The 25 best players in USFL history: No. 9—Anthony Carter

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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. 9: Anthony Carter

Wide receiver

Michigan Panthers (1983-84)

Oakland Invaders (1985)

Statistically speaking, Anthony Carter is not one of the Top 3 wide receivers in USFL history.

He trails Birmingham’s Jimmy Smith and Joey Walters of the Federals/Renegades in all categories. He’s behind Oakland’s Gordon Banks and Houston’s Richard Johnson in some others.

It doesn’t matter.

In his three USFL seasons, during which he caught 160 passes for 27 touchdowns, Carter averaged an absolutely preposterous 19 yards per reception. By comparison, Jerry Rice averaged more than 19 yards per catch one time—ever. Terrell Owens never did. Neither did Tim Brown, Marvin Harrison nor Reggie Wayne.

Truth be told, Carter was the USFL’s Rice. He was ridiculously fast, blindingly quick, blessed with cushiony hands and amazing separation skills. In Bobby Hebert, he was fortunate to have a talented young quarterback who could hit him with the deep throws. But, truth be told, Carter was the Panthers’ offense. Everything a defense did revolved around keeping one eye on the receiver. If he went wide left a safety followed. If he was sailing deep, half the secondary was following. Even when NFL scouts were dismissing the USFL as bush league, they all knew what the Panthers, then Invaders, had in Anthony Carter.

A stud.

All these decades later, Carter’s game-winning touchdown reception in the league’s first-ever title clash remains the USFL’s vintage moment. As the Panther crosses into the end zone, he raises his arms high into the air. All things are possible. All dreams can come true.

Carter wound up starring in the NFL, a very good—not all-time legendary—player.

Yet in the USFL, he was elite.

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

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