Jeff Pearlman

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The 25 best players in USFL history: No. 18—Irv Eatman

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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 Buck is 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. 18: Irv Eatman

Offensive tackle

Philadelphia Stars (1983-84)

Baltimore Stars (1985)

So offensive linemen tend to get overlooked with these sorts of lists, mainly because we see little of their greatness and understand even less of it. Yet Eatman is a legitimate USFL giant—in size (6-foot-7, 293 pounds), in stature (he was one of the first big-time college stars to choose the new league over the old one) and in impact.

The Stars were blessed with a splendid halfback (Kelvin Bryant) and a Joe Montana-esque quarterback (Chuck Fusina), but the team doesn’t win two of the three USFL championships without an insanely good offensive line. And while center Bart Oates could make a pretty strong case for this slot on the list, Eatman was just … fucking terrifying. Watching him steamroll linebackers and defensive backs is a thing of nightmarish beauty. He didn’t merely run guys over. He was an elephant stomping a nectarine.

When the USFL died, Eatman went on to a long and productive NFL career, playing 11 seasons with five teams. And in the strangest of strange twists, Irv Eatman and I are relatives. Well, sorta kinda relatives. Eh, sorta sorta sorta kinda relatives. My sister-in-law Jessica married a man named Chris, and Chris’ father’s wife’s daughter is wed to Irv.

Jerk has yet to send me a Chanukah gift.

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

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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