If there was one person who was symbolic of what the USFL stood for — it was Sam Mills.
Mills, at 5’9, was considered too short for the NFL. Teams didn’t have room on their roster for a linebacker that was a few books shy of six-feet tall.
Dave Lapham, who blocked against the Steel Curtain twice a year as a member of the Bengals, says, “Sam Mills, like Flutie was short, but he was 225 lbs, with a size 14 shoe, and you couldn’t knock him off his feet. You couldn’t get under his shoulders pads. You had to come off the line of scrimmage on your knee-caps to try and get leverage; football is all about leverage. Sam proved he could separate from blocks and make big plays.”
Mills went to five Pro Bowls as a member of the Saints, leading the organization to the playoffs four times in his nine years in New Orleans, and once with the Panthers.
Teammates Pat Swilling and another former USFLer Vaughan Johnson became known as the “Dome Patrol” of the Saints defense. The trio knocked around opposing running backs from 1986 through 1992, when Pat Swilling signed with Detroit. In ’93 Johnson bolted to the Eagles and Mills finally moved to the expansion Carolina Panthers in after the ’94 season.