The USFL - The Rebel League
Bobby Hebert was known as the “Cajun Cannon” when he came to the USFL’s Michigan Panthers in 1983. “I remember there were 13 quarterbacks when I came to training camp in Daytona Beach, Fla.,” he says. “They would bring in bus loads of people to tryout for the team. They didn’t have enough helmets to accommodate all the players in training camp. Some players put on a helmet without a facemask.”
The Panthers were one of the league’s most popular teams -- they even rivaled the Lions for fan support, drawing more than 60,000 in a playoff game against the Oakland Invaders in 1983. Attendance jumped to 32,000 for the ’84 season as the team challenged the Lions for headlines in the Detroit papers.
Hebert led Panthers to ’83 championship win
Hebert remembers when the Panthers were the “Talk-of-the-Town” in the city of Detroit. “We were a lot more popular than the Lions were,” he says. “We won the USFL Championship after Detroit not having a champion since the Bobby Layne days in the 1950s.”
Hebert threw 81 touchdowns in his three-year USFL career, and his favorite target was WR Anthony Carter. Carter caught 160 passes and 27 TD’s in his tenure in the USFL before displaying his elusive and acrobatic talents with the Vikings in the NFL. His most productive USFL season was in Oakland in 1985 with 70 receptions for more than 1,320 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Hebert, with a confident tone in his voice, says, “I think we would have been in the top 14 of the NFL if we [Panthers] played them. We didn't have the depth as the NFL, but we had a good chance to win because the guys that started on the Panthers also started in the NFL later on.”
Hebert vs. Stars in ’83 USFL Championship
Hebert’s Panthers went on to win the first USFL against Jim Mora’s Stars, 24-22. Hebert connected with Carter for the game-clinching score on a 48-yard pass with 3:01 remaining to seal the win. Hebert won game MVP honors, and was also named the Sporting News Player of the Year award after throwing a league-best 27 touchdowns in 1983.