NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — After more than 35 years, the United States Football League returned with eight teams from the original era playing in Birmingham, Ala., over the weekend.
For Louisiana football legend, the USFL’s reboot is a fond reminder of his own personal journey to the pros – a journey so many hopefuls filling the rosters of New Jersey Generals, Philadelphia Stars, Tampa Bay Bandits, Pittsburgh Maulers, Birmingham Stallions, Houston Gamblers and, of course, the New Orleans Breakers.
Buford Jordan left McNeese State University as a four-time All-Southland Conference selection and the state’s all time leading collegiate rusher in 1983 with 4,156 yards.
“I had just come off an injury from my senior year and they were talking that iI might not even make it to the NFL and here they come and draft me No. 1,” Jordan told WGNO Sports. “Hey, they say, ‘well wait for the NFL’ – I said, ‘I’m gone.'”
Jordan was the first number one overall pick made by the newly relocated New Orleans Breakers, who had spent the league’s debut season in Boston. He signed a 5-year deal with the team.
“The thing was, we were playing professional football,” he said. “Hey, you know what I am saying. I was a little country boy that came to New Orleans, to this big, exciting city.”
In two seasons, Jordan was the Breakers’ leading rusher, first with 1,276 his rookie season and then 817 after the team moved to Portland for the USFL’s final year.
The league folded in 1986.
The New Orleans Saints welcomed him back to the Crescent City with open arms.
“With that new league, when I came in, Coach [Jim] Mora, there were 20-something new players on that team. I think 13 or 14 of us were from the USFL. You had Sam Mills, Vaughn Johnson – half the ‘Dome Patrol.’
“Bobby Hebert and then you had me in the backfield and we had a bunch of other guys.”
It was an elite group that started in the USFL and helped the Saints to their first winning season, as well as their first playoff appearance in 1987 and division title in 1991.
So when Jordan learned of the USFL’s return this spring, he was excited about the opportunity presented to this new generation of players.
“A lot of young men get cut out when there is only 1,200 jobs out there, 1,200 to 1,500,” he explained. “Now you’ve created another couple of thousand jobs – hey, that’s more kids to have an opportunity to do what I did.”
During the team’s return on Sunday, the Breakers defeated the Philadelphia Stars, 23-17.