Chris Odom ends strong season as USFL Defensive Player of the Year


Houston Gamblers edge rusher Chris Odom didn’t have to look far for motivation as he entered the USFL this season.

Odom has a young daughter named Cassie that was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta. Also known as brittle bone disease, OI is a genetic disorder characterized by fragile bones that can break easily, even when doing simple tasks like changing a diaper or sneezing.

According to Odom, who wore yellow cleats during the season to raise awareness of OI, the doctors gave Cassie a 50-50 chance of surviving her first year.

Cassie recently celebrated her second birthday.

“She’s my biggest ‘why’ on why I play now,” Odom told NBC Sports before he and the Gamblers closed their season last weekend against New Orleans.

But Odom also found motivation in himself.

A veteran of 11 NFL games (seven with Green Bay in 2017, four with Washington in 2019), Odom has kept his pro career going with stints in the Canadian Football League and the defunct Alliance of American Football.

But as he’ll tell you, you never know when the next chance will come. When the USFL did come, Odom knew he had to crush it.

“It’s one thing to talk about it, but you’ve still got to go out there and do it,” he said. “But the opportunity of being back on the field, just to showcase myself – I’ve been wanting nothing more than just an opportunity.

“Just let me be on the field and I’ll handle the rest.”

He lived up to that promise. Odom was a force on the defensive line, racking up a league-leading 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles this season.

Not only that, he chipped in four blocked field goals, including one last week against New Orleans that led to a 77-yard return for a touchdown by Jeremiah Johnson.

The Gamblers went on to win, 20-3. Before that contest, Odom was named to this year’s All-USFL Team, one of three Gamblers to earn the distinction (linebacker Donald Payne, cornerback Will Likely).

“It feels good just to be recognized by your peers for your accomplishments and what not,” he said. “It feels good, just to go along with what I’ve done on the field, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates and what not, so without them it wouldn’t be possible.”

On Wednesday, another big honor came to Odom. He was named USFL Defensive Player of the Year, receiving one of the league’s top individual accolades.

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The award completes a nice close to the season for Odom and the Gamblers, who were eliminated from playoff contention in Week 7. The Gamblers closed with back-to-back wins, including a 17-15 victory in Week 9 over the previously undefeated Birmingham Stallions.

That victory was a notable one, because the Gamblers were more often on the wrong side of those close contests.

Seven of their 10 games this season were decided by one possession. The Gamblers went 2-5 in those games. Going deeper, the Gamblers blew a halftime lead in six consecutive contests (Weeks 2-7), a streak that culminated in a 35-24 defeat to Philadelphia that finished their ebbing playoff hopes.

When asked about the Gamblers’ troubles, Odom said it came down to a handful of plays in their losses that simply didn’t work out for them.

“We can go back in the middle of the game and say this play is why we lost or this play made the difference at the very end,” Odom reflected. “I think it just came down to those plays, just making mistakes at the wrong time, because the determining factor of the outcome were in the final two minutes or so of the game that changed the game from us leading to us losing or for us to potentially come back and win.

“It was just staying locked in and minimizing mistakes all the way to the very end of the game.”

The Gamblers had another chance to do that in Week 9 and this time, they made it count.

Down 17-15, the Stallions got the ball back with 1:44 left and two timeouts to work with. But a deep pass was intercepted by Micah Abernathy, which ultimately proved the difference.

“Number one, we just wanted to win more,” Odom said about what that win meant to the group. “With this whole league being here in Birmingham… We just got tired of Birmingham winning and hearing about them in the hotel and all over the media.

“But we were also frustrated at how much we’ve lost, how many games we’ve lost and how we’ve lost them – like, all within our control. So, yeah, we’re out of the running for the playoffs but at least we can prove it to ourselves that we can change the outcome of the game.”

RELATED: How to watch the 2022 USFL Playoffs – Dates, location, matchups, TV/streaming info

Odom’s exploits may have also earned him another look from the NFL as training camps loom.

As the regular season wound down, his name began to pop up in various media outlets as a potential free agent that could help a struggling NFL team. For example, a June 14 piece on Bleacher Report matched him with the Atlanta Falcons, whose 18 sacks last season were fewest in the NFL (said report also listed two other USFL standouts, the aforementioned Turpin and Philadelphia cornerback Channing Stribling, the league leader in interceptions).

