For fans of the USFL, No. 18 'Stoudt' is a legend revisited

Cole Stoudt's dad, Cliff, quarterbacked Birmingham Stallions to the top of USFL

Clemson spring football game - Cole Stoudt

Photo by Mark Crammer

Clemson spring football game - Cole Stoudt

When Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney named Cole Stoudt the team’s starting quarterback, I smiled.

Not that I have a vested interest — my job is to write, not to root — but No. 18 is a legacy.

Well, he’s a legacy for me, anyway.

Every time he takes the field, it’ll remind me of the era when another 18 took the field.

And the memories will be good.

Cliff Stoudt, Cole’s dad, quarterbacked my hometown Birmingham Stallions of the United States Football League, and he quarterbacked them quite well for two seasons. In 1984 and 1985 he engineered two playoff appearances and helped the Stallions become one of the premiere teams in the league.

If you weren’t around for the USFL, you missed out on some really good football — the best outside the NFL.

The essence of the league was captured wonderfully in the ESPN 30 for 30 installment Small Potatoes: Who Killed The USFL? The smartphone and Internet generation know the league only through historical footage, but many of us who once rocked parachute pants and were absolutely certain both A Flock of Seagulls and Missing Persons were headed for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hold the spring pro league near and dear — and in the highest regard.

For cities like Birmingham, Memphis, San Antonio, Tulsa (and at the time, Jacksonville), it was the only pro football game in town and its players became “our” superstars.

Cliff Stoudt certainly fit the bill for the Stallions, although the former Pittsburgh Steelers backup had to earn it.

I never rooted for the Steelers and, frankly, didn’t even realize Stoudt backed up Terry Bradshaw. As a Jets fan, I had my own quarterback issues to deal with.

That being the case, when he was lured away by Birmingham boss Rollie Dotsch (a former Pittsburgh o-line coach) I wasn’t impressed.

The USFL was known for flashy signings (Herschel Walker, Doug Flutie, Jim Kelly, Steve Young, Reggie White).

I saw no flash in Cliff Stoudt.

“I’ve always sensed that Cliff is a quarterback with a lot of ability who just needed some confidence and playing time,” Dotsch told reporters in January, 1984. “Now he’ll have both. He’s our No. 1 quarterback.”

It wasn’t long before I went from, “Who is this guy?” to “I love this guy!”

He quickly became my favorite player and his strong arm and solid field generalship made him quite the celebrity in Birmingham.

Before the USFL committed suicide after New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump convinced other owners to move to the fall and challenge the NFL (thanks a lot, dude), Stoudt had thrown for 60 TDs and 6,479 yards in two seasons.

His final game with the Stallions — which was the Stallions’ final game — was a 28-14 loss to the Baltimore Stars in the Western Conference Championship Game at Legion Field.

I was there, as I was for most home contests.

It was the last time I saw Cliff Stoudt.

Of course you see a lot of him in his son, who has the same number, the same strong arm and, by all indications, the same mind for football.

So if I run into his dad this fall at Memorial Stadium, I want to shake his hand and thank him for providing some great memories.

And who knows?

Once the 2014 season is done, Tiger fans might be thanking Cole Stoudt for providing some great memories as well.

Follow Scott Adamson on Twitter @adamsonslAIM

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