Channing Stribling helping to lead surging Stars in USFL

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You don’t get to be a league leader in anything without doing your homework.

Philadelphia Stars cornerback Channing Stribling, whose seven interceptions are tops in the USFL entering Saturday’s regular season finale, makes sure he does his. In the film room, he’ll hone in on a handful of plays that the Stars’ opponents like to run in certain situations.

But on game day, the learning is in real-time, as his watchful eyes spot plays he hadn’t picked out in the days before.

“People ask me why do I ‘press bail’ or play a certain technique, and they think I either can’t press or something like that – no, I just like watching the game and seeing what happens,” Stribling explained to NBC Sports this week.

“A lot of the routes that I’ve had interceptions on – I’ve seen them, during the course of the game, happen on the other side. I’m like, ‘Alright, when it comes to this side, I’ll be able to play this way and that way.’”

Stribling’s hunches have proven correct more often than not. His big-play abilities landed him on the All-USFL Team, and his seven picks are nearly a third of the Stars’ league-leading 22 takeaways this season.

13 of those 22 takeaways have come during the Stars’ four-game winning streak, which they’ll put on the line Saturday against the New Jersey Generals – themselves on a eight-game winning streak.

USFL Week 10 – Philadelphia Stars (6-3) vs. New Jersey Generals (8-1)

  • When: Saturday, Noon ET on USA Network

  • Where: Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama

  • Stream: NBCSports.com

The Stars and Generals will face each other again next Saturday, June 25, at the USFL Playoffs in Canton, Ohio. That same day, the Birmingham Stallions and New Orleans Breakers will meet in the other semifinal. The winners will square off in the Championship game July 3.

Stribling believes this may be the first time he’s ever faced the same opponent in a regular season finale and in a post-season game the following week. But he and the Stars aren’t letting their mind wander to the second contest – the one with much higher stakes.

“I think what we’ve been doing a great job of in our games is just making sure that we’re taking each game step-by-step, lock into the game plan,” he said. “We don’t really worry about the outside factors – championships and stuff like that. We just focus on playing ball and if we do that each game that we play, we’re gonna be successful.

“Our emphasis has been that – lock into just football and whatever’s in front of you right now, you know?”

RELATED: How to watch 2022 USFL Playoffs: Dates, location, matchups, TV schedule, live stream info

For much of Stribling’s life, whatever’s in front of him has constantly changed.

His mother, Sonja, and father, Dennis, both served in the Army for many years. Military life can often mean going from one place to the next and that was the case for the Striblings.

A 2016 piece from the Detroit Free Press noted that Channing Stribling lived in nine different places with eight moves during his first 18 years. But he largely took it in stride.

While he’s admittedly a shy person, Stribling says he didn’t have much trouble making friends wherever he went. Part of that was because he was constantly involved in sports from a young age.

First, it was basketball. But then came football.

“I started playing football probably in the first or second grade,” he said. “I don’t know what age I was, but that was my first time playing. I don’t remember too much about it. I just know that I played it and it was fun. Once I started getting older, I started playing in Pop Warner leagues and stuff.

“… I was playing basketball and I think after that – I think the parents wanted their kid to be a little more busy, so they put me in football, too. From then on, from that point, I think I’ve played sports every season.”

RELATED: USFL selects 25 players to be part of inaugural 2022 All-USFL team

The moves finally came to an end in North Carolina, where Stribling became an All-State player at Butler High School (Matthews, N.C.). From there, he went on to play at the University of Michigan (2013-16). In his 2016 senior season, he earned All-Big Ten second-team honors while holding his own on a defense that included All-Americans Jourdan Lewis (now a Dallas Cowboy) and Jabrill Peppers (now a New England Patriot).

But his pro career has had more twists and turns. Stribling spent time with the Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts (twice), San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Chargers over 2017 and 2018, but never played in an NFL game.

Since then, he’s carried on in the alternative leagues: The ill-fated AAF (Memphis Express, 2019) and XFL (Seattle Dragons, 2020), plus the Canadian Football League (Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 2019 & 2021).

