By 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 to lead the Birmingham Stallions to the USFL championship, earning MVP honors in the title game along the way.
Bolden parlayed that success into a spot on the 90-man roster for the Arizona Cardinals, for whom he hopes to earn a job as a wide receiver and returner.
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Check out the 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 subsequently spending time with the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions.
Now 27, Bolden knows the uphill climb he has in making an impression with limited reps.
“I have a whole season under my belt, so I’m seasoned 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 continue to show 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 about 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 have a battle going on in that group across the board, after those first couple guys. 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, continue to chase it,” Bolden said. “That’s what I plan on doing. 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 player from the spring league. Each of the eight USFL teams have at least three players now in camps — numbers that show the league does indeed provide players with another shot at the NFL.
Still, they must battle to make it on 53-man rosters.
“There’s a lot of talent in the USFL,” Bolden said. “There’s some guys right now that still haven’t got calls that would be great additions to any team. So, if they continue to do what they are doing, they will definitely be a feeder for the league for years to come.”
Bolden, who finished with 794 return yards for the Stallions during the regular season, has gotten work as a punter returner during training camp. It’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 drugs policy. Marquise Brown is returning from a hamstring injury, and big-bodied receiver Antoine Wesley is nursing a groin issue. So Bolden could get some time on Friday in Arizona’s first preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I’ve got to take accountability for learning the playbook, and that way they can trust me,” Bolden said when asked what he needs to do to earn a roster spot. “Just gain that trust from my teammates, so they can put me out there and be comfortable that I can make plays.
“You’ve just got to lean 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 telling 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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