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How USFL Stallions Won a Championship and a City

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The Stallions and their fans showed love during Sunday’s victory parade in downtown Birmingham. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)

By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.

For The Birmingham Times

Teri Henning sat in downtown Linn Park Sunday afternoon with her husband Ron, waiting for the arrival of the Birmingham Stallions championship parade. The Mount Olive woman wore a 2022 USFL championship shirt and acknowledged she’ll be updating her wardrobe with this year’s model.

Her husband just couldn’t wait.

“He’s already ordered his last night,” she said. “He’s impatient. I’m patient.”

Patience was rewarded Sunday afternoon as Stallions fans finally got to salute their team that has now twice conquered the United States Football League.

This time, the Stallions wouldn’t just gallop off into the sunset of a championship season.

This time, their city made sure it showed the team the love it deserves.

A victory parade that was a year in the waiting came to fruition Sunday afternoon as the champions of the United States Football League received two seasons worth of adoration from fans who didn’t let a summer shower rain on their parade.

The squad downed the Pittsburgh Maulers 28-12 Saturday at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. Less than 24 hours later, coaches and players paraded from their home field of Protective Stadium to City Hall to the delight of hundreds of fans who braved repeated rain.

The victory parade included players, music, cheerleaders, fans and even some riding stallion horses.

Quick Turnaround

It was a long time coming.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin said the city never got a chance to cheer for its champs last year after they beat the Philadelphia Stars for the 2022 crown.

Referring to the quick turnaround from Saturday night’s victory and Sunday’s parade, Woodfin said, “We couldn’t do this last year because [the players and staff] came back to town and left right away,” Woodfin said of the Stallions. “We wanted to make sure we catch y’all before you left [to say] ‘Congratulations. Back-to-back champions USFL Birmingham Stallions. Giddy up!’”

On Sunday, as the motorcade reached its end, fans broke into a chant – “back-to-back!” “back-to-back!” That chant was interrupted by an occasional “MVP!” “MVP!” for quarterback Alex McGough, the league’s most valuable player who posed for selfies with fans and the championship trophy.

Just like the Maulers couldn’t stop the Stallions on Saturday night neither could the rain on Sunday.

Gene Hallman’s newly named company, Eventive Sports, was in charge of marketing and game day operations for the USFL’s Birmingham hub and the Stallions. Sunday, he put the bow on a celebration, tacking a new nickname on the Magic City — “Birmingham, City of Champions.”

As off-and-on rain fell, Mayor Randall Woodfin expressed the sentiments of the fans.

“Rain don’t stop the show, right? Rain don’t stop the show.”

Making Sunday’s celebration happen was no small feat.

“It was great that we were able to get it done, on the charter flight back to Birmingham and everybody who came (together) to make this happen,” said head coach Skip Holtz. “To the mayor and everybody, I’m very grateful.”

McGough returned the love the fans heaped on him and his teammates.

“We appreciate you guys from the support you’ve shown on the road but most importantly at home,” he said. “We feel you guys have got our backs. We play for y’all because you guys show us the support and we love doing stuff like this. We really appreciate you guys and love you so much. 205 Baby!”

“Dynasty in Birmingham”

Dana Lackey of Hoover and his mother Suzzanne were among the people who stood in line to take a picture with the championship trophy and Stallions mascot Stanley. A week before, Lackey braved the heat to root the home team to victory in the semifinal game.

“But probably, if there’s nothing to lure me downtown, I’d probably stay in Hoover on a Sunday,” he said, admitting that the Stallions have reeled him in.

“It’s amazing,” he added. said. “As soon as we got Protective Stadium, it’s been wonderful ever since. Having the bubble season where we got to host all the regular season games last year was cool and being champions at the end of that was great. This just built on it ever so much more. We’ve got a dynasty in Birmingham, baby! Woohoo!”

Calera’s DeMarcus Rudolph and his fiancé Ronada Radford had been watching the televised championship game Saturday night. As soon as it ended, he got an email alerting him of the parade.

“We figured we’ll spend Sunday in downtown so we can come watch the parade,” he said. “We’ve been to pretty much every game that we can when we don’t have to work, or go to church.”

The couple was at church Sunday morning. The service ended after noon, yielding plenty of time to join the festivities.

“I would hope Birmingham would be smart and keep (the Stallions),” said Rudolph, who coaches football at Tuscaloosa’s Northridge High School. “It’s something good to go to. When (the University of Alabama) football season’s over  football fans need something to watch. They can just drive up (from Tuscaloosa) and watch the game. I’m pretty sure it brings some good money.”

Johnny Watkins of Ensley was at Sunday’s celebration with his wife Lori. “We’ve got a hell of a coach and a hell of a quarterback, and a hell of a team,” he said. “Just let (McGough) be him. You never know what you might see.”

McGough is known throughout the league as a free spirit but he was tempered when asked about a possible third straight Stallions championship. “I hope so,” he said.

Holtz was more assertive.

“I sent a text to somebody this morning who was still in bed about 6:30,” he recalled. “I said, 2024 starts today. If we’re going to three-peat, we’ve got to get on it now.”