No Jim Kelly or Steve Young, but USFL fans pumped for Canton playoffs – Canton Repository

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John Tomasulo recalls sitting at the 40-yard line of  New Jersey Generals   games  in the 1980s.

The original USFL franchise starred Heisman Trophy winners  Herschel Walker and Doug Flutie .

“You have a guy who can throw the long ball, ” recalled Tomasulo, 60, of Hudson. “And  you have a guy he  can hand  the ball off to who runs 60 yards without batting an eye. ”

Adding to the panache was Donald Trump , who owned the Generals. Among his coups was secretly signing  New York Giants linebacking sensation   Lawrence Taylor to a contract that was set to begin in 1988 (but the league disbanded two years earlier).

Nearly 40 years  later, Tomasulo  is now  rooting for the Generals as  a rebooted franchise in the  2022 version  of the USFL .

And he’s excited about attending the particular inaugural USFL playoffs on Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton. The championship game also will take place there on July 3.

Country music star Trace Adkins will perform following the completion of the first of two semi-final playoff games upon Saturday.

The Philadelphia Stars face the New Jersey Generals at 3 p. m. and the New Orleans Breakers take on  the Birmingham Stallions at 8 p. m.

USFL coming to Canton: ‘Something unique and very special’: USFL playoffs coming to Tom Benson Hall of Fame Arena

USFL: ‘It was an amazing time back in the day. ‘

During a press conference earlier this month, Mike Levy,   president of operations for  the Hall of Fame Resort & Entertainment Co., said he didn’t have expectations for how many fans would  attend the  inaugural  USFL playoff games. The stadium holds 23, 000.

Hall of Fame Village powered by Johnson Controls is hosting and helping coordinate  the USFL playoffs.

Both games are on television — the first on Fox, the second on NBC.

“We think that we’re going to have a nice reach, ” Levy said. “I know that Fox  is going to be marketing to a number of cities… and we know that there’s a lot of football followers within 90 miles associated with here, so we believe  we’re going to have a nice draw — not just Stark County, Cuyahoga County and Cleveland and so forth, but… once they find out what they’re going to be in for, once they come to these games, we feel that the momentum is going to pick up, and we’ll have some nice crowds out here — absolutely. ”

One thing is certain, however. Regardless of crowd size, Tomasulo will  be joined by enthusiasts who share his passion for the USFL: Straight-up football geeks; USFL  podcasters; a hobby archivist of alternative soccer leagues; a content provider for the Sports Gambling Podcast; and others.

Tomasulo  talks of those earlier days as if it was a football fairytale.  

Giants season tickets were out of the question.

“One  of my best friends was put on the waiting list for Giants  tickets when he was born, and he got season tickets when he was 29, ” the former Chatham, New Jersey, resident recalled.

Jets tickets also were in demand. So the Generals were a gridiron godsend.

“This allowed the average fan in his early 20s to attend a game at will, ” Tomasulo said. “And it was just amazing. inch

And to boot, his younger sister was a Generals cheerleader.

“It  just seemed there was more energy at a Generals game than even a Jets game, and when you went to a Giants game, the fans had been more conservative, ” Tomasulo said.

“And any time there were like big plays, it was just amazing, ” he  said of home crowds ranging between 35, 000 and 60, 000. “It was like the college atmosphere and a little more electric. You had younger supporters who were starving there with regard to football,   and it has been an amazing time back in the day. ”

This isn’t your dad’s USFL

Fans are traveling from Northeast Ohio,   Indiana, Texas, Iowa, Massachusetts and elsewhere.  

The modern USFL lacks the pizazz  and college stars of the original, which launched the careers associated with future NFL legends Sam Young, Jim Kelly and Reggie White, as well as standouts like former Cleveland Browns star Kevin Mack plus quarterback Bobby Hebert of the New Orleans Saints.

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Fans tracked down online by The Quarter Repository embrace  the contrast between the former and current USFL.

They admire  the particular hunger of players who are trying to make it back to the NFL to earn a roster spot. They root for underdogs. They appreciate players from obscure colleges who are still clawing for a shot at the NFL. And they simply love pro football — all leagues, all seasons.  

