“The Greatest Team No One Ever Heard Of”

January 29, 2017 12:53 am0 commentsViews: 311
Share Button

ChuckFusina-TradingCard-w

When Pittsburgh-born Chuck Fusina was chosen by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 5th round of the 1979 NFL draft, he had every reason to expect to crack the starting lineup. He had just finished a spectacular college career at Penn State, leading the Nittany Lions to a 29-3 record as their starting quarterback, and finished a close second in the Heisman Trophy race (to Billy Sims of Oklahoma).

But the Buccaneers had Doug Williams under center, and Fusina spent his first three years as a pro holding a clipboard on the sidelines. In 1983, he left to join the Philadelphia Stars of the newly formed United States Football League.

The USFL played its games in the spring from 1983 to 1985. “While not competing directly during that time with the long-established National Football League, the USFL nevertheless managed to be the strongest competitor to the NFL since the American Football League of the 1960’s,” according to usfl.info.com.

Under head coach Jim Mora, Chuck Fusina came into his own as a pro QB. In his three seasons with the Stars he threw for 66 touchdowns and over 10,000 yards and led the team to all three USFL Championship Games.

The Stars were packed with NFL-caliber talent — including Sam Mills, Irv Eatman, Bart Oates, Kelvin Bryant and Sean Landeta — and dominated the new league, winning the title in 1984 and 1985. Only a 24-22 loss to the Michigan Panthers in 1983 kept them from sweeping the championship in all 3 years of the USFL’s existence. General manager Carl Peterson has called the Stars “the greatest football team that no one’s ever heard of.”

The Philadelphia Stars, owned by real estate kingpin Myles Tannenbaum, played their home games at Veterans Stadium for their first two seasons. Home attendance rose with the team’s success, from 18,000 fans per game in 1983 to 28,000 in 1984. But in 1985, some USFL owners (led by Donald Trump, then owner of the New Jersey Generals) voted to go head-to-head against the NFL by playing their games in the fall.

The decision proved to be the downfall of the promising young league. The Stars, for example, could not find a suitable stadium for fall games and moved south, becoming the Philadelphia-Baltimore Stars. The USFL folded after the 1985 season.

Chuck Fusina, shown here in his 1984 Topps card, now lives in his native Pittsburgh with his wife Jacquelyn. In 2015 he was elected to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame (PSHF) along with kicker Matt Bahr, a Neshaminy High School alum. ■

 

The Lower Bucks Leader comes out every month and can be found at  high-traffic locations in 10 towns and zip codes in Lower Bucks County. To find a host location nearest you, call 215-499-5535 or email us at Editor@LowerBucksLeader.com

Comments

comments