On July 3, 2022, another Alabama football player will be playing for a championship.
It's not the College Football Playoff or the Super Bowl, nor is it the European League of Football title game. No, this Sunday marks the inaugural USFL Championship Game, where former Crimson Tide running back Bo Scarbrough is representing the favorite to win the game in the Birmingham Stallions.
When asked this past Monday about the upcoming game, Scarbrough gave an answer that Alabama fans would expect to hear from a player that was coached by Nick Saban.
“We treat this game like it’s a normal game,” Scarbrough said. “It’s no different from another game. We prepare the same way: we got to execute the plays. This is nothing different than any other game. It’s just another game, just on a bigger stage and we just have to go out and execute and play the game the way it need to be played.”
Scarbrough's contributions to the Stallions' season goes far further than simply a rusher on the gridiron. While Birmingham wanted a tough running back that would bowl people over at the drop of a hat, they got that and a whole lot more.
When asking fellow players and coaches about Scarbrough, the first thing that they mention isn't his playing ability. It's not his rushing yards or his other contributions between the hashmarks. Rather, it's his abilities as a leader and his 'never quit' mentality.
You can also ask his mother, Donetris Scarbrough.
“He’s always been a leader so that’s nothing new to me,” Donetris said. “He’s always a leader everywhere he goes."
As Alabama fans know, Bo played football for Saban and Alabama from 2015-18. In his freshman season, he rushed 18 times for 104 yards and a touchdown. His sophomore season saw much more success, with Bo rushing for 812 yards on 125 attempts and 11 touchdowns as the Crimson Tide's second-string running back behind Damien Harris.
While Bo contributed heavily to Alabama's success, he was never given the chance to fully flourish. In his freshman season, he was behind Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake and Harris. His sophomore year, he played second fiddle to Harris one again, with freshman Josh Jacobs also garnering carries. In 2017 — the season that saw Alabama down Georgia in the CFP title game — Bo was with Damien and Najee Harris alongside Jacobs to form a stacked running back room.
Despite all of the competition, Bo never gave up on giving his all to the position. In his junior season, he rushed for 596 yards on 124 carries and recorded eight touchdowns. After the conclusion of the season, Bo decided it was time to move on to professional football.
All throughout his high school and college career, Bo was praised for his mentality and leadership. Despite and up-and-down career with the Crimson Tide, Bo kept his head held high and strode forward, not letting competition on the Alabama roster keep him from contributing to his team.
His mentality was noticed by many people, including then-Louisiana Tech head coach and current Stallions head coach, Skip Holtz.
“As a person, I think his value and his contribution goes way deeper than just as a player," Holtz said. He comes from a program that’s used to winning. He comes from a program — I’ve talked a lot about the three stages a football team goes through. That A, you have to learn how to compete. B, you have to learn what it takes to win. But C, you need to learn how to handle winning, and that is the process of what this team has gone through.
"We have learned how to handle winning, how to wear a bullseye on your chest as a team with the record that we’ve had where everybody was shooting after us being the home team and, at that time, being the undefeated team."
Bo's professional football career path has certainly been a winding one. After three seasons with Alabama, Bo was taken in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys at the 236th overall pick.
“I was excited for him to make it to the NFL,” Donetris said. “Even for him to be drafted was a blessing because many people didn’t even get that chance. For him just to get drafted, I was excited for him that he did get a chance to play in the NFL. It just was cut short, but other than that I was just excited for him.”
That excitement was short-lived. With the Cowboys, Bo was released in September of that same year after the team opted to only keep two running backs on its roster. From there, he bounced from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Seattle Seahawks, spending time on both teams' practice squads before being cut once again.
On Nov. 6, 2019, Bo was signed by the Detroit Lions, where he managed to pick up his first action on the field. That season, he appeared in six games and started in five, rushing for 337 yards and one lone touchdown. In 2020, however, he was cut by the Lions in order to make room on the roster for freshly-acquired Adrian Peterson.
From there, Bo was once again signed by the Seahawks in November, but was cut in early 2021. His final NFL team was the Las Vegas Raiders, but he was cut 10 days after being initially signed.
With Bo's career in the NFL having come to a close, he was sent back to the drawing board. With the advent of a new league, the USFL, Bo was hopeful that be would be drafted so that he could continue his professional career. However, the March 10, 2022 draft came and went without him hearing his name called.
