Jeff Pearlman

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The 25 best players in USFL history: No. 10—Luther Bradley

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I am counting down the top 25 players in USFL history, concluding with the announcement of the No. 1 guy on Sept. 10—the eve of the release date for Football for a Buck.

The list comes after years of writing and researching my book, as well as a lifetime of loving the long, lost spring football league.

There have been books throughout my career that were written because the moment was right. There have been books throughout my career that felt like pure labor (sorry, Roger Clemens). But Football for a Buckis pure passion. Everything about the USFL spoke to me. The colors. The uniforms. The nicknames. The stars. The scrubs. It felt real and gritty and authentic.

Hence, the book.

Hence, the list.

Also, a quick point: This has 0 to do with what the players later became. NFL accomplishments are insignificant here. It’s all about the USFL.

So, with no further ado …

No. 10: Luther Bradley

Cornerback

Chicago Blitz (1983)

Arizona Wranglers (1984)

Houston Gamblers (1985)

So I’m not sure there’s even been a more USFL-ish player than Luther Bradley, the former Notre Dame All-American who played four seasons with the Detroit Lions and one with the Houston Oilers before signing with the Chicago Blitz in 1983.

Bradley was the sort of defensive back fans love and coaches hate. What I mean is, he was Erik McMillan before Erik McMillan—a I-need-interceptions-more-than-I-need-food ballhawk who would take endless risks in pursuit of the football. At its best, that meant Bradley could gobble up footballs, as he did in college (his 17 interceptions remain the Irish all-time record). At its worst, that meant burners like Anthony Carter and Jojo Townsell streaking by with ease.

Because the USFL was a land of gamblers (and Gamblers), Bradley was right at home. And in an April 2, 1983 game against the Tampa Bay Bandits, Bradley intercepted a pro football record six passes. Six! He wound up with 12 for the season, then six more the following year as a Wrangler. In 1985, the USFL’s swan song, Bradley collected 12 more picks.

He is, with ease, the USFL’s all-time leader in the category.

And, by extension, an all-time USFL great.

Player No. 25: Tim Spencer

Player No. 24: Chuck Clanton

Player No. 23: Maurice Carthon

Player No. 22: Marcus Marek

Player No. 21: Jimmy Smith

Player No. 20: John Reaves

Player No. 19: Richard Johnson

Player No. 18: Irv Eatman

Player No. 17: Peter Raeford

Player No. 16: Trumaine Johnson

Player No. 15: David Greenwood

Player No. 14: Joey Walters

Player No. 13: Gary Zimmerman

Player No. 12: Reggie White

Player No. 11: John Corker

Player No. 10: Luther Bradley

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life