McLeod Bethel-Thompson is trying to do something few starting quarterbacks have ever done: win multiple championships in less than a year. The Breakers quarterback, six months after leading the Toronto Argonauts to a Canadian Football League title, is hoping to win another title with the USFL's New Orleans Breakers.
Bethel-Thompson, 34, has played in five different professional football leagues that include stints with the NFL's Dolphins, 49ers, Vikings, Patriots and Eagles. He made his biggest mark in the CFL, where he won two CFL titles while winning numerous individual honors. But instead of adding to his legacy in the CFL, Bethel-Thompson chose to join the USFL this past season for several reasons.
"The next challenge," Bethel-Thompson recently told CBS Sports. "I probably could have played in the CFL the next six years and ended potentially with a Hall of Fame career if I wanted to. I just felt that chapter closing."
Thompson said the chance to be closer to his family -- especially his daughter -- was also one of his driving forces to change leagues. He's also hoping that playing in the USFL will increase his odds at getting one last shot at playing in the NFL.
"I still think I have an NFL opportunity," he said. "I played with those guys all the time andI know I can throw with them. So maybe there's one last opportunity to get in those camps and turn this career into something extra special here in the end.
"I look back, I didn't take full advantage of the opportunity. I was more talented than most of the other quarterbacks I was around, but I didn't take full advantage of that. … Hopefully, I get a second shot at that opportunity."
McLoud is also looking to make history in the USFL by winning another championship in less than a year. He helped the Breakers race out to a 4-0 start. New Orleans is currently 4-2 entering this weekend's game against the defending champion Birmingham Stallions.
While they've stubbed their toe the last two weeks, the Breakers are still in great shape to capture the USFL's South Division. A big reason why has been the play of Bethel-Thompson, who currently leads the USFL with 1,512 passing yards and is second with eight touchdown passes.
Bethel-Thompson's decision to go to New Orleans was largely inspired by Breakers coach John DeFilippo. The two worked together with the Eagles in 2016.
"I came here with Flip to win a championship," Bethel-Thompson said. "Anything else would be a failure. I don't know how many quarterbacks have won two championships in under a year. It would be cool to get that done. We're pushing and trying to get hot at the right time."
Decades earlier, Kurt Warner took the NFL by storm after an injury rushed him into the Rams' starting lineup during the 1999 preseason. Warner, who won league and Super Bowl MVP honors that season, said that playing in the Arena Football League contributed to his success with the Rams. Bethel-Thompson said similar things when asked about the benefits of playing in the CFL, where the field is larger and teams only have three downs to get a first down.
"The CFL is a pressure cooker," Bethel-Thompson said. "The throws are longer and more challenging at times. It's more of a fluid game; there's a lot moving pieces. Down here, coverages are pretty stagnant, so it's a little easier to see something. But there are other challenges down here like tighter windows. It's a different game, but I feel like the CFL taught me a lot and expanded my game in a lot of ways."
Ironically, Bethel-Thompson grew up a Steve McNair fan, the quarterback whom Warner's Rams edged out in one of the greatest Super Bowls ever. Bethel-Thompson said that he tries to mimic the toughness the late McNair exuded during his standout career.
Bethel-Thompson is also carving out his own niche, but maybe not the way you'd expect. His beard has made waves this spring while generating more fan interest in him and the Breakers.
"I'm just rocking with it right now," Bethel-Thompson said. "I started growing it at the end of the (CFL) season. Just kind of let it go. There might be some championship confetti still in there. Just kinda feeling it and seeing how long it's going to go. Just kinda riding it out."
He'd love another opportunity in the NFL, but Bethel-Thompson is appreciative of his current situation in the USFL. The USFL recently became the first spring league in nearly 40 years to play consecutive seasons. Through six weeks of the 2023 season, the USFL is wide open, with each team currently either in first place or a game out.
"Just seeing how (USFL president) Daryl Johnston works his butt off," Bethel-Thompson said. "You see him carrying hoses across the field pregame. You see him checking people in at the hotel and making sure guys' keys are right at the hotel on the road. He's a big name, so for him to do all the dirty work, it makes you want to pick up the slack, pull your weight and make sure this league is successful for a long time to come."