With two weeks left in the 2022 USFL regular season, linebacker Scooby Wright and the undefeated 8-0 Birmingham Stallions have already secured a USFL Playoff berth and the South Division regular season title.
They know they’ll be at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio on June 25, playing for an opportunity to reach the Championship game on July 3.
But with two regular season games remaining – Saturday night against the Houston Gamblers (6 p.m. ET on USA Network) and the June 18 regular season finale against the Tampa Bay Bandits – Wright and the Stallions aren’t looking ahead.
“I think the biggest thing that we’ve done is just attack the week as 1-0 and that’s kind of helped us just to create momentum – having us not get too far [ahead] and just staying focused on each week and make sure we execute that,” he told NBC Sports this week.
- When: Saturday, June 11 at 6 p.m. ET
- Where: Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama
- TV: USA Network
- Stream: NBCSports.com
The Stallions have managed to execute week in, week out, in all sorts of ways.
Last week, the Stallions engaged in a defensive struggle with the Breakers (see highlights at the top). Wright made eight tackles, suitably playing his role in a game that included a total of six turnovers and five missed kicks.
Following Brandon Aubrey’s go-ahead field goal with less than two minutes to go in the game, the Stallions sealed a 10-9 win on an interception from Josh Shaw with six seconds left. With that, they overcame a second-half deficit to win for the seventh time in eight games this season.
Afterwards, head coach Skip Holtz – who had previously told NBC Sports that the then 4-0 Stallions hadn’t quite put it all together yet as a team – proclaimed the Stallions as championship caliber on account of their mental toughness.
“A championship team isn’t perfect,” Holtz said. “A championship team isn’t [a team that] never has a bad play. But a championship football team overcomes those things because they’re mentally tough enough to do it.”
When asked where that toughness has come from, Wright pointed to his teammates.
“We have some good guys on our defense that just love football – and are some dogs, to be honest,” said Wright, who may also have some dog in himself if his “Shark Dawg” sack celebration from Week 4 was an indication.
— USFL (@USFL) May 8, 2022
“Just that ‘we’ll never quit.’ I know (linebacker) DeMarquis Gates – he’s a great football player, he plays hard every single play. We have a lot of great guys on our defense: (cornerback) Brian Allen, Josh Shaw, a lot of guys with good football experience and guys who are good football players.
“When we’re firing on all cylinders, we do pretty good. So (we) just got to make sure we keep doing it.”
There’s more football to play, but on the field, Wright says it’s already been the best of his three excursions into the alternative pro leagues.
A former All-American at the University of Arizona and veteran of 13 NFL games (Cardinals, 2016-17), Wright’s pro career continued in the Alliance of American Football (Arizona Hotshots, 2019) and the second version of the XFL (DC Defenders, 2020).
On both of those occasions, the league shut down before it could complete a season.
When his time in the XFL was over, Wright took up martial arts and competed in jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai tournaments. He also began training to become a firefighter in his home of Sonoma County, California (more on that below in our First and 10 section).
But when the USFL emerged, Wright couldn’t resist putting the football pads on again.
In comments from February to a sports radio station in Tucson, Arizona, he noted the “comical part” of going back into alt-league football after the AAF and XFL’s untimely ends.
But he also said: “No regrets – I’m not trying to look back when I’m 50 and wish I would’ve done this or done that. I’m just going to send it.”
Wright’s done just that, and he’s now a key component for a Stallions defense that’s allowing the fewest points per game (16.8) and second-fewest net yards per game (277.1) in the USFL.
He’s also become a sort of folk hero to the Stallions fans at Protective Stadium and Legion Field who come wearing shark masks and Scooby-Doo – or is it Shark Dawg? – chains around their necks. One fan had the honor of giving Wright his own chain.
We have an official Shark Dog Chain‼️ 🦈🐶@TwoStarScoob
— Birmingham Stallions (@USFLStallions) May 29, 2022
As the host team this season, the support for the Stallions has been noticeable compared to the other teams. But what if that support becomes more muted in a postseason played on a neutral site?
“Don’t get me wrong, we love our fans here in Birmingham – they’ve fully accepted us and it’s really cool,” Wright said. “But I think it’ll be a good experience for us to go up there and see how we play as an ‘away’ game.
“But it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. It’s football. You lob the ball up and you go out there and play. The fans are large to an extent, but it’s not like there’s 80,000 people in the stands.”
Focus on the field. Tune out the noise. Get the win. Move on to the next game.
Sounds like a Shark Dawg’s mentality to us.
First and 10 with Scooby Wright
10 quick questions to get to know the new talent of the USFL
“Not really. I just kind of have my music on and just chill.”
“Pizza after the game… Pepperoni, or meat lover’s.”
Favorite football player?
“James Harrison… Just that he was kind of a journeyman early on in his career and his work ethic, just the way he went about his business.”
“The Wolf of Wall Street.”
Favorite vacation spot?
Most famous person you’ve met outside of football?
“Machine Gun Kelly.”
How would your family and friends describe you as a person?
“I don’t know, if I’m being honest. Depends on who you ask.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?
“I wish I was 6’2″. Tired of being called short as a linebacker.”
Name one thing about yourself that not everybody knows about you.
“I’m certified to be a firefighter.”
(Writer: Do you plan on continuing that path after the season’s over?)
“I really don’t know what my next few months hold. Just trying to figure it out to be honest. Just feel like I’m jumping timelines back and forth. But I graduated the fire academy in December – got firefighter 1, firefighter 2, all my certificates. Then I was in the process of working on my EMT courses, so I’ve got to get my EMT course, like a five or six week course and pass a test, then I’ll be able to apply for jobs. But I was volunteering as a firefighter back home.”
(Writer: What about being a firefighter or a first responder appeals to you?)
“It was, moreso, I have five or six friends I played with that are all firefighters. So that’s interesting how that would’ve worked out for me, but my football coach growing up is actually the fire captain at the station I work at now. So who knows what’s going to happen. Hopefully I get into another training camp and get an opportunity but just figure it out from there. Probably get back into martial arts, do that stuff.”
USFL Week 9 Schedule
Saturday, June 11
- New Jersey Generals (7-1) vs. Michigan Panthers (1-7) – 1 p.m. ET on NBC
- Houston Gamblers (1-7) vs. Birmingham Stallions (8-0) – 6 p.m. ET on USA Network
Sunday, June 12
- Tampa Bay Bandits (4-4) vs. New Orleans Breakers (5-3) – 4 p.m. ET on FOX
- Philadelphia Stars (5-3) vs. Pittsburgh Maulers (1-7) – 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1