United States Football League
Michigan Panthers' Frank Ginda named USFL Defensive Player of the Year
United States Football League

Michigan Panthers' Frank Ginda named USFL Defensive Player of the Year

Updated Jun. 28, 2023 9:18 a.m. ET

Frank Ginda had an epiphany while training for the upcoming USFL season last year.

Perhaps the Michigan Panthers linebacker should shed a few pounds to better track ball carriers from sideline to sideline. The San Jose State product regularly played at 240 pounds throughout his professional career on his 6-foot frame. However, to play faster and ultimately get another shot at the NFL, Ginda dropped almost 20 pounds.

That move paid off, as Ginda led the league in tackles and earned defensive player of the week honors four times on his way to making the All-USFL team.

And you can add another award to Ginda’s mantle, as he was named USFL Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday.


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"The biggest thing for me was I dropped a lot more weight than I ever played at, probably since high school," Ginda told FOX Sports. "So, I can move even faster and more efficient. When you watch the film from last year and all these years I’ve been playing football, I’ve been playing at 240 pounds or so. And I fly to the ball. I’m all over the place. But I think this year I’m at 223 pounds right now. So, I’m in the low 220s and when you look at me running on tape, I’m jumping off the screen now. I’m moving. I think that’s been the biggest thing for me this year, just focusing on my physique and my body, and being able to fly around.

"The football instincts have always been there. The knowledge of the game and understanding a playbook is all there. I think the biggest thing for me taking that next step was to get lighter, get faster and being able to play at what football is now, and that’s all about being able to get sideline-to-sideline in the passing game and the running game."

Ginda led the league in tackles with 104. He also finished with three interceptions and a sack. Ginda tied a modern USFL record during Week 6 when he recorded 18 tackles against the Birmingham Stallions. He concluded 2023 with an impressive performance against Pittsburgh in the North Division Championship, as he led both teams with 11 tackles during an overtime shootout loss to the Pittsburgh Maulers.

Ginda was second in the USFL with 90 combined tackles in 2022.

Ginda’s teammate Breeland Speaks led the USFL in sacks with nine and was also in the conversation for the award, along with Maulers linebacker Kyahva Tezino.

Ginda and Sparks served as catalysts for a defense that led the league in forced fumbles with eight and had 19 takeaways on the year.

Ginda signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie out of San Jose State in 2018. He also had stints with the Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints. Now that the 26-year-old has been out of the NFL for a few years, Ginda is hopeful his impressive performance this season will lead to a pathway back to the league.

"I’m just trying to do anything I can to get my foot in the door," Ginda said. "Because I know if I get my foot in the door, I’m going to kick it in. And I’m going to stay. 

"So, I’m just trying to do anything I can because I’m coming up to the end of my football career. And these leagues are great and everything, but me personally I know I can play in the NFL. I know I’m good enough. I’d be an awesome backup. I’m great on special teams. I’ve just got to get there. I’m just hoping that all of this leads to something. I think I’ve had a good, two-year résumé here in the USFL." 

Ginda said he also benefited from reuniting with new Panthers head coach Mike Nolan, who served as his linebackers coach when he was with New Orleans. Nolan helped turn around a Michigan team that finished 2-8 last season, leading them to the playoffs and a spot in the USFL North championship game.

"He’s just a very big football guru," Ginda said about Nolan. "It doesn’t matter if it’s Alex Anzalone at the time, or Kiko Alonzo or Demario Davis. Or if you were an undrafted free agent or just a free agent trying to make the team, he coached you hard. He coached you the same. He told you where you did great, and where you did poorly — it didn’t matter who you were.

"He still does that today. He holds everyone accountable, and I think our team and defense is built around that. Guys are playing at a very high level, just because his coaching is awesome." 

Eric D. Williams is an NFL writer for FOX Sports. He has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @eric_d_williams.


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