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. 8: Gary Anderson
Tampa Bay Bandits (1983-85)
This is going to sound a bit weird, but were Gary Anderson named, oh, Muku Lafafa or Zit Tollbooth, he’s spoken of in hushed terms and legendary adjectives.
Instead, he’s boring ol; Gary Anderson, and he’s largely forgotten.
The halfback out of Arkansas wasn’t quite as powerful as New Jersey’s Herschel Walker; wasn’t quite as soft-handed as Philadelphia’s Kelvin Bryant. Yet I’m not sure the USFL had another back who was that explosive, that electrifying coming out of the backfield.
Snagged by the San Diego Chargers with the 20th pick of the 1983 NFL Draft, Anderson failed to come to terms, then signed a lucrative deal with the Tampa Bay Bandits. Only, well, afterward he sued his agent, Jerry Argovitz, for directing him toward the USFL, and during the trial revealed that not only was he in the wrong league, he was also (gasp) functionally illiterate.
That said, a deal was a deal, and Anderson the Bandit kicked ass. He rushed for 516 yards and four touchdowns in a shortened 1983 season, but the following year led the USFL with 19 touchdowns while scampering for 1,008 yards. Then, in 1985, he demolished most past standards, charging toward 1,207 yards on 276 carries and scoring another 16 times.
“God, he was so talented,” Steve Spurrier, the Bandits coach, told me. “He was a 185-pound tailback who could run the draw, sweep, be put at flanker, wide receiver. He could catch out of the backfield and run with it. Lord, was he a good player. He had everything.”
Anderson ultimately went to the Chargers, then Tampa and Detroit, but his 3,409 rushing yards seem somewhat disappointing.
It was never the same.
From Football for a Buck …
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
Player No. 11: John Corker
Player No. 10: Luther Bradley
Player No. 9: Anthony Carter
Player No. 8: Gary Anderson