When asked if he felt his performance this season in the USFL was good enough to get noticed by the NFL, Odom demurred. He said he would focus on closing the USFL season out and “whatever opportunity presents itself afterwards, then so be it.”

Regardless of what happens next, Odom said it was “very important” that the USFL was there for him and his teammates to prove they can still play the game at a high level.

“I have teammates that haven’t played football in a year, two years, three years, some even four years – whether it wasn’t the right opportunity, injury, COVID,” he said.

“We all just were happy to be able to play football again. So we all just wanted to show everybody what we were capable of.”

First and 10 with Chris Odom

10 quick questions to get to know the new talent of the USFL

Pre-game ritual?

“I pray every time we run out the tunnel. I always go to the bench and I say a prayer. I give thanks to everyone that supported me, and I ask Him to protect the ones I love (and) my team. That’s my consistent ritual I do every game.”

Post-game ritual?

“It’s hard to say post-game, other than just body maintenance. Take care of the body, recovery the next day. Just a little workout, try to get the soreness out, so I can get back to a somewhat normal state and get ready for the next week.”

Favorite food?

“I like smoked brisket. I’m from Texas – we love our barbeque.”

Favorite football player?

“My dad.”

(Writer: He was in the league for many years and you learned a lot of lessons, but what are the most important ones you’ve kind of leaned on as you’ve carved out your pro career?)

Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts - 1980's File Photos
Cliff Odom, father of Chris Odom, was an NFL linebacker for 13 seasons (1980, 1982-93). Cliff spent the majority of his NFL career with the Colts (1982-89). Photo: Don Larson/Getty Images

“I’m a defensive end and outside linebacker – or edge rusher, because that’s both – and he was a middle linebacker. So I’m used to going to guys like him for calls, and he has to be the smartest one on defense because he has to know what’s in front of him and behind him. So I’ll go and talk to him and he’s looking at (things) in terms of adjustments and what not.

“But the biggest thing he’s taught me is just the mentality every time you step on the field, that you just have to be undeniable and ruthless. Because he grew up in the old school NFL. That wasn’t played like current NFL. But that doesn’t mean that the tools they used and the mentality they had to take can’t be applied to today’s football. So he’s just been constantly reminding me of the mindset I have to have when I step onto the field.

“Once I realized that, then we really started breaking down defenses and just picking up certain things because some things are just repetitive. It’s a copy cat league and when you see stuff so many times, you learn how to be in a better position to make a play. Just with that and him teaching me the fundamentals of the game. He just made me an overall better football player, from that standpoint.”

Favorite movie?

“I watch a lot of movies… I grew up just watching a whole bunch of movies at once. But if I had to put just one on there, that’s tough… Any Given Sunday and John Wick.

Favorite vacation spot?

“I like Florida. Anywhere specific? I like Fort Lauderdale.”

Most famous person you’ve met outside of football?

“Lil’ Wayne and Chris Tucker.”

How would your family and friends describe you as a person?

“They’d probably say I’m different, just from the way I think. Example: You have a bad day at work – if a boss chewed you out, you’re going down the list of your tasks, you did a certain amount but there was one you didn’t. I would have the mindset of ‘Everyone’s going to have a bad day, you just try not to have too many of them, and it wasn’t all bad.’ Compared to some that might take it as they had a bad day because their boss chewed them out, it ruined their whole day. So, from that mindset, that’s how I think. I just try to look on the brighter side of things than dwell on the negatives.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?

“I really wouldn’t change anything. I like who I am. I do like myself – I wouldn’t say I’m full of myself. I like who I am.”

Name one thing about yourself that not everybody knows about you.

I’m into photography and videography.”

(Writer: When did that become a hobby for you?)

“I’ve always liked taking photos and with social media blowing up, I’ve gotten to try to get more into video. I picked up my camera – a real camera – in 2017, and (have) upgraded ever since. During the pandemic, I was working for a creative marketing firm back in Dallas when I wasn’t playing football or waiting for a call to play football. It’s just something off the field that I just like doing.”

(Writer: Is there anything specific you like to shoot as a photographer?)

“Portraits. Portraits and stills, I like the expression in a photo, and to tell a story with one still image.”

