The UFL Memphis Showboats kick off their inaugural season with John DeFilippo as their head coach on March 31 against the Houston Roughnecks. DeFilippo brings a wealth of NFL and USFL coaching experience to the team. Before coaching the USFL New Orleans Breakers, he was an offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns, and most recently, the Chicago Bears.

A Winning Coach

Perhaps even more impressive, DeFilippo was the quarterback coach for several NFL teams and mentored some of the league’s top quarterbacks at the height of their success. DeFilippo was the Philadelphia Eagles QB coach during their 2017 Super Bowl-winning season when Quarterback Carson Wentz set a franchise record with 33 touchdowns in a single season. Nick Foles took over as quarterback after Wentz suffered a torn ACL in week 14, and under DeFilippo’s coaching, Foles led the team to three postseason playoff victories and was subsequently named the Super Bowl MVP.  

DeFilippo has a talent for bringing out the best in his quarterbacks. In addition to Wentz and Foles, he coached Gardner Minshew in Jacksonville during his rookie season when he became a candidate for the 2019 Rookie of the Year. DeFilippo was also Kirk Cousins quarterback coach in Minnesota at a time when Cousins was breaking league records, passing for more than 4000 yards, and completing 70% of his passes. 

A Talented Quarterback

Now, coaching the Showboats, DeFilippo has an opportunity to produce similar results with talented quarterback Case Cookus, acquired by the team during the January 2024 dispersal draft. Cookus, a veteran of several NFL teams, including the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Rams, led the USFL Championship Philadelphia Stars in 2022. Cookus holds the record with five total TD’s for the most combined passing and rushing touchdowns in a single USFL game.

Despite battling previous injuries, Cookus has the talent and ability to propel the team to a winning season. It will be interesting to see what he and DeFilippo can accomplish together.  

Key Offensive Players  

In addition to Cookus, another promising talent acquired in the January 5, 2024 dispersal draft is running back Darius Victor. Voted the USFL 2022 Offensive Player of the Year when he played for the New Jersey Generals, Victor brings a steady and reliable presence to the Showboat’s running game. In addition to catching the ball, Victor can also throw a touchdown pass as evidenced by the Generals week 9 victory over the Philadelphia Stars in 2023.

A Liberian native, Victor played football at Towson University where he was named the CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year. After a brief stint in the NFL with the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals, Victor was successful with the Generals and named to the All-USFL team in 2022. 

Wide Receiver, Vinny Papale is the son of legendary Philadelphia Eagles WR Vince Papale, whose life story inspired the Disney movie, “Invincible” starring Mark Wahlberg. After briefly playing for the Showboats in 2022 and being named to the All-USFL team as a special teams player, the younger Papaple was signed to the New Orleans Breakers the following season. Now, in his second stint with the Showboats, Papale has been reunited with his former head coach and looks to have a promising season as both a wide receiver and punt returner. 

Offensive Linebacker, Vontae Diggs is another former New Orleans Breakers player and a proven leader. After playing college football at the University of Connecticut, he played in the Canadian Football League before signing with the Breakers in 2022. 

As a result of the XFL/ USFL merger, the Showboats acquired several of the New Orleans Breakers players including Vontae Diggs, punter Matt White, and WRs Vinny Papale and Dee Anderson as part of the dispersal draft. Armed with a roster of talented players DeFilippo previously coached, who are already familiar with his coaching style, could be an advantage that will set the Memphis Showboats up for a winning season.  

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Sue Levine
Sue Levine spent the past five years creating and producing a successful weekly health and wellness podcast starring a wonderful iconic woman as the program host. As part of Sue's responsibilities, she scripted every episode and discovered a genuine love of writing. When the podcast ended late last year, she shifted the focus of her writing to covering pro sports. A passionate fan of NFL and UFL football as well as fantasy, she is delighted to be able to share her articles with other football fans.

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