A photo of Gary Anderson hangs in coach Steve Spurrier’s office at the University of South Carolina. “He’s one of my favorite players of all-time,” says Spurrier, who brought the Fun and Gun offense to the Tampa Bay Bandits as head coach from 1983 through 1985. “He’s a tremendous talent, the best I’ve ever been around. He could do it all and everybody loved him.”
The Tampa Bandits traded with the New Jersey Generals to make Gary Anderson their No. 1 pick in the 1983 draft, but didn’t play until mid-season in 1983. Anderson played in only eight games, showing flashes of brilliance with 516 yards rushing and 347 receiving.
In 1984, attendance jumped to more than 46,000 in Tampa and a healthy Bandits team won 14 games. Anderson tried to join the Chargers before the season, but the Bandits won in court and Anderson remained in Tampa. Things weren’t so bad as Anderson flourished in Steve Spurrier’s Bandit Ball offense, having the most all-purpose yards in the USFL (1,690) and 21 touchdowns.
In 1985, Anderson, still in uniform with the Bandits after trying to make another jump to the NFL, led the squad with 72 receptions and rushed for 1,207 yards. Anderson accounted for more than 1,800 yards rushing and receiving and had 20 combined touchdowns – that’s 41 TD’s in two consecutive years.
After the USFL folded, Anderson got his wish and joined the Chargers in 1985. “I wish the league had folded earlier, so I could have played with them sooner,” says Chargers QB Dan Fouts, twenty years later. “The word dynamic suits him. His speed, quickness and ability to cut at full speed really fit our offense. Having Tim Spencer and Gary join us really added to our team.”
In ’85, the Chargers regained their presence as the NFL’s No. 1 offense thanks to the USFL additions. Anderson combined for more than 750 yards and six touchdowns that season. Former Blitz, Wrangler and Showboat fullback Tim Spencer, pounded in 10 rushing touchdowns as the short-yardage guy.
In 1986, Anderson caught 80 passes for 871 yards and nine touchdowns. After the strike-shortened year in 1987, Anderson rushed for 1,1119 yards for a 5.0 per carry average in 1988.
In 1990, Anderson went back to Tampa Bay, except the Bandit Ball offense was replaced by ineptitude in Buccaneer-land.
Anderson, true to form, had 1,110 yards rushing and receiving, but it was his last impact year in football.
Anderson retired after the 1993 season. He had more than 6,500 combined yards, and 31 career touchdowns in his nine-year NFL career.