2022 USFL Playoffs

Saturday, June 25

  • North Division Final: Philadelphia Stars vs. New Jersey Generals – 3 p.m. ET, FOX
  • South Division Final: New Orleans Breakers vs. Birmingham Stallions – 8 p.m. ET, NBC

Sunday, July 3

  • Championship: North Division champion vs. South Division champion – 7:30 p.m. ET, FOX

2023 USFL Week 7 Schedule: How to watch Houston Gamblers vs Showboats, start times, live stream info


Week 7 of the 2023 USFL season  kicks off with four games you don’t want to miss. First, on Saturday, May 27 it’s the Birmingham Stallions (4-2) vs New Orleans Breakers (4-2) at 4:00 PM ET at Protective Stadium. Then at 9:00 PM, the Philadelphia Stars (3-3) will go head-to-head with the Pittsburgh Maulers (2-4) at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

RELATED: Control what you can control – How journey through the fire led Generals RB Darius Victor to the USFL

On Sunday, May 28, the USFL excitement starts at 2:30 PM with a Houston Gamblers (4-2) vs Memphis Showboats (3-3) match up on USA and Peacock. Then, at 5:30 PM the Michigan Panthers  (2-4) face the the New Jersey Generals (2-4) in Canton, Ohio to cap off the night. See below for additional information on how to watch/live stream each game this weekend.

RELATED: 2023 USFL Season Schedule – Dates, times, locations, new teams, playoff format, scores and more

2023 USFL Week 7 Schedule:

*All times are listed as ET

Saturday, May 27

Birmingham at New Orleans –  4:00 p.m. (FOX)

Philadelphia at Pittsburgh – 9:00 p.m. (FS1)

Sunday, May 28

Houston at Memphis – 2:00 p.m. (USA and Peacock)

Michigan at New Jersey – 5:30 p.m. (FS1)

Where are the new locations for the 2023 USFL Season?

The 2023 USFL season will feature four host cities: Detroit, Memphis, Canton, Ohio and Birmingham, Alabama.

  • The New Jersey Generals and Pittsburgh Maulers will be hosted in Canton, Ohio at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
  • The Birmingham Stallions and New Orleans Breakers will be hosted in Birmingham at Protective Stadium.
  • The Michigan Panthers and Philadelphia Stars will be hosted in Detroit, Michigan at Ford Field.
  • The Memphis Showboats and Houston Gamblers will be hosted in Memphis, Tennessee at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.

RELATED: 2023 USFL Season –  Who are this year’s USFL head coaches?

How can I watch USFL games on Peacock?

Sign up here to watch all of our LIVE sports, sports shows, documentaries, classic matches, and more. You’ll also get tons of new & hit movies and TV shows, including Peacock Originals and current hits from NBC and Bravo. There’s always something new to discover.

What devices does Peacock support?

You can enjoy Peacock on a variety of devices. View the full list of supported devices here.

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Every touchdown from Week 6:

Showboats dominate Maulers 22-0:

2023 USFL Season Schedule: Dates, times, locations, new teams, playoff format, scores, and more


The 2023 USFL Season kicks off on Saturday, April 15 and Sunday, April 16 with four thrilling games. First, the Philadelphia Stars will take on the Memphis Showboats at 4:30 PM ET followed by a New Jersey Generals vs Birmingham Stallions match up at 7:30 PM ET. On Sunday, the Michigan Panthers will go head-to-head with the Houston Gamblers at noon, followed by a Pittsburgh Maulers vs New Orleans Breakers match up at 6:30 PM.

RELATED: 2023 USFL Draft order – Complete list of every pick from Round 1 through Round 10

Season 2 of the USFL features four host cities–Detroit, Memphis, Canton, and Birmingham. This is a significant change from last year when all 10-regular season games were contested in Birmingham, Alabama and playoff games took place in Canton, Ohio. Additionally, the 2023 season will also feature a new team. The Tampa Bay Bandits will now be called the Memphis Showboats. Memphis was one of the original teams featured in the first edition of the USFL.

See below for the full 2023 USFL Season Schedule as well as answers to any questions you may have before the upcoming season. Be sure to check back for the latest updates to the schedule.

RELATED: Control what you can control – How journey through the fire led Generals RB Darius Victor to the USFL

How many teams are in the USFL?

