Scooby Wright, Case Cookus among players with Arizona ties drafted by new USFL


Dave Sizer (Flickr)

A number of players with ties to Arizona were dradfted into the new USFL.

Ole Olafson, Reporter

The newest rendition of a three-decades defunct football league is scheduled to make its debut in April.

Of course, the new USFL will only debut on time if the current health situation that ultimately caused the demise of the XFL, doesn’t worsen.  Or the ongoing lawsuit lodged by the fore mentioned three-decades defunct football league over the new league’s use of their original team names, moniker and trademarks doesn’t derail the new league before it leaves the station.

One of the last non-legal or pandemic related hurdles the new league needed to clear was rostering players for its eight teams.

The USFL draft took place in late February, featuring a snake-type draft of a pool 400-500 players.  Unlike the NFL draft, which proceeds strictly by draft order across all position groups, the USFL drafted its players by position group only.

For instance, day one of the draft saw teams pick quarterbacks, then defensive ends and edge rushers, followed by offensive tackles, cornerbacks and another round of quarterbacks.  The draft was also devised to give each team the No. 1 pick in two different position groups.

Even though the original USFL would ultimately feature two teams from Arizona (Wranglers 1983-1984 and Outlaws 1985), the new league’s initial offering doesn’t include a team from the copper state…yet.

Even though there’s no team in Arizona, there’s definitely plenty of Arizona in the new league.

The Birmingham Stallions drafted inside linebacker Scooby Wright, a former standout at the University of Arizona.  In 2014, Wright was arguably the best defensive player in the PAC-12 and one of the best linebackers in the country.  That year, Wright won just about every award a defensive player could dream of, including the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, along with the Rotary Lombardi and Chuck Bednarik Awards for the best defensive player.

Wildcat’s 2019 Team Defensive MVP, cornerback Lorenzo Burns finds himself a teammate of Wright in Birmingham.  Burns was ranked No.2 nationally among freshman in 2017 with five interceptions and signed for a time with the Arizona Cardinals as a free agent following the 2021 NFL draft.

The New Orleans Breakers drafted a former Wildcat as well, wide receiver Shawn Poindexter.

In 2018, the 6-5 senior from Peoria, AZ tied the Wildcat’s single-season touchdown record at 11.  That season he caught 42 passes for a team leading 759 yards.

The Philadelphia Stars did their homework on Football Conference Subdivision quarterbacks and perhaps found a diamond in the rough when they selected quarterback Case Cookus from Northern Arizona University.

Cookus may go down as one of the best Lumberjack quarterbacks ever, even after missing most of his sophomore season and basically all of his senior year following major injuries.

In 2015, he won basically all the FCS freshman and offensive awards the Conference had to offer.  He ranked in the top-10 nationally in no less than eight offensive categories, including No. 2 in passing efficiency, passing touchdowns and yards per pass attempt.

As a junior, Cookus passed for 3,413 yards and 22 touchdowns with a bevy of monster games including a 406 yard game against Cal Poly and a 407 yard effort against Sacramento State.

Three Sun Devils round out the USFL-Arizona connection.

Phoenix native, long snapper Mitchell Fraboni is a Pittsburgh Mauler.

The Tampa Bay Bandits drafted two former Arizona State players in quarterback                 Brady White and inside linebacker Christian Sam.

Even though White was a highly recruited, standout in high school, he actually played very little during his time at ASU.  He earned his bachelor’s degree in business from Arizona State and transferred to Memphis, where he accumulated the bulk of his college football stats, as well as being awarded the 2020 William V. Campbell Trophy, basically the scholastic Heisman.

Linebacker Christian Sam played for the Sun Devils from 2014-2017.  He is credited with 242 career tackles and seven sacks, but sat out almost his entire Junior year with an injury.