Jeff Pearlman

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The 25 best players in USFL history: No. 24—Chuck Clanton

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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. 24: Chuck Clanton

Safety

Birmingham Stallions (1984 and 1985)

Clanton is one of those guys who made the USFL the USFL. A ball-hawking defensive back at Auburn, Clanton was kicked off the team for multiple disciplinary infractions. He actually spent his final fall at the school playing flag football with a fraternity team.

When he heard about the USFL, Clanton decided to drive to tryouts with the Stallions in Birmingham. En route a trucker agreed to attach his small car to the 18-wheeler in exchange for a gaggle of tickets should he make the team. Clanton couldn’t resist, and he spent the drive sleeping and drinking Budweiser.

In 1985 Clanton set a professional football record by intercepting 16 passes in 18 games. This came after he picked off 10 as a rookie in ’84. That season was shortened after his live-in girlfriend—infuriated after Chuck brought her mediocre Burger King grub when she was hungry—stabbed him in the hand with a kitchen knife.

Chuck played one season with the Green Bay Packers, then left the game.

From Football for a Buck

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Player No. 25: Tim Spencer

Player No. 24: Chuck Clanton

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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