Former Nebraska Players and Coaches Are Populating the USFL
By Steve Beideck
Six former Nebraska Cornhuskers are playing in the United States Football League, and three coaches with Husker ties are coaching in the new professional league.
Wide receiver Alonzo Moore had his biggest game of the season on May 7, catching three passes for 104 yards and a touchdown to help lead the New Jersey Generals to a 21-13 victory over the Michigan Panthers, who have Kieron Williams at safety.
The former Husker who has had the most impact for his team on defense is linebacker Josh Banderas. As the leading tackler for the Philadelphia Stars, Banderas has 41 total tackles, including 24 solo stops and two sacks for 15 yards through the first five games.
Former NU defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun has 11 tackles for the Stars and the same number of sacks and yards lost – 2 for 15 – as Banderas.
Tampa Bay Bandits safety Antonio Reed is the youngest former Husker in the league. Reed, 24, has 12 tackles (nine solo). Williams has 15 tackles (10 solo) for the Panthers, including eight stops in a recent game against Philadelphia.
One of the oldest players in the league is the Panthers’ former NU offensive lineman Keith Williams, 34, who played at Nebraska from 2007-10 for coaches Bill Callahan and Bo Pelini.
Former Husker coach Mike Riley is leading the Generals. Riley brought along two people who worked with him during his three-year tenure at Nebraska.
James Rodgers Jr., who also played for Riley at Oregon State, was a Nebraska graduate manager in 2016 and 2017. He is coaching the New Jersey wide receivers, including Moore.
The other Generals assistant who Riley famously brought to Nebraska is former defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. Listed on the Generals website as Robert Diaco, the former Connecticut head coach is the Generals’ defensive line coach.
Diaco was NU’s defensive coordinator in 2017, Riley’s final season in Lincoln. Nebraska was 4-8 overall that season and 3-6 in the Big Ten.