Last but not least, there’s The Spring League, where Stribling and well over a dozen future Stars played under head coach Bart Andrus. The group earned a TSL championship in 2020, with Stribling chipping in two interceptions in the title game – one of which he ran back for a touchdown.

While Stribling was in Canada last year, he found out about the USFL with the help of his girlfriend.

“At the time, I wasn’t really thinking about it or had seen anything,” he said. “But once she put that in my head, that’s when I started thinking about what’s going on and started paying attention.

“I noticed (the USFL) was kind of like The Spring League making a bigger jump, so I’m like, ‘OK, (Andrus) is gonna be back. I’m probably gonna be with whatever team he coaches depending on how they do the Draft.’”

Sure enough, Andrus took him in the eighth round as he fortified the Stars with his old players. And since then, Stribling has become the league’s top ball hawk.

Will he claim another championship on 4th of July weekend? Will the NFL give him another look?

We’ll find out soon enough. But no matter what, Stribling will approach things – his preparation, his games, his craft – with the same relentlessness and determination to stay the course that was instilled in him by his parents.

“Watching from the outside in, seeing everything they’ve been through, everything they’ve kind of sacrificed – for me, it made me think about, ‘If they can do that, give their life toward serving an entire country, I can give my last 10% of energy towards football,'” he said.

“That’s not a lot compared to what they’re doing.”

First and 10 with Channing Stribling

10 quick questions to get to know the new talent of the USFL

Pre-game ritual?

“For me, I think the main thing is I can’t be uptight. I can’t be rah-rah or serious. That’s just not me. I have to be laughing. I think it was the first game – that was the first time I was uptight, and I had to go on TikTok and Twitter and watch funny videos. I went on Hulu and watched Martin. I love Martin. I watched a whole episode and was just laughing, so it kind of helped me just stay loose. I’ll probably just say that – just making sure I’m not uptight or too locked in.”

Post-game ritual?

“The main part is – we call it ‘chopping.’ Talking, basically, go somewhere and eating and talking. Just kind of reflecting on not just football, but life in general. It starts off with football: How the game went, where I could’ve done better, what went well, what didn’t go well. Then you think about the future, in football and past football. Really, just chopping – I can’t just go home and go to sleep. I have to just talk about the game and stuff.”

Favorite food?

“I love pizza. I haven’t had it in a while, just because I’ve had to slow down on fast food. It’s not really working, but post-game for sure, if I had to choose one, it’d be pizza. Or Zaxby’s.”

Favorite football player?

“I’d say Richard Sherman, for sure. I modeled my game after him a little bit.”

Favorite movie?

“I’ve got three – The Wood, Space Jam and The Sixth Man.”

Favorite vacation spot?

“Hawaii. I used to live in Hawaii, and it was beautiful. If I get any vacation time, that’d be the spot for sure.”

Most famous person you’ve met outside of football?

“I haven’t really met a lot of people who are famous. I try to keep to myself, really. … Oh, I met Sinbad! I met Sinbad when I was in Germany. My parents had a basketball game and he did the halftime routine while I was shooting baskets. I was young, so I was shooting ball and I didn’t know who he was. I recognized his face as I got older and started seeing him and was like, ‘OK, was that the guy in Germany at our halftime game?’”

How would your family and friends describe you as a person?

“I’d say honest. Funny. Goofy. Passionate. Hard-working.”

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be and why?

“(I’m) over-analytical. I wish I wasn’t that way. It’s a gift and a curse. In football, it helps a lot. But in certain situations, I’ll think past what it really is versus what it could be.”

Name one thing about yourself that not everybody knows about you.

“I think everybody knows a lot about me. (Laughs) I don’t know. I’m pretty much an open book. I don’t think I have anything people don’t already know about me.”

2022 USFL Week 10 Schedule

Saturday, June 18

Sunday, June 19

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Channing Stribling helping to lead surging Stars in USFL originally appeared on NBCSports.com