Patriots fans should jump on the UFL bandwagon this offseason

Oct 6, 2019; Landover, MD, USA; New England Patriots tight end Ryan Izzo (85) leaps to attempt a
Oct 6, 2019; Landover, MD, USA; New England Patriots tight end Ryan Izzo (85) leaps to attempt a / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Have you ever wondered what happened to Vic Beasley, Amari Rodgers, and Taylor Heinecke? Well, wonder no more, you can see them playing in the UFL when it kicks off in five weeks. 

Spring football might not really float your boat (it is nearly baseball season, after all), but as the twenty-sixth King of Arnor, Viggo Mortensen, once said, "If you allow yourself to be somewhat curious - and if you get into the habit of doing that - it's the first step to being open-minded." And who are you to argue? The most exciting part of the UFL is how it showcases talent. And that talent can wind up in the NFL.

After the 2023 XFL season, more than 200 players were invited to participate in NFL minicamps. And, famously, Cowboys' kicker Brandon Aubrey played for the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL in 2022. In 2024, Patriots fans should keep an eye on tight end La’Michael Pettway.

He signed a two-year deal in New England on January 6th but will play for the Birmingham Stallions this spring. 

The Stallions are the UFL team with the most former Patriots on their books. But most of them never made it past the practice squad. Jordan Thomas did actually play two games for the Patriots, but he only saw a single target and didn’t catch it. Six of Thomas’ teammates in Birmingham were once signed by the Patriots, too. Quarterback J’Mar Smith, running back C.J Marable, and linebackers Phillip “Scooby” Wright and DaMarcus Mitchell had a cup of coffee in New England too. 

 The final Patriot turned Stallion is Matt Corral. Corral lasted just 19 days in New England. The Patriots claimed him off waivers on August 31st last season; by the 19th of September, he had left. Corral was a third-round pick for the Panthers in 2022, but a Lisfranc injury saw him miss his entire rookie season.

Carolina released him on August 30th. Corral is still just 25, so he could be one of the players who is invited to a mini-camp at the end of the season. And, fascinating (ok, boring) fact – Corral attended the same high school as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Long Beach Polytechnic. 

But only after what was described as a "physical altercation" with Wayne Gretzky's son during a basketball game, leading to him leaving Oaks Christian School.

Not many UFL players can say they have won a Super Bowl. But Ryan Izzo can. The Patriots drafted Izzo in the seventh round back in 2018. But he wound up on injured reserve playing a game, so he missed the Super Bowl win over the Rams. But he’s still got a ring. He had better luck in 2019, though.

The tight end played six and averaged 19 yards per touch. In 2020, he started all 12 games that he played in, ending the season with a 15—yards per touch average. Izzo didn’t just spend time with the Patriots; he played one game for the Titans in 2021. He has spent time with the Texans, Seahawks, Giants, and Panthers too.

Izzo will be 29 in December, so he would have to have a spectacular UFL season to attract NFL interest. Izzo will line up for the Houston Roughnecks in this year's UFL.

Danny Etling is a Patriots (preseason) legend. He was also drafted by the Patriots in 2018, so he’s technically a Super Bowl winner, too. He was the 219th overall pick. At the beginning of the 2019 season, the Patriots tried to convert him from quarterback to a wide receiver. But he never played a regular season game.

He was released in August 2019 and spent time with seven other NFL teams and the B.C Lions in the CFL. And he'll be a Michigan Panther when the UFL season begins.

So why is he a Patriots legend, you ask? Well, nobody else has scored an 86-yard rushing touchdown in preseason like rookie Etling did. And you could just watch the clip all day long. If only to laugh at the Giants' defense disappearing into thin air. Even Etling couldn’t believe it; he had to keep looking behind him to check. 

Read more from Musket Fire: