The former Michigan star running back De’Veon Smith was quietly released from the USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers early in April. Now we know why.

De’Veon Smith was a star player at Michigan, known for his explosive and dynamic running style. As a Wolverine, he ran for 2235 yards between 2013 and 2016 while scoring 23 touchdowns. He has struggled to remain at the NFL level – despite an impressive performance with the Tampa Bay Vipers in the XFL.

Smith was the first pick of the 28th round of the entry draft, a draft that confined teams to picking specific positions in certain rounds. Running backs were taken in the 27th and 28th rounds, which makes Smith the ninth running back selected.

Smith was released for violating line 46 of his players contract, citing that any disrespect that is shown to coaches, peers, hotel staff, or anyone associated with the league is punishable by termination. The Maulers added Madre London to replace him as a free agent.

The incident that took place

Updated to add video referenced in article.

The pre-game special showed Pittsburgh Maulers head coach Kirby Wilson talking about respect and how it was crucial to their culture and their team, before showing De’Veon Smith enter the room where he and a couple other men sat. Wilson proceeded to inform Smith that he had gotten word that he had violated line 46, and that they were going to have to let him go.

Smith appeared to know exactly what they were referring to. He attempted to explain his side of the story.

Apparently, Smith requested pizza from a hotel worker instead of the chicken salad that was being served to him. The hotel worker told him he couldn’t and asked if that would be a problem. Smith claims that he said “yes” and walked away.

Wilson had no desire to hear him, appearing not to even consider what Smith said. Instead, he thanked him and told him to grab his things and leave.

Why De’Veon Smith’s release could spell trouble for the USFL

It’s no guarantee that the USFL will be here to stay – that’s common sense. Spring Leagues have not been very successful in recent memory, and the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson-led XFL plans to kick off in 2023 and will be competing with the USFL for everything – players, coaches, resources, and fans.

If I was anyone associated with the XFL, I would very quickly acquire this clip and implement it into my marketing plan to entice players to chose the XFL over the USFL next year. “The USFL won’t protect you,” I’d record The Rock saying over the clip, “but we will.”

What kind of a league seriously would handle their business in such a way? What kind of a league wouldn’t investigate a complaint and throw one of their best players out based on a clause line in a contract that is very broad? At the very least, they should have spoken with him. I could understand such a decision if he was starting fights with other players, or this wasn’t his first strike. But they showed no other apparent reasons. They thought this would look good on their pre-game special?

Some of the social media response from the people who realized what had happened:

Overall, De’Veon Smith is still searching for his chance to play professional football, and I believe that we aren’t done seeing him play. It’s just a shame that we’re not watching him play this year.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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