Combat Sports

MMA Prospect Reggie Northrup Turns to the Gridiron With USFL

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Over the past five weeks, football fans have gotten their fix of gridiron action through the rebooted USFL, an eight-team league owned by FOX Sports, originating in Birmingham, Alabama.

One man on the Houston Gamblers, who enter week six of the 10-week USFL season at 1-4, has ties with MMA.

Reggie Northrup (5-0 amateur MMA), a former collegiate linebacker at Florida State University between 2012 and 2015, never gained traction in the NFL upon leaving the Seminoles.

Reggie Northrup Shines at Florida State

Northrup, who secured unanimous third-team All-ACC honors in his junior year and led Florida State to the 2014 ACC Championship en route to an appearance in the Rose Bowl Game during the inaugural College Football Playoff, returned to the Seminoles for his senior season in 2015.

In his final season for Florida State, Northrup claimed second-team All-ACC honors from the press and third-team honors from the coaches.

Upon appearing in the 2016 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl the following January, the 2016 NFL Draft came and went, without Northrup being selected by any of the league’s 32 teams.

Northrup Signed By Two NFL Teams

During the 2016 NFL offseason, Northrup was signed by the Washington Commanders as an undrafted free agent on May 9 of that year, only to be cut by the team on May 16 and placed on waivers the next day.

That December, Northrup was signed to the Los Angeles Rams‘ practice squad and subsequently was inked to a reserve/futures deal in January of 2017.

However, he would not play a single NFL snap, as the Rams cut Reggie Northrup on June 20, 2017 and placed him on waivers a day later.

Next Stop: The CFL

Upon being cut and waived by the Rams, Reggie Northrup took his talents to the Canadian Football League (CFL) in the summer of 2017, being picked up by the Montreal Alouettes by late September as a member of the team’s practice squad, finally getting an opportunity to break through in professional football.

About one month after being signed to Montreal’s practice squad, he made his first ever professional appearance, making six tackles for the Alouettes in a 59-11 blowout defeat against the Calgary Stampeders.

“I’m ready to come here and work, no matter what the situation… the fact that we’re 3 and whatever,” Northrup said at the time. “I love the game and I love being out there. Do something you love and get paid for it. Why not give it your all?”

All told, Reggie Northrup would appear in four games and record 22 tackles for the Alouettes, making three starts before leaving Montreal and the CFL behind after the 2017 season.

Reggie Northrup Returns to Florida as Starter for Orlando Apollos

Upon leaving the CFL, Reggie Northrup’s football career resumed in 2019, when he joined the Orlando Apollos of the upstart Alliance of American Football.

After returning an interception for a touchdown in Orlando’s preseason scrimmage at the Alamodome, Northrup started in all eight games that the Apollos played in the 2019 AAF season, en route to Orlando, led by veteran head coach Steve Spurrier, compiling a league-best 7-1 record and clinching a home game on April 22, 2019 against the Birmingham Iron in the Eastern Conference Championship.

However, this playoff game would end up not being held, as Tom Dundon, then the CEO of the NHL‘s Carolina Hurricanes, elected to pull his funds from the AAF, forcing the league to suspend operations on April 2, 2019.

Northrup Sues League

Subsequently, all remaining AAF games were canceled and the league filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy just days before the playoff games were slated to have been held.

Reggie Northrup, who notched 35 solo tackles during eight games in the AAF’s one and only season, filed suit against the league, Dundon, and CEO Charlie Ebersol for fraud, breach of contract, and lost wages, among other charges, along with punter Colton Schmidt.

Although Northrup and Schmidt’s request for damages in bankruptcy court was initially approved in February of 2022, the suit was thrown out earlier this month.

Reggie Northrup Joins XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers and a Season is Canceled

After the AAF folded, Reggie Northrup was drafted by the XFL‘s Tampa Bay Vipers in the fourth round of phase three of the selection meeting in the fall of 2019, during which time players on the defensive front seven were chosen, with Northrup being the No. 32 selection of this phase.

