Jeff Pearlman

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The 25 best players in USFL history: No. 12—Reggie White

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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. 12: Reggie White

Defensive end

Memphis Showboats (1984-85)

I am biased.

But at least I admit I’m biased.

Reggie White is, arguably, the greatest player to emerge from the USFL. He’s certainly the greatest defensive player to emerge from the USFL. And, in his two seasons with the Memphis Showboats, White was a force, compiling 12 sacks as a rookie, then 11 1/2 the following year.

So why do I have the 6-foot-5, 291-pound future Hall of Fame outside of the Top 10? Well, three reasons. One, while White was tremendous with the Showboats, he wasn’t half the player he’d become in Philadelphia and Green Bay. Two, he was not particularly good against the run in the USFL. And third, he pretty much had one move in the mid-1980s—slug the living shit out of opposing linemen until they crumble.

And, indeed, that worked. But it wasn’t until reaching the NFL that White developed his dips, his spins, his twirls, his speed-power merging. Truth be told, Reggie White wasn’t even the USFL’s most-feared pass rusher. That was … well, keep reading this series. He’s coming in a few days.

Hence, Reggie White is stuck at No. 12.

With a bullet.

From Football for a Buck

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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

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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