Jeff Pearlman

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The 25 best players in USFL history: No. 15—David Greenwood

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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. 15: David Greenwood

Strong safety•Punter

Michigan Panthers (1983-84)

Oakland Invaders (1985)

Were there a heated USFL debate about these things, it would be whether Greenwood or New Jersey’s Gary Barbaro was the league’s best safety. Both guys were punishing hitters, both guys were off the charts when it comes to football IQ, both guys made good secondaries oft-great.

Truth be told, there was one factor separating the men.

Namely—David Greenwood also punted.

Yup, that’s correct. Coming out of the University of Wisconsin, NFL teams viewed Greenwood as a sure-shot first-round pick because of his skills as a defensive back, as well as ridiculous athleticism (He still holds the Wisconsin state high school high jump record, with a leap of 7-feet-2, and later took the outdoor Big Ten title in the high jump). He also set the University of Wisconsin record in the decathlon (6,893 points). Though punting can be an overlooked thing, in four years as a Badger Greenwood tallied 7,208 punting yards (a 37.8 average), including a lifetime-long 82-yard boot in 1979.

So when the Panthers grabbed Greenwood in the first round of the 1983 USFL Draft, they were they were in luck. And, indeed, Greenwood was that good. As a rookie, he averaged 41.4 yards on 37 punts, and the following year it was 36.6 yards on 38 punts. Combine that with a nine career interceptions and a league championship (in 1983), and you’re talking USFL elite.

When the league died, Greenwood went on to play briefly with the Buccaneers, the Packers and the Raiders.

But it was never the same.

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

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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