Shea Patterson’s debut performance as Michigan Panthers quarterback left a lot to be desired. The former Michigan Wolverine and Ole Miss Rebel were chosen as the No. 1 selection in the rebooted USFL’s draft. During his debut performance, Patterson was benched after having issues with fumbles early in the game.
Much like NASCAR betting odds, Patterson’s performance saw its up-and-downs during a 17-12 loss to the Houston Gamblers on April 17 in Birmingham. After returning when backup quarterback Paxton Lynch also had his issues with fumbles, Patterson nearly lead Michigan to a come-from-behind victory. He would finish 17-of-24 passing yards for 192 yards and a touchdown. Patterson also fumbled three times, losing one.
While this version of the USFL has little to do with the first version, Patterson would have to do a lot to match the football carers many of the No. 1 picks in the first version of the USFL, which had much more ambition than the current iteration, accomplished. It is notable that three of the players selected No. 1 in the USFL draft in the 1980s never played in the league.
Ace Ventura’s assistant
University of Pittsburgh standout Dan Marino was chosen by the Los Angeles Express with the No. 1 pick in the 1983 NFL draft. Marino went to Los Angeles and flirted with becoming the first major college player to jump to the upstart league, but ultimately used the situation as leverage in his contract negotiations with the Miami Dolphins.
While Marino would never win a Super Bowl, he had a Hall-of-Fame career that stretched from 1983 to 1999 in Miami. He would be named the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1984 and finished his career with 61,361 yards passing. He was an eight-time All-Pro selection and five times led the league in passing yards.
Mike Rozier, selected first overall by the Pittsburgh Maulers in 1984, was the only No. 1 pick to ever actually suit up for the USFL. His — and the franchise’s — time in Pittsburgh was a failure for the league. Rozier was stuck on a team that finished 3-15 before folding and was limited to 792 rushing yards and averaged 3.6 yards per carry.
In Rozier’s second season with the Jacksonville Bulls, he piled up 1,361 yards and 12 touchdowns. But this would be the highlight of Rozier’s professional career. He played with the Houston Oilers from 1985 to 1989 and Atlanta from 1990 to 1991. In the NFL, he would only rush for more than 1,000 yards once when he finished with 1,002 in 1988.
Some guy from Mississippi Valley State
Future Hall of Fame Jerry Rice wasn’t selected until the 18th pick of the NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. However, the USFL’s Birmingham Stallions selected Rice as their top selection. At that point, the USFL was struggling to stay above water and Rice decided to join the 49ers and their burgeoning dynasty.
Rice finished his career with San Francisco by compiling 22,895 receiving yards and 197 touchdowns. Rice, a three-time Super Bowl champion, still holds the NFL record for total touchdowns (208), career receiving touchdowns (197), and career receptions (1,549). Rice was also named Super Bowl XXIII MVP. He hauled in 11 catches for 215 yards and a score in San Francisco’s 20-16 win over the Bengals.
Rice’s career is marked by his longevity. Once he moved on from San Francisco in 2000, Rice had several productive years with the Oakland Raiders from 2001 to 2004. Pairing with fellow veteran Tim Brown, Rice had a large role in leaving Oakland for an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVII.
Orlando wanted to build in the trenches
The Orlando Renegades selected Iowa tackle, Mike Haight, as the top choice in the 1986 draft. Haight, who was the Big 10 Offensive Lineman of the Year in 1985, never had a chance to sign with the USFL because the league folded shortly after.
Haight, who was the No. 22 pick in the 1986 NFL Draft, never made waves in the big league. Haight played for the New York Jets from 1986 to 1991 and finished his career with the Washington Redskins in 1992. Haight was never chosen for All-Pro or Pro Bowl honors.