Disappointed, Bo still didn't give up. The Birmingham Stallions had been very interested in drafting the local hero, but had simply been limited at the running back position after taking both C.J. Marable and Tony Brooks-James as their primary backs.
On May 9, the USFL opted to expand the league teams' roster sizes from 45 players to 50, and Holtz knew exactly who he wanted on his team.
"When the league made the announcement that they were gonna enlarge the rosters about midseason — I think it was after the fourth game — they enlarged it from 45 to 50 and I said ‘When will that go into effect?’" Holtz recalled. "They said ‘Well, it’s effective immediately for the free agencies, but we’re gonna have to wait until Monday for the draft.’ And I said ‘So that goes into effect now?’ and he said yes, and I said ‘Then I want to select Bo Scarbrough right now for the Stallions of Birmingham, that’s who we want.’ And so we got him off the free agent wire at that time."
From there, Bo's dream of actively contributing to the success of a professional football team was realized. In the USFL's inaugural season in 2021, Bo has to date played in six games and has started in five of them — the same number that he contributed with the Detroit Lions. On 84 carries, Bo has rushed for 352 yards — an averaged of 4.2 yards per carry — and has one lone rushing touchdown.
Meanwhile, Donetris was excited to have her boy back within a 45-minute drive and leaped at the opportunity to do what she had done for him in college: meal prep.
“He was like ‘You gonna do my meal prep for me, Mama?’” Donetris laughed. “And I was like ‘I guess.’ I know there’s a lot of stuff he don’t eat, so I didn’t want him worried about trying to figure out what he was going to eat.”
With Bo back playing football in the state of Alabama and fueled by his mama's meals, fan numbers for Stallions games began to surge. Donning Alabama shirts and pulling old Scarbrough jerseys out of the closet, Crimson Tide fans began showing up to the games in droves to support their former running back.
Bo's mom took notice.
“A big crowd came to the games just to see Bo because they were really excited,” Donetris chuckled. “He has a big fan base, so once a lot of people heard that Bo Scarbrough from Alabama was playing with the Stallions, it made the crowd bigger. Alabama fans period, once they heard that Bo was in Birmingham playing for the Stallions, everybody had their gear on. They had on their Alabama gear, their Alabama jerseys and they were at the game.”
Thanks to the contributions of Bo, the Stallions finished the regular season with a 9-1 record, tying the New Jersey Generals with the best record in the league and clinching the South Division. Last weekend, the Stallions won their first-ever playoff game, downing the New Orleans Breakers 31-17.
Now, there's only one game standing in-between Bo and his first professional championship: the USFL title game vs the Philadelphia Stars this coming Sunday (6:30 p.m. CT, FOX).
Bo still has that one game standing in his way, but there's no doubt he'll give it his all to run through it. Giving up has never been the Scarbrough mentality, which is one of the driving forces behind why Bo was so highly recruited by the Crimson Tide.
That same 'never give up' mentality was also why the Stallions wanted him, with Holtz attributing Alabama head coach Nick Saban as to one of the molding factors of Bo.
"I think that Bo has just brought a sense of experience being with Coach Saban, and I don’t know that there’s a college program that has handled winning better than Alabama or done it on a more consistent basis," Holtz said. "Bo’s been a leader, he’s been vocal, he is respected amongst his teammates and even though he got onto the rollercoaster halfway down the hill four games into the season, he has quickly endeared himself to the hearts of these football players who I think have great respect for him.”
Sunday's game will likely not be the last we see of Bo on the gridiron, but even if it is, he has proven that he truly belongs on a professional football team's roster, regardless of his level of contribution. If a team needs a gritty, hard-nosed running back, then Bo will be there to give it his all.
Bo, like Holtz, also attributed Saban and his time at Alabama as to what has shaped his mindset as well his approach to this weekend's championship game.
“It’s just being around Coach Saban and the way how he does things and like I said, it’s just another game,” Scarbrough said. “If we’re at Alabama and we’re playing against LSU, it’s the same as if we’re playing against Georgia State. We prepared the same way because you can be beat by anybody. You don’t let up because of what’s the record of the team or the name of the team.
"There’s no difference from the first game and the championship game. It’s the same, it’s just on a bigger stage and we have to realize that and not get ahead of ourselves and try to make it as big as it is, which is only just another game to be played and won.”
And that type of leadership mentality is exactly why Bo has still never given up.