Jeff Pearlman

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The 25 best players in USFL history: No. 22—Marcus Marek

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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. 22: Marcus Marek

Linebacker

Boston Breakers (1983)

New Orleans Breakers (1984)

Portland Breakers (1985)

Marek gets woefully overlooked in USFL history, in large parts because his teams were mediocre, his defenses were mediocre, the franchise moved every season and he wasn’t particularly dynamic or self-promoting.

Yet talk to guys on the Breakers, or opponents, and they cite Marek as—along with Sam Mills—the USFL’s most noteworthy linebacker. Marek was as skilled a run stopped as the league had. He was ferocious, hard-headed, a quick study. Again, the Breakers were pretty woeful and unremarkable.

But Marek could flat-out play.

When the USFL died, he attended camp with the Chicago Bears. Who were in the midst of one of the all-time legendary defensive runs in NFL history. Marek was terrific. But having to learn the 46 Defense on the fly, while competing for reps with Otis Wilson, Wilbur Marshall, Ron Rivera, and Mike Singletary? No shot.

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

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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