Bo Scarbrough leads Stallions with talent, winning mentality
By RJ Young
FOX Sports Writer
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Bo Scarbrough sat to the right of Birmingham Stallions coach Skip Holtz in the media conference room at Protective Stadium.
As his teammate, safety JoJo Tillery, plopped down to Holtz’s left, Scarbrough tried to move the microphone in front of his face. First, Scarbrough pivoted the mic up, then down, until it fumbled off its stand and onto the table with a loud thud, punctuated by the speaker system’s boom.
Holtz looked Scarbrough up and down and then back out to the media.
"I’m just glad that it wasn't a football," he said.
Scarbrough, like me, chuckled. The Stallions have room to laugh, room to enjoy themselves in the United States Football League.
Following their league-leading sixth consecutive win, Birmingham can secure a spot in the playoffs with a victory against the Pittsburgh Maulers on Sunday (2 p.m. ET on FOX) with three weeks left to spare.
In their win against the Michigan Panthers last Saturday night, the Stallions played without their best rusher so far this season, tailback CJ Marable. Instead, they leaned on Scarbrough, and he held them up with 16 rushes for 105 yards.
But that was merely on the field.
Since joining the Stallions at the midway point of the season, Scarbrough has assumed a leadership position, one Holtz and Tillery were adamant they wanted him to possess. When he speaks, the team listens.
Holtz gave evidence of that.
"I thought the talk that he gave (Saturday) morning at the team meeting was real," Holtz said. "It was real. And I'm gonna leave it at that — that's privy to the people that are on this football team that deserved to hear it. That was impressive. This guy's a real deal, and glad he's part of our team."
He almost was not a part of Holtz’s football team, though. For the first five weeks of the season, USFL teams could carry just 45 players on their rosters and just 38 on game days.
Coaches across the league have had to be judicious about how they chose to organize their depth charts. Following Week 1, New Jersey Generals coach Mike Riley decided not to carry former All-Big Ten and Ohio State running back Mike Weber because his offense depended so much on the versatility of its tight ends.
He’s carried three tight ends and just two running backs for most of the season for that reason.
Holtz had a similar issue that had prevented him from selecting and signing one of the best tailbacks the state of Alabama has produced in the last two decades.
Then, following Week 1, Holtz had to hold off on picking up Scarbrough midseason because he lost his starting quarterback to an injury.
"When Alex McGough went down, that cost me a move because I had to bring back a quarterback in here," Holtz said. "So, you're scared to death to use a draft pick because what if somebody gets hurt? I can't just use them to make my team better because I got to use them where I have to have them from an injury standpoint."
"About a week (after McGough’s injury)," Holtz said, "they [the USFL] said we're gonna give everybody three extra picks."
"When does that start?" Holtz asked.
"We pick Bo — I want Bo Scarbrough."
And Scarbrough came running.
Most folks can immediately see how physically impressive Scarbrough is. But he also came with a winning pedigree, having played college football just down the road at Alabama on two College Football Playoff national title teams for Nick Saban.
It’s in Tuscaloosa where Scarbrough learned perhaps the most valuable lesson Saban taught him.
"Doing the right thing when you're supposed to do it, where you’re supposed to do it, how you're supposed to do it," Scarbrough said. "And those things have stuck with me from Day 1."
At Alabama, Scarbrough averaged better than six yards per carry, scored 20 touchdowns and became an upperclassmen leader in a backfield that featured future first-round draft picks Najee Harris and Josh Jacobs.
As good as those numbers are, it’s his work ethic and humble nature that have made him one of the Stallions’ leaders. Scarbrough shared a backfield with Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake and Damien Harris as a freshman at Bama, but he didn’t pout or ask for carries.
Instead, he chose to believe his running backs coach, Burton Burns, who told each of his players that their time would come and their job as players was to stay ready. So, while some folks might bide their time in the restroom perusing Twitter, Instagram or responding to texts, Scarbrough was staying ready.
"If I was at home, sitting on the toilet," Scarbrough said, "I'd have my plays taped to the back of the door. … You sit on the toilet and look at your phone, right? So why can’t you tape the plays to the door and look at it like a text message?"
He’s carried that work ethic with him into his professional life. Stallions running backs coach Larry Kirksey has coached Scarbrough on everything from his footwork when hitting the hole to where his hands should be when he’s pass-blocking for the quarterback.
In the locker room, his name and reputation ring out, and his peers have demonstrated they will follow his example.
"You have to lead by example," Scarbrough said. "When you lead by example, then you get guys to buy in. But if you talk and talk and talk and don't show the guys how it's supposed to be done, then the team is not gonna be together.
"But if you lead the team by example and showing the way, what it takes, what it’s gonna take to win, the guys buy in. Then everybody starts looking like ‘Wow, he's right, this is what we need to do. This is how we're going to win.’"
If nothing else, the Stallions know how to do just that.
RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The No. 1 Ranked Show with RJ Young." Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young, and subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube. He is not on a StepMill.