There are a total of 8 teams in the USFL that make up two divisions:

North Division:

  • Michigan Panthers
  • New Jersey Generals
  • Philadelphia Stars
  • Pittsburgh Maulers

South Division:

  • Birmingham Stallions
  • Houston Gamblers
  • New Orleans Breakers
  • Memphis Showboats

Where will games be contested during the 2023 USFL Season?

The 2023 USFL season will feature four host cities: Detroit, Memphis, Canton, Ohio and Birmingham, Alabama.

  • The New Jersey Generals and Pittsburgh Maulers will be hosted in Canton, Ohio at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.
  • The Birmingham Stallions and New Orleans Breakers will be hosted in Birmingham at Protective Stadium.
  • The Michigan Panthers and Philadelphia Stars will be hosted in Detroit, Michigan at Ford Field.
  • The Memphis Showboats and Houston Gamblers will be hosted in Memphis, Tennessee at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.

RELATED: Just Keep Going – Stallions RB CJ Marable makes a policy of perseverance

How many weeks are in the USFL’s regular season?

There are 10 weeks in the regular season. Each team will go head-to-head with division rivals twice and face off against teams of the opposite division once.

How will 2023 USFL playoffs work?

After the 10 week regular season comes to a close, the top two teams from each division will go head-to-head in two playoff games in late June, with the winners advancing to the USFL Championship game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium.

2023 USFL Season Schedule:

*All times are listed as ET


Saturday, April 15
Philadelphia Stars 27, Memphis Showboats 23
Birmingham Stallions 27, New Jersey Generals 10

Sunday, April 16
Michigan Panthers 29, Houston Gamblers 13 
New Orleans Breakers 22, Pittsburgh Maulers 15


Saturday, April 22
New Orleans Breakers 38, Houston Gamblers 31 
Birmingham Stallions 42, Memphis Showboats 2

Sunday, April 23
New Jersey Generals 20, Pittsburgh Maulers 3 
Michigan Panthers 24, Philadelphia Stars 10


Saturday, April 29
New Orleans Breakers 45, Birmingham Stallions 31
Houston Gamblers 30, Memphis Showboats 26 

Sunday, April 30
Pittsburgh Maulers 21, Philadelphia Stars 13
New Jersey Generals 28, Michigan Panthers 13 


Saturday, May 6

Houston Gamblers 41, Philadelphia Stars 16
Memphis Showboats 29,  Michigan Panthers 10

Saturday, May 7

New Orleans Breakers 20, New Jersey Generals 17
Birmingham Stallions 24, Pittsburgh Maulers 20


Saturday, May 13
Pittsburgh Maulers 23,  Michigan Panthers 7
Houston Gamblers 27, Birmingham Stallions 20

Sunday, May 14
Philadelphia Stars 24, New Jersey Generals 21 
Memphis Showboats 17,  New Orleans Breakers 10


Saturday, May 20
Memphis Showboats 22, Pittsburgh Maulers 0
Birmingham Stallions 27, Michigan Panthers 13

Sunday, May 21
Philadelphia Stars 16, New Orleans Breakers 10
Houston Gamblers 16, New Jersey Generals 10


Saturday, May 27
Birmingham at New Orleans –  4 p.m. (FOX)
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh – 9 p.m. (FS1)

Sunday, May 28
Houston at Memphis – 2 p.m. (USA and Peacock)
Michigan at New Jersey – 5:30 p.m. (FS1)


Saturday, June 3
Houston at Pittsburgh – 12 p.m. (USA and Peacock)
Philadelphia at Birmingham – 3 p.m. (NBC and Peacock)

Sunday, June 4
Memphis at New Jersey – 1 p.m. (FOX)
Michigan at New Orleans – 4 p.m. (FOX)


Saturday, June 10
Michigan at Pittsburgh – 12 p.m. (FOX)
New Orleans at Memphis – 3 p.m. (NBC and Peacock)

Sunday, June 11
Birmingham at Houston – 2 p.m. (NBC and Peacock)
Philadelphia at New Jersey – 7 p.m. (FOX)


Saturday, June 17
Pittsburgh at New Jersey – 1 p.m. (USA and Peacock)
Birmingham at Memphis – 4 p.m. (FOX)

Sunday, June 18
New Orleans at Houston – 4 p.m. (FS1)
Philadelphia at Michigan – 7 p.m. (FOX)

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