Of Eric D. Williams
FOX Sports NFL writer
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Victor Bolden Jr. is back at the bottom of the depth chart after an impressive stint in the USFL.
Last month, the Oregon State product helped lead the Birmingham Stallions to the USFL championship, earning title game MVP honors along the way.
Bolden parlayed that success into a 90-man roster spot for the Arizona Cardinals, for whom he hopes to land a job as a wide receiver and returner.
Victor Bolden Jr. season highlights
Check out top highlights from Birmingham Stallions receiver/kick returner Victor Bolden, who was the MVP of the USFL title game before signing with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals.
For Bolden, it’s a return to the NFL after first earning a spot with the San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted rookie in 2017 and then spending time with the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions.
Now 27, Bolden knows what an uphill battle he has to make an impact with limited reps.
“I have a full season behind me, so I’m experienced as far as being in shape,” Bolden told FOX Sports. “I’m really looking to take advantage of that when I come out here. I know I can play at the highest level, so I’m just going to keep showing what I can do.”
Bolden recorded 42 catches for 415 yards and a score for the Stallions in the regular season, earning All-USFL honors on offense. In the championship game, which Birmingham won 33–30 over the Philadelphia Stars, he finished with six catches for 64 receiving yards and the game-winning score.
“That kid has really stuck out, to be honest with you,” Cardinals receivers coach Sean Jefferson told reporters of Bolden. “He’s another guy who can play both inside and outside. He’s shifty. He can make guys miss on special teams. So we’ve got a battle going on in that group across the board, after the first couple of times. I’m anxious to see how it’s going to shake out.”
Bolden said he has extra motivation during training camp: his 3-year-old son, Zaire Isaiah.
“If you have a passion to do something, keep chasing it,” Bolden said. “That’s what I plan to do. This is what I want to do. I have a young son and I just want to show him that if you chase your passion, good things can happen.”
Bolden is one of 36 USFL players currently in NFL training camps, with 24 of 32 teams signing at least one spring league player. Each of the eight USFL teams has at least three players now in camp – numbers that show the league is actually giving players another chance in the NFL.
Nevertheless, they have to fight to make it on the 53-man roster.
“There’s a lot of talent in the USFL,” Bolden said. “There are some guys right now that still haven’t gotten calls that would be great additions to any team. So if they keep doing what they’re doing, they’ll definitely be a feeder for the league for years to come.”
Bolden, who finished with 794 punt return yards for the Stallions during the regular season, has been assigned the punt return job during training camp. That’s another way he could find a way onto the Cardinals roster.
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Arizona will be without star receiver DeAndre Hopkins for the first six games of the regular season due to a violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Marquise Brown is returning from a hamstring injury and wide receiver Antoine Wesley is nursing a groin problem. So Bolden could get some time Friday in Arizona’s first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I have to take responsibility to learn the playbook and that way they can trust me,” Bolden said when asked what he needs to do to earn a spot on the roster. “Just getting the trust of my teammates so they can put me out there and be comfortable that I can play.
“You just have to rely on your experience. I’ve been playing professionally for about six years now, so I know how the game goes.”
How the game goes on Friday could be decisive for Bolden.
Eric D. Williams 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 at @eric_d_williams.
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