6-foot-6, 308-pounder is an offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Stars. The Ohio native was a two-year starter for the Wildcats who signed with the NFL as an undrafted free agent before being released last August by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Jordan Thompson, Northwestern
The 6-foot-3, 292-pound Birmingham Stallions defensive tackle was a three-year starter for the Wildcats, recently signing a free agent deal with the USFL. The Ohio native signed in 2019 as an NFL undrafted free agent but was cut before the season.
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Jared Thomas, Northwestern
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound New Orleans Breakers center started his final season with the Wildcats in 2019. The Indianapolis native tried his hand at indoor football while attaining his masters degree from the Evanston school.
Brayden Patton, Northern Illinois
The 6-foot-5, 309-pound Pittsburgh Maulers offensive lineman is a three-year starter for DeKalb-based NIU, earning all-MAC honors. The 24-year-old Indiana native played in the 2021 Hula Bowl.
Jalen Embry, Northern Illinois
The 6-foot, 195-pound New Orleans Breakers cornerback was a two-year player at NIU after transferring from Iowa Central. The 26-year-old Detroit native played last year in The Spring League after getting invited to NFL camp by the Houston Texans in 2019.
USFL coaches with experience in Illinois
Pittsburgh Maulers head coach Kirby Wilson, a longtime NFL assistant, played at Illinois and was a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Southern Illinois in 1992 and '92. ... Houston Gamblers special teams/tight end coach Greg McMahon is a Rantoul native. He attended Eastern Illinois and spent time as a coach at Illinois (1992-2004) and EIU (1982) ... Michigan Panthers defensive line coach Kwahn Drake spent time at Eastern Illinois. ... New Jersey Generals defensive line coach Robert Diaco, former head coach at UConn, coached at Western Illinois in 1999-2000. ... Philadelphia Stars offensive line coach Jeff Jagodzinski, head coach at Boston College in 2007-08, was offensive line coach at Northern Illinois in 1986.
Wes Huett is Journal Star sports editor. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @WesHuett.