This fan is an ‘athletic contrarian. ‘

Dusty Sloan’s full-time job is  director of athletic communications for  Ashland University, but he’s also a  pro  football archeologist.  

The particular 45-year-old Ohio resident obsessively digs  into the histories associated with alternate football leagues. And the reborn USFL fits right in.

“I’ve sort of been an athletic contrarian to coin the phrase, ” Sloan stated.

No football league slips past him. Not the World League of American Football featuring the Ohio Glory of the early ’90s. Not the United Football League showcasing  former Ohio State star  Maurice Clarett from the Omaha Nighthawks in 2010.

Sloan was even a chief content writer for the UFL’s website. “That was kind of the fulfillment of  a dream for me, and then they stopped paying me, so that was the end of that dream, ” he quipped.

What Sloan isn’t old enough to remember, he reads in books,   watches on YouTube or uncovers on the Internet.

The guy is knowledgeable about football. Really knowledgeable. Asked if this individual was familiar with Charlie Grandjean, a former Hoover High School star of the 1970s who played one  season with the original Birmingham Stallions in 1983, the pigskin buff  immediately knew the obscure name and what position the former Kent State University All-American performed.

“I’ve got books, I’ve got stats, I’m probably one of the very few people in the world who has rosters at the point that the (original USFL)  folded after the anti-trust trial, ” he said matter-of-factly.

Sloan will be in Canton for the playoffs, mostly as a fan, although he might search out some league data after the tournament.  

“I’m excited to go, ” said Sloan, who has attended  International Federation of American Football games at Tom Benson stadium, including USA versus Mexico.

‘I’m going to say I was there at the very first championship game. ‘

Craig Warren, a 56-year-old self-employed barber from Corydon, Indiana, is pumped for that USFL playoffs.

He’ll be in Canton with his wife Cindy for both the semi-finals  and championship. Warren drove six hours to a  USFL game in Luton.

“I’m really, really excited because I’ve never had the opportunity to go to a playoff game, and in particular, a championship game…   and I’ve never been to Canton, ” he said. “And we’re looking forward to visiting the city as well. ”

USFL football is a quality  product, Warren said. Games are competitive. Several players pass the NFL eyeball test.   And he gives Birmingham’s kicker a great shot of making an NFL roster next season.

“I hope they stick to their game plan and can survive, ” he said. “I see this league, not as a developmental league; I see this as a major soccer league, and 20 years down the road, I’m going to say I was there at the very first championship game. inches

From Sugar Land, Texas, to Canton, Ohio

Roger Vazquez, 38, of Sugar Land, Tx, a  psychotherapist with a private practice, was born during the final season of the old school USFL.

The Houston Texans fan will be traveling to Canton for what this individual considers to be the “Super Bowl equivalent” of the USFL — the July 3 championship game.

Vazquez has 2 seats on the 50-yard line.

“Those are kind of once in a lifetime opportunities, ” he said. “If the particular USFL takes off, tickets certainly won’t be $38 for a 50-yard line VIP ticket.

“I feel like it’s an opportunity to get in  early on something, and if the USFL does take off, I’d be able to tell my son I went to the inaugural game and the first championship sport. ”

Banker turned  USFL insider

When Bryan Denton isn’t busy with his job in finance, he immerses himself in the new spring football league as head of the  USFL Network podcast.  

Denton interviews gamers. He talks with league sources.

“I started it on my own, inch he  said of the podcast before  quickly crediting nine others who help out. inches… I looked around plus there wasn’t much USFL content on the new little league coming out, so I thought this might be something I could dive into.

“There’s a ton of guys that are out there just like myself who  are covering the NFL, ” noted Denton, a Boston, Massachusetts resident. “But they’re just a dime a dozen; there’s too many. You have your ESPN and your NFL Network where you get the official news and breaking news.

“When it comes to the USFL, I feel like we have a more insider information type of thing because we’re closer with the players and with the group. ”

Denton  started the podcast from scratch, growing into a website, YouTube channel and social media accounts . He participates in USFL press conferences virtually.  

“The league sources, they’ve called us the grassroots of the USFL because we go ahead and get their stories out there… and they love it, ” he or she said.

Denton’s podcasting has attracted a couple of sponsors. And he’s even broken  news about the USFL producing a new television show similar to the NFL’s “Hard Knocks” on HBO.

