The Curious Case of Gary Anderson



One thing that we as Chargers fans have usually been able to count on over the years is cheering for a great deal of talent on the offensive side of the ball. From Dan Fouts to Kellen Winslow to Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates (there are many, many more, but you get the point), we are a little spoiled as a fanbase. However, there are a few that seem to get forgotten. This article (the second in my Curious Case series) is about one such man.

Gary Anderson was the star running back of the Arkansas Razorbacks in the early 1980s and by the time he left the college stage, it was evident to pro football scouts (and agents) that he was about to become a rich man playing on Sundays. He averaged over 5 yards per carry and over 10 yards per reception for his career (including a ridiculous 18.7 yards per catch his senior year). He capped his career with a bowl victory over the Florida Gators rushing for 161 yards and 2 TDs. The young man could flat out ball.

Two days later, he was drafted in the first round of the USFL draft by the New Jersey Generals. Three months later, he was drafted in the first round (20 overall) by the San Diego Chargers. Then Anderson made a fateful decision signing with an agent named Dr. Jerry Argovitz. There was no way for him to know what was about to unfold over the next few months and years. In hindsight, it is easy to see what happened, but at the time it was difficult, if not impossible, to piece together exactly how badly Anderson was being screwed over.

On the morning of August 12, 1983, Anderson found himself in court seeking a preliminary injunction which would allow him to get out of his contract that he had already signed with the Tampa Bay Bandits. The Bandits had acquired his rights from the New Jersey Generals earlier that summer when Anderson was no longer necessary because they had signed the jewel of the college landscape, Herschel Walker. As the world would soon find out from Anderson’s testimony, Anderson was fraudulently deceived by his agent because Argovitz had a secret deal with the owner of the Bandits in which if Argovitz got Anderson to sign with the Bandits, he would be included as part of the new ownership team for the expansion USFL Houston franchise. Moreover, it turned out that despite having spent FOUR YEARS at the University of Arkansas, Anderson was functionally illiterate and was trusting Argovitz to inform him of the details of the contract he was signing.

There was one other piece to this puzzle, however. It turns out that Anderson’s agent lied to him about the amount of the Chargers contract offer in order to get Anderson to sign the Bandits' offer. The offer from the Chargers for their first round pick was a four-year 1.5 million dollar deal (times have changed, huh?). Argovitz had told Anderson that the offer was a three-year deal for $830,000.

As such, Anderson signed a four-year, $1.375 million contract with the Tampa Bay Bandits. Shortly thereafter, Argovitz became part of the ownership team for the Houston expansion franchise.

Now a member of the Bandits, Anderson played his first professional game on May 15, 1983. (For those of you not old enough to remember, the USFL made for unusual circumstances. Can you imagine if Keenan Allen played pro football in another league for another team instead of coming to OTAs?!?) In his first game, Anderson ran for 99 yards on 18 carries and caught 4 passes for 54 yards. In addition, he scored the game winning TD. (Trivia: Anderson’s HC that day was none other than Steve Spurrier.) Anderson only played half of the games his rookie year because of the trade and contract dispute. Nonetheless, he finished his first campaign with 516 yards rushing, 347 yards receiving and four touchdowns.

After the season was over, Anderson discovered the Chargers' four-year, 1.5 million dollar offer and signed it, despite being under contract with the Tampa Bay Bandits. It took two more years for the legal maneuvering to conclude before Anderson finally laced up his cleats for the Chargers. During those two intervening years, Anderson played for the Bandits. In 1984, Anderson rushed for 1008 yards on 268 carries and scored 19 touchdowns (!). In 1985, he rushed for 1207 yards on 276 carries and had 16 touchdowns.

Anderson finally played for the Chargers in the 1985 season. Having played a 1985 season of 18 games already earlier that year (USFL played their seasons in the spring), he was expectedly worn out. However, in 1986, he was named to the Pro Bowl team mostly on the back of his 871 receiving yards and 8 TDs that year. His best year in the NFL came in his last year as a Charger in 1988 when he ran for 1119 yards on 225 attempts.

He held out looking for a new contract in the spring of 1989 and his bluff was called by SD ownership as he sat out the entire season. He returned in 1990 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but only managed to rush for 646 yards. He played until 1993 and was cut by the Buccaneers after 6 games and a total of 56 yards rushing. He was picked up by the Detroit Lions, but only dressed for four games never gaining even a single yard. He stretched his career out one more year playing in Canada in 1995. And then, just like that, it was over.

Between being used as a pawn, the advent of a rival pro football league, being drafted twice and traded once before playing a single professional down and never learning to read, one gets the feeling that Gary Anderson never quite had a chance to live up to his potential. He had three really good seasons in the USFL and two more in the NFL. We may never fully know just how good he could have been, but he will forever be a part of Charger lore because he scored one of the coolest-looking touchdowns in Charger history (see above photo) and did it Don Coryell’s last victory as Charger head coach. That’s gotta count for something.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.

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