Where We Live: Portland’s pro football past

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Today, the only way to watch professional football in Portland is by huddling around the TV, but there was a time when games played out right here in the city. 

Things were different in 1985. 

Providence Park was known by a different name — Civic Stadium — and there was more than one professional American football league. 

One of those leagues was the USFL and one of the teams that played for it was the Portland Breakers. 

The team started as the “Boston Breakers” before its owner, Joe Canizaro, moved it to New Orleans and then to Portland. 

All-in-all, the Breakers enjoyed a three-season lifespan that ended in Portland. But some famous players passed through the roster during that time as the USFL attempted to rival the NFL. 

The Portland Breakers’ most famous players were Oklahoma star running back Marcus Dupree, halfback Buford Jordan and quarterback Johnnie Walton. 

NFL and World Football League veteran Dick Coury was the head coach of the team during its time in Portland. 

His son, Steve Coury, coached the team’s receivers, while the late Pokey Allen, who subsequently took the Portland State Vikings to new heights, was defensive coordinator. 

Steve Coury told KOIN 6 News the USFL had a lot of local support during its brief run in Portland and was a “threatening thing a little bit for the NFL at the time.” 

The USFL collapsed in 1986 after Donald Trump convinced fellow owners to sue the NFL, under anti-trust laws. Trump owned the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, and was pushing to get USFL teams, including the Generals, into the NFL. 

The USFL won the lawsuit, but was only awarded $1, and the league folded.

Several USFL players went on to enjoy successful careers in the NFL, including Steve Young, Jim Kelly and Herschel Walker. The Breakers’ Buford Jordan went on to play for the New Orleans Saints. 

But Portland’s football team was blitzed and the Breakers dissolved with a 6 and 12 record. Still, the Rose City had a ball while it lasted. 

Steve Coury is now head football coach at Lake Oswego High School, which won state championships in 2011 and 2018.

Coury says the Portland Breakers are gone, but not forgotten.

“I run into people all the time in the Portland area…that remember those days and brag about it,” said Coury. 

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