United Football League
Stallions' Adrian Martinez headlines RJ Young's UFL postseason awards
United Football League

Stallions' Adrian Martinez headlines RJ Young's UFL postseason awards

Published Jun. 4, 2024 12:04 p.m. ET

While the ultimate award for any UFL player is an invitation to NFL training camp and a chance to make an NFL roster this fall, earning individual recognition might urge scouts to turn on a player's film and give it more than just a casual glance.

That said, here are my picks for UFL postseason awards.

MVP and Offensive Player of the Year: Birmingham Stallions QB Adrian Martinez

Though he did not begin the year as the Stallions' starter, Martinez finished the season as one of just two players to throw for 300 yards or more and the only one to pass for more than 350 yards in a single game. He ends the 2024 season as the UFL’s leading rusher (528 yards) despite playing in an offense that is geared toward throwing the ball downfield. 


With his elite rushing and playmaking abilities, plus a quiet confidence in crunch-time situations, Martinez gave Birmingham the kind of edge it enjoyed with former USFL MVP Alex McGough. Martinez finished the regular season with more than 2,200 total yards and 18 touchdowns on a team that finished 9-1. The best player on the best team usually wins MVP and OPOY, and Martinez is hands down the best player on the best team in the UFL this year.

I recognize that the former USFL made a point of awarding OPOY to someone other than the MVP, which usually goes to an offensive player, and that could very well be the case this season. While there are some — AJ McCarron, Hakeem Butler, Luis Perez, Julian Saylors — who could lay claim to it, I don’t hand out trophies here. I only tell you who is the best and how they became the best, and Martinez is the best player in the league — regardless of position.

Defensive Player of the Year: Michigan Panthers DE Breeland Speaks

The league leader in sacks for the second professional spring football season in a row, Speaks has notched 9.5 sacks playing all over the defensive front, to go along with 31 tackles. His 13.5 tackles for loss also leads the UFL this season.

A linchpin player for Mike Nolan’s defense, Speaks has been one of the Panthers' unquestioned leaders. When Speaks is at full tilt, he allows players like Garrett Marino and Javin White to take advantage of being left in 1-on-1 pass rush situations and a clean look for defensive backs like Kai Nacua in the backfield.

He has excelled in the pass rush all year, and he’s needed without talisman Frank Ginda on the field. Without Speaks, it’s difficult to say if the Panthers would be as defensively strong, not just in the USFL Conference but across the league.

Special Teams Player of the Year: Panthers kicker Jake Bates

Bates thundered onto the UFL season with a 64-yard field goal to help the Panthers defeat reigning XFL champion St. Louis earlier this season. That's just 2 yards off the NFL record, and no one doubts Bates has the leg to hit from 70. 

He has multiple makes of 60 yards or more and has set the standard that kickers have been measured against in the UFL for most of the year.

Only Battlehawks kicker and former Lou Groza Award winner Andre Szmyt has made more field goals (19) than Bates (17) and has a make of 60 yards or longer. Bates’ ability to kick the ball deep in a league where kickers must do so from the 10-yard line on kickoffs is the reason he made the Panthers' 2024 team. His talent as a place kicker at the professional level was discovered only this season, and he’s likely going to earn an invitation to an NFL training camp because of that talent.

The dream here is for Bates to pick up where former Stallions kicker Brandon Aubrey left off — with a chance to make an NFL roster and a name for himself at the highest level of football.

Coach of the Year: Stallions HC Skip Holtz

Without question, no one has done a better job coaching in the modern era of professional spring football than Holtz. From the moment he began coaching at Protective Stadium, he and the Stallions have set the standard for excellence.

Holtz has now won his third consecutive regular-season title and is two games away from winning a third straight spring football title. Birmingham began the season 8-0 — riding a 15-game, 379-day winning streak — and lost just once in 2024.

With the USFL-XFL merger, there was some question as to which legacy spring league might separate itself as the better league. The Stallions have shown what it means to be great in the most talented pro spring league of the 21st century.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The Number One College Football Show." Follow him at @RJ_Young and subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube.

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