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Former Packer Jace Sternberger ends USFL campaign with a ring

Green Bay’s former third-round pick was the USFL’s most prolific tight end in 2023.

2023 USFL Championship Game Photo by Andy Lyons/USFL/Getty Images for USFL

It’s been a long road for tight end Jace Sternberger. After spending time at three different programs during his college years, the former third-round pick by the Green Bay Packers would go on to serve a suspension for a substance abuse violation in 2021 — which eventually led to his release from the Packers. Sternberger resurfaced with the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL this season and made the most of his opportunity.

On Saturday, those same Stallions beat the Pittsburgh Maulers by a score of 28-12 in the USFL title game at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio — the same stadium that hosts the Hall of Fame Game which kicks off the NFL’s preseason. The Stallions have now won back-to-back championships in the two seasons since the USFL has relaunched.

Sternberger ended his 2023 campaign as easily the most prolific tight end in the league. Between the regular season and postseason, the former Texas A&M product registered 644 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns. The receiving touchdowns mark led the entire league. Only two USFL players, both receivers, had more receiving yards than Sternberger: his teammate Davion Davis and former NFL first-round pick Corey Coleman.

The only other “tight end” in Sternberger’s ballpark was New Orleans’ Sage Surratt, a converted receiver who plays more of a hybrid role than Sternberger’s true tight end position. Surratt had 602 total receiving yards over the regular season and postseason but only registered two touchdowns. Both Surratt and Sternberger are expected to get camp looks from NFL teams this summer after their performances in the USFL.

Another USFL player to highlight, from a Packers perspective, is Birmingham quarterback Alex McGough. Green Bay is thin at the quarterback position, with fifth-round pick Sean Clifford and Danny Etling fighting for the QB2 spot behind Jordan Love. Neither Clifford nor Etling have started a professional football game and Green Bay is cap-strapped, meaning that if the Packers want some experience in their quarterback room for Love’s first rodeo, the team might have to get it from the USFL talent pool.

McGough, a former NFL draft pick, replaced 2022 Stallions starting quarterback J’Mar Smith early in 2023 after Smith was placed on the injured reserve in April. McGough wound up starting nine of ten games for Birmingham and completed 180-of-267 passes for 2,104 yards, 20 passing touchdowns and five interceptions — good enough for the regular season USFL MVP award.

In the postseason, McGough went supernova as he completed 39-of-56 passes for 552 yards (9.9 yards per attempt) for eight passing touchdowns and zero interceptions. For perspective, the rest of the league combined only posted five total passing touchdowns during the playoffs.

Keep an eye on both where Sternberger and the Johnny Manziel-like McGough end up this summer, as they’re prime candidates to go from spring league stars to NFL contributors.