Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Former Alabama football players are shining in the UFL

Courtesy of Birmingham Stallions
Birmingham Stallions quarterback Matt Corral (#2) celebrates following a play.

This January, the United States Football League and the XFL announced that they were planning to merge as one spring football league — the United Football League. Alabama’s representation in the UFL is limited in quantity but high in quality. 

“As we come together to create the UFL, we can build something powerful, exciting and very cool for football fans — a spring league with lasting impact for all the players with a dream to play pro football and the ‘hardest workers in the room’ mentality to make their dreams come true,” UFL co-founder Dwayne Johnson said in a statement. 

The league is made up of eight teams, four in each of the two XFL and USFL conferences. The USFL conference holds the Birmingham Stallions, Houston Roughnecks, Memphis Showboats and Michigan Panthers. The XFL conference, meanwhile, contains the Arlington Renegades, D.C. Defenders, San Antonio Brahmas and St. Louis Battlehawks. 

The UFL allows players to get a second chance at success in professional football with a chance to go to the NFL. Former spring league players such as Brandon Aubrey and KaVontae Turpin, both now on the Dallas Cowboys, are examples of such success stories. As a result, the talent level in the league has risen. 

“The talent level in this league has gone way up. … This is not the same league we won two years in a row,” Birmingham Stallions coach Skip Holtz said. 

Currently, there are four former Alabama football players on a UFL roster: quarterback A.J. McCarron for the St. Louis Battlehawks, guard Chris Owens for the Arlington Renegades, offensive lineman Deonte Brown for the Birmingham Stallions and linebacker Reuben Foster for the Houston Roughnecks. 

A.J. McCarron 

McCarron, arguably the most recognizable former Alabama football player in the UFL, played for the Crimson Tide from 2009-2013. He was named to two All-SEC teams in 2012 and 2013, was named a third-team All-American in 2012 and a first-team All-American in 2013, and won three major awards in 2013. 

McCarron was drafted to the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft. He has also spent time with the Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons, and again with the Bengals as a backup in 2023. 

Prior to his second Bengals stint, McCarron joined the St. Louis Battlehawks for the 2023 XFL season, where he led the league in passing touchdowns, completion percentage and passer rating. 

Famously, after the 2023 NFL season, McCarron was allowed to stay on the Bengals’ roster, but wanted to get released to play for the UFL again. 

“I mean, the big thing, of course, is my kids being able to watch me play,” McCarron said, adding that he “definitely could have stayed on Cincinnati, and I love that organization … but I like playing.” 

McCarron re-signed with the Battlehawks and looks to lead them to another promising year. 

Chris Owens 

Owens is an offensive guard who played at Alabama from 2016-2021. He was signed by the Pittsburgh Steelers after going undrafted in the 2022 NFL draft. Owens never saw much playing time for the Steelers or any other NFL team, so he is utilizing the UFL to get his name out there once again. 

Deonte Brown 

Brown was an offensive lineman on the Crimson Tide football team from 2016-2020. Owens earned first-team All-SEC honors in 2020. He was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft and played in three games in his young NFL career. 

Overall, Brown had some success, but he is also using the UFL to make a name for himself and continue to grow his stock. 

Reuben Foster 

Foster was a hard-hitting linebacker who played for Alabama from 2013-2016. He won unanimous All-American honors in 2016 as well as the Butkus Award, which is given to the nation’s best linebacker. He was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. 

His NFL career did not pan out how an average first-rounder is expected to, though. He remained with the 49ers for two years before being moved to the Washington football team now known as the Commanders from 2018-2020. 

After he was released from Washington, Foster’s professional career took a pause. He finally rejoined the USFL’s now-defunct Pittsburgh Maulers for the 2023 season. On the Maulers, he registered 53 tackles, half of a sack and one interception. 

Foster was selected by the Roughnecks in the UFL’s dispersal draft, which was utilized to select players from teams that would no longer exist after the USFL and XFL merged. Foster plans to capitalize on the success he had on the Maulers to show he can give the NFL a second shot. 

Overall, all four former Alabama football players look to make a name for themselves as the UFL officially kicks off. The next game involving former Alabama players kicks off Saturday with the Renegades taking on the Battlehawks at 7 p.m. in St. Louis, Missouri. 

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