Pick Six  


Some times it pays to play football, even if it's not the NFL


A number of undrafted free agents are going to be faced with a tough decision after the United Football League conducted its draft Monday. Do they take the opportunity to play in the fledgling league or wait to see if they will get their chance to play in the NFL while the labor dispute settles?

Herzlich drafted by UFL
Mark Herzlich watched 254 picks come and go during the 2011 NFL Draft, never hearing his named called. The same fate didn’t await him during the UFL draft Monday. More ...

A number of great NFL players, including some Hall of Famers, have started their professional football careers outside of the NFL.

Here is a look at some notable players who started their pro careers outside of the NFL -- not including players from leagues that eventually merged with the NFL such as the AAFC and AFL.

In no particular order ...

Jim Kelly (USFL)
Kelly was the USFL MVP in 1984 and thrived in the run-and-shoot offense of the Houston Gamblers. Kelly joined the Buffalo Bills in 1986 and led his team to four consecutive AFC titles running the "K-Gun" offense. Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

Steve Young (USFL)
Young signed a staggering 10-year, $40 million contract with the Los Angeles Express, and then toiled with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two years before enjoying a Hall of Fame career with the San Francisco 49ers. Young's original deal was later changed to a 40-year annuity.

Reggie White (USFL)
White played two seasons for the Memphis Showboats prior to becoming one of the leaders of the Philadelphia Eagles defense. White jumped to the Packers in 1993 and helped lead Green Bay to a win in Super Bowl XXXI. White died in 2004 and was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Gary Zimmerman (USFL)
Zimmerman played two seasons for the Los Angeles Express, and then went on to have a Hall of Fame career with the Denver Broncos and Minnesota Vikings. Zimmerman was enshrined in Canton in 2008.

Herschel Walker (USFL)
Walker made headlines when he left Georgia early to play for the New Jersey Generals (NFL rules at the time forbid juniors from being draft eligible). Walker rushed for more than 2,411 yards in 1985 and helped the Dallas Cowboys win a Super Bowl -- by being traded to the Vikings.

Bobby Hebert (USFL)
Hebert was one of the top quarterbacks in the USFL and helped lead the Michigan Panthers to a title in the league's first season. Hebert went on to play for the New Orleans Saints (1985-1992) and Atlanta Falcons (1993-96).

Kelvin Bryant (USFL)
Bryant was the 1983 USFL MVP playing for the Philadelphia Stars. He came to the NFL after three seasons and was a member of the Redskins team that won Super Bowl XXII.

Kurt Warner (NFLE/Arena)
Warner played three seasons for the Iowa Barnstormers and played one season for Amsterdam Admirals before becoming the biggest Cinderella story in NFL history. Warner resurrected not one morbid NFL franchise (St. Louis) but two (Arizona Cardinals). He was selected as the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV and now serves as an NFL Network analyst.

Pat Haden (WFL)
Haden played one season in the WFL for the Southern California Sun in 1975, and then went to Oxford University under his Rhodes Scholarship. He played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1976-1981 and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 1977. He is currently the athletic director at USC.

Danny White (WFL)
White played two seasons for the Memphis Southmen before succeeding Roger Staubach for the Dallas Cowboys, leading the team to three consecutive NFC Championship Games. He went on to win two Arena League titles as coach of the Arizona Rattlers.

Warren Moon (CFL)
Moon was not drafted by the NFL despite being selected MVP of the 1978 Rose Bowl, leading Washington to victory. Moon played six seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos before joining the Houston Oilers in 1984. He is the only player to be selected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. And he was the first modern African-American quarterback selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Sam Mills (USFL)
Before Mills became the leader of the "Dome Patrol" he helped anchor Jim Mora's defense in the USFL, playing three seasons with the Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars. Mills was selected to five Pro Bowls before retiring after the 1997 season and becoming a coach for the Panthers. He died in 2005.