Northrup appeared in five games for the Vipers, making one start, recording 12 solo tackles and one quarterback sack.

After week five of the 2020 XFL season, the Vipers were slated to play a home game against the St. Louis BattleHawks on Saturday, March 14.

However, earlier in the week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officially declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic, forcing the XFL to delay and then cancel the rest of its season, with Reggie Northrup putting his football career on hold for the time being.

Reggie Northrup’s MMA Career Begins

In late 2020, Northrup launched his MMA career in the amateur ranks as a light heavyweight against Mike Anderson, with Northrup wasting little time, securing a brilliant takedown and immediately going to work by landing some vicious ground and pound shots and grappling with Anderson.

Reggie Northrup was no match for Mike Anderson that night, as he was forced to submit to his strikes inside the first round.

Northrup Records First Career Submission and Runs Streak to Four Wins in a Row

A little less than three months after Northrup stopped Anderson in the first round, he returned against Josh Mercado, and he was taken deep into the fight.

Late in the third round, Northrup secured top mount and postured up to land ground and pound shots to soften Mercado up for a successful rear-naked choke submission to win the Combat Nights Amateur Light Heavyweight Championship.

Subsequent victories against Kevin Church and Dennis Kennedy, the latter coming in a bare-knuckle MMA fight, saw his record go to 4-0 in the sport.

Northrup Scores Knockout in Island Fights

Most recently in MMA, Reggie Northrup appeared during Island Fights 71 on Jan. 22 against Jay Mitchell, and again, he wasted very little time going to work, stunning Mitchell with a spinning back kick, following it up with a two-punch combo and a vicious right-handed shot to knock Mitchell down.

From there, Northrup landed a flurry of ground and pound shots to finish the knockout and run his amateur record to 5-0.

After the fight, Northrup declared his amateur MMA career over and had aspired to turn professional, but a month later, his football career restarted.

Houston Gamblers Select Reggie Northrup

In February of this year, the inaugural USFL Draft was held, and with the Houston Gamblers’ 21st-round pick, Northrup was chosen.

All told, Florida State saw three football alumni get drafted this year by the USFL, and Reggie Northrup made an immediate impact for the Gamblers.

Northrup Returns Fumble For a Touchdown in Week One

On April 17, in a game between the Gamblers and the Michigan Panthers that was delayed almost one hour by lightning in the vicinity of Protective Stadium in Birmingham, where most of the USFL’s regular season games are to be played, Reggie Northrup created some thunder and lightning of his own.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Panthers quarterback Shea Patterson fumbled the snap on second and goal, causing Northrup to race to the football and recover the fumble for a touchdown.

The Gamblers went onto win that game by a narrow 17-12 margin and Reggie Northrup was nominated for USFL Defensive Player of the Week for Week One.

Northrup Interviewed on USFL TV Show

Throughout the USFL season, FOX Sports has been airing a weekly docuseries chronicling the league’s teams and players, United by Football: A Season in the USFL, as lead-in programming to USFL game telecasts, with Reggie Northrup being profiled on its fourth episode.

“Coming up in high school, I wrestled, and then it was just straight football,” Northrup said. “But then, in 2020, the pandemic hit. Everything slowed down. I needed some excitement in my life, I needed an adrenaline rush, so I gave the MMA thing a shot and turned out to be a natural at that.”

Final Thoughts

Although Reggie Northrup mentioned in his interview that if he were given the option between joining the UFC or returning to the NFL, he’d choose the latter, he has the skills to make it big in Dana White‘s promotion one day.

He’s extremely adept at MMA, something that shows itself in the film of his past fights, landing extremely crisp punches to set himself up to score the knockout with ground and pound shots.

Whichever avenue Reggie Northrup elects to take in the future, he has the skillset to succeed, no doubt about it.

Featured image credit to Embed from Getty Images

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