Enter Dotsch, the former Steeler offensive line coach. When he left Pittsburgh in '82 to take the Stallions' head job, he lured wide receiver Jim Smith from the Steelers. Stoudt, who had a year left on his contract, told Dotsch, "Hey, don't forget me." And he didn't. Dotsch saw in Stoudt the tactician he needed to run the ground-oriented offense that had led the USFL in rushing in 1983.
The offers made to Stoudt by the Steelers and the Stallions were pretty much the same. "It was time for Cliff to stop waiting for Terry to retire and make it on his own," says Laura.
So Stoudt went to Birmingham—and found boo-birds there, too. They were all over him in the team's opening-day loss to New Jersey on Feb. 26, when he played more like an old cart horse than a proud Stallion. Dotsch replaced Stoudt in the second half with Bobby Lane (no, not Bobby Layne). The next morning Dotsch called Stoudt into his office and told him how terrible he had looked. "The important thing for Cliff was that Rollie talked to him," says Laura. "That's more than Chuck ever did. Cliff left Rollie's office feeling good about himself."
By Game 2, a 21-14 victory over the Express in Los Angeles, Stoudt had regained his confidence. And his softly self-mocking sensibility. "Let's make sure you, me and Smitty spread out on the field," he told Dotsch before the Maulers game. "That way one hand grenade won't get us all."
Of course, there may be more Stallions where Stoudt came from. About a dozen Steelers are currently in their option years, including Bradshaw.
And if Bradshaw became a Stallion?
"If he does," says Stoudt, "I'm calling the Uzbeks."