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New Orleans Saints Flashback: Saints Select Three In USFL Supplemental Draft

Photo Courtesy: Ronald Martinez/Allsport/Getty Images

 

 

In 1984, in an attempt to head off a bidding war in the league for the services of players from the USFL and CFL, the NFL held a supplemental draft.

The three-round draft, consisting of 224 players, was for college seniors who would have been eligible for the 1984 NFL Draft, but had already signed with USFL or CFL teams.

84 players were selected, including 76 from the USFL, and 8 from the CFL.

With the top pick, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Los Angeles Express quarterback Steve Young, before the Houston Oilers selected Pittsburgh Maulers running back Mike Rozier with the second pick.

Young went on to have an NFL Hall of Fame career with the San Francisco 49ers, joining Express guard Gary Zimmerman, who was selected by the New York Giants with the third pick, and Memphis Showboats defensive end Reggie White, who was take fourth by the Philadelphia Eagles, as three future Hall of Famers selected with the top four picks of the draft.

The New Orleans Saints, like all 28 of the NFL teams at the time, had three picks in the supplemental draft, and wound up taking a linebacker who became part of one of the more successful units of all-time, a running back/return man who had a long career, and a linebacker who never played for the team.

In the first round of the supplemental draft, with the 15th-overall pick, the Saints selected Jacksonville Bulls linebacker Vaughn Johnson.

Johnson, who played his college football at North Carolina St,. became part of the “Dome Patrol” linebacking unit with the Saints, along with Pat Swilling, Rickey Jackson, and Sam Mills.

In eight seasons with New Orleans, Johnson was a four-time Pro Bowler, from 1989-1992, and accumulated 664 tackles from his middle linebacker spot.

In 2011, Johnson was selected to the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame.

In the second round of the supplemental draft, with the 42nd pick overall, the Saints selected Express running back Mel Gray.

Gray, who played his college football at Purdue, spent three years with the Saints, from 1986-1988, where he became a return specialist, averaging 13.4 yards per punt return, and 23.4 yards per kick-off return.

After leaving the Saints in 1989, Gray went on to have very productive years with the Detroit Lions, Houston Oilers, Tennessee Titans, and Philadelphia Eagles as a return man, compiling 2,753 punt return yards, and 10,250 kick return yards over 13 NFL seasons.

With their final pick of the supplemental draft, in the third round, with the 69th-overall pick, the Saints selected Showboats linebacker Steve Dearden.

Dearden, who played his college football at Vanderbilt, never played for the Saints.

What was interesting about the supplemental draft was that NFL teams refused to select to pick USFL players from the same city, meaning that the Saints would not take a player from the New Orleans Breakers, such as running back Buford Jordan, who actually did wind up playing for the Saints.

The Express had the most players selected from any USFL team, with 20, while the San Antonio Gunslingers were the only team not to have a single player taken.

 

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