The United Football League has provided a chance for aspiring NFL players to keep their dreams alive. The rosters of the five-team league were littered this past season with former NFL players. One of them was cornerback and kickoff returner Gerard Lawson, who was signed by the Eagles on Friday morning after the team placed rookie Jorrick Calvin on injured reserve due to a back injury.
"It was humbling and it was a good learning experience for me," said Lawson, who averaged 21.0 yards per kick return and returned an interception for a touchdown with the UFL's Hartford franchise. "I learned a lot from that league. It built my confidence a little higher and the guys there – it was good competition for us."
But the UFL was scrutinized by its players when the league refused to waive a $150,000 transfer fee that would have to be paid if an NFL team wanted to sign a UFL player. Earlier this year, former Eagle Lorenzo Booker boycotted a UFL game when the Vikings wanted to sign him but refused to pay the transfer fee. The UFL eventually relented and reduced the transfer fee to $25,000.
Lawson said that he paid the transfer fee out of his own pocket in order to sign with the Eagles. It was a small price for Lawson to pay after an off-the-field incident ended his first NFL opportunity.
A rookie free agent signing of the Browns in 2008 out of Oregon State, Lawson played in 20 games over his first two seasons primarily on special teams with some reps as a kickoff returner. But this past August, Lawson was arrested for driving under the influence and subsequently released by the Browns.
"It was bad judgment. I made a bad decision that day. I learned my lesson from it," Lawson said.
Head coach Andy Reid said that the Eagles talked with some of the Browns executives to do as much homework as possible before signing Lawson.
"We think he's a good kid who put himself in a bad position, but he's a good kid and he's kept himself straight there – out of trouble there since then,"" Reid said.
Reid did not rule out the possibility of Lawson being active or returning kicks this Sunday against the Vikings. Lawson said that he doesn't know his status for this Sunday. He only knows how fortunate he is to have another chance in the NFL.
"I feel tremendously blessed. For me to get picked up right before Christmas and just to be here is indescribable," Lawson said. "I'm just very blessed to be here and I take that for what it is."
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 4:25 p.m., December 24