CANTON, Ohio,June 27, 2023 – The USFL announced today that Memphis Showboats kick returner and wide receiver Derrick Dillon is the 2023 Special Teams Player of the Year.
Competing in his second USFL season, Dillon led the league with 1,109 all-purpose yards and in kick returns (minimum 10) with a 32.8-yard average. But it was one specific USFL special teams play by Dillon in 2023 that cemented his place in the football record books.
During Week 6 action on May 20, Pittsburgh Maulers kicker Chris Blewitt attempted a 59-yard field goal just before halftime. Blewitt’s kick was wide to the right. Described as “masterful” by NBC Sports commentators Jac Collinsworth and Cam Jordan, Dillon tip-toed along the back endzone and reached up to catch the errant kick for a chance at a return. He broke away from three would-be tacklers, and with elite speed, returned it 109-yards for a “Kick-6,” the rarest play in football. The Showboats touchdown set a new USFL mark and tied the American professional football record for the longest return in the history of the sport. One of the USFL’s “Final Four” top plays of the year currently being voted on by the fans, Dillon’s historic performance propelled the Showboats to 22-0 victory over the Maulers.
A former LSU star, Dillon’s record play joins some elite company – the NFL’s Antonio Cromartie, Cordarrelle Patterson, and Jamal Agnew are the only other players in American professional football history with the unbreakable record of a 109-yard return.
Derrick Dillon was one of the most dynamic playmakers in the USFL this season and we’re proud to honor him as the 2023 Special Teams Player of the Year,” said Daryl Johnston, President of Football Operations.. “His 109-yard and 35-inch ‘Kick-6’ return is one of the greatest plays in professional football history.”
After being named USFL Week 6 Special Teams Player of the Week, Dillon again grabbed the spotlight on June 17 by returning the opening kickoff from the Birmingham Stallions for a 90-yard touchdown. Despite Dillon’s heroics, the Showboats lost the game 27-20, and were eliminated from playoff contention.
During its inaugural season last year, the USFL brought back the excitement of traditional kickoff returns while also creating player positioning rules to minimize high-speed collisions. Kicking off from the 25-yard line in 2022, the USFL had an 81-percent return rate. In this 2023 season, the USFL moved the kickoff spot back five yards to the 20-yard line. The result increased returns to 90 percent, and provided fans with more exciting plays while still maintaining player safety.
Our emphasis on the return game portion of special teams provides an opportunity for these explosive players to showcase their talents on the USFL stage,” explained Johnston. “We’re proud to give electric players this opportunity like last year’s USFL MVP KaVontae Turpin who is now with the Dallas Cowboys, and All-USFL returner Maurice Alexander Jr. who is now with the Detroit Lions. Whether its Derrick Dillon, Eli Stove from the New Orleans Breakers, Terry Wright from the Philadelphia Stars, Cam Echols-Luper from the New Jersey Generals, Anthony Ratliff-Williams from the Houston Gamblers, Marcus Simms with the Michigan Panthers, or the Pittsburgh Maulers’ Josh Simmons and Birmingham Stallions’ Deon Cain in the upcoming Championship Game, the USFL will always provide these exciting wide receivers the best chance to shine in front of football fans.”
Simmons and Cain are expected to return kickoffs in the USFL Championship Game on July 1 that begins at 8:00 PM ET. NBC and Peacock will present Saturday’s Maulers vs. Stallions matchup with Collinsworth (play-by-play), Jason Garrett (analyst), and Zora Stephenson (sideline reporter) on the call.
About the United States Football League (USFL):
Fast, physical, and fun, the USFL is a fan-first, stand-alone professional spring football league. Run by experienced football leaders, the USFL kicked-off April 15, 2023, becoming the first nationally televised spring league in 38 years to begin a second season. FOX Sports and NBC Sports are official media partners, presenting all 43 regular- and postseason games for the eight-team league that plays in Canton, Ohio, Birmingham, Ala., Memphis, Tenn, and Detroit. Former NFL Dallas Cowboys player and current FOX NFL analyst Daryl Johnston is President of Football Operations. Former NFL Vice President of Officiating and current FOX NFL analyst Mike Pereira is Head of Officiating. “United By Football,” USFL fans can find scheduling and ticketing information at theUSFL.com and follow on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.