“It was amazing, inch the 37-year-old  said. “We were interviewing a running backs coach for the Houston Gamblers, and he said there is a  film crew. We’re going to have a ‘Hard Knocks’  thing. We broke it about social media and Twitter. inches

Denton mentioned he couldn’t pull off the side gig without his  fiancée’s support.

“I can’t thank her enough for the nights we’ve conducted interviews where it’s only one night, and it’s turned out to be five straight evenings — it’s amazing; she’s been by my side all the way. ”

Give this guy football any time associated with year

Zach Keilman, 27, of Indianapolis,   is another USFL enthusiast.

Television production is his full-time job, but he also co-hosts The USFL Podcast.

“We’re just diehard fans of the league, ” said Keilman, who attended two Birmingham games in Alabama during the regular time of year and  he tailgated with another fan he met online.

“I’m one of those folks who  could watch football any time of year, inch said Keilman, a former  center,   defensive tackle and long snapper at  Boone Grove High School in  Valparaiso, Indiana. “To  me, it’s  the greatest sport. inches

USFL offers more podcast, media access compared to NFL

Justin Mark is another media type  within the fledgling USFL.

He’ll be at this weekend’s games, but not the tournament. A 12-hour drive from Winterset, Iowa, is too long a haul for two trips.

Mark, 35,   contributes content to  the Sports Gambling Podcasting , which treated the particular USFL draft as importantly as if it were the NFL.

“We did the first and second night (draft) coverage plus talked about each player who was drafted, ” Mark said of the nearly 11-hour stretch. “After looking up all these guys and watching their highlights and looking up their backstories and their history, it was really unique to watch them play — it was really cool. ”

Mark writes about depth charts and running back carries and receiving targets; information useful for those interested in USFL fantasy football and wagering on league games.

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The lower-profile league affords more access to players.

“For the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, everybody kind of has their own opinion because they know it so well and everybody on the Internet likes to argue… their opinion and yours, ” he said. “With the USFL, it’s a little different; people seek out opinions  for fantasy football or gambling.

“So it was very different in the fact that they wanted to hear your viewpoint and not just argue it for once. ”

Exchanging Twitter messages with an USFL quarterback

USFL players are also appreciative of the interest, said Mark, a  risk and remediation analyst at a mortgage company.

“It’s hard to connect with an NFL player because they have millions of people probably trying to connect with them, ” Mark said. “So when I talk to the USFL players, a lot of them respond and they’re happy to talk football.

“Every one of them are just therefore down-to-earth. They’re so excited to be playing the game again because for a lot of these guys, it can their last shot to play in the game. ”

Tag has exchanged Twitter messages  with  quarterback Bryan  Scott of the Philadelphia Stars and formerly of  Occidental College.  

“After I had tweeted something talking about his sports ability…   he actually reached out to thank me personally for the support, ” Mark said.

Tag also reached out to  Scott about his injury. “He was just touched (that I was) concerned about that. ”

The podcast interviewed  wide receiver Peyton Ramzy, formerly of  Tuskegee University, as part of live draft coverage on YouTube.

Mark had never  heard of Ramzy, who will be in Canton this weekend as a member of the Birmingham Stallions.

“The guys playing (at Tuskeegee) don’t have a lot of hope of making it to a professional level, so they don’t get seen… and then to be drafted by the Stallions, he was so excited for himself and he has been excited for his family, ” Mark said. “It made you feel so good regarding him. ”

Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 and [email protected] com

On Twitter @ebalintREP

If you proceed

What: Inaugural USFL playoffs

Where: Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium, 1835 Harrison Ave NW in Canton (next to the Pro Football Corridor of Fame)

Whenever: Saturday

Who:   First semi-final game: 3 g. m. Philadelphia Stars vs . New Jersey Generals and 8 p. m. New Orleans Breakers vs . Birmingham Stallions

Tickets $15 to $30 for adults and $5 to $15 for children under age 15. Tickets are good intended for both games and available at  www.hofvillage.com/p/events/united-states-football-league .   Tickets include a performance by Trace Adkins among games.

On TV:   First game is on Fox; second upon NBC.

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