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Big Giants attribute their NFL career to their USFL debut

The Giants’ first two Super Bowl victories probably wouldn’t have happened without the help of the USFL.

Before center Bart Oates, punter Sean Landeta and fullback Maurice Carthon played a vital role in winning the 1986-87 and 1990-91 Super Bowls, they got their first professional opportunities in the USFL.

“I’m a perfect example of a guy, I never would have made it in the NFL, I don’t think, because I wasn’t that big,” Oates told The Post by phone. “I played three years in the USFL, I was able to improve my craft and become a better, more complete player.”

Oates, now 63, eventually did more than succeed in the NFL, starting every game at center in the Giants’ first two Super Bowl runs. In 1995 he won another Super Bowl with the 49ers.

Now president of the NFL Alumni Association, Oates has earned five Pro-Bowl honors throughout his 11-year career. Coming out of BYU, however, he wasn’t ready for the NFL. Accustomed to a heavy passing system, Oates had to learn to execute a block, which he did throughout his three years with the Philadelphia Stars, winning two championships and appearing in a third.

Sean Landeta

Thanks to the USFL, Oates was able to establish himself and was signed to be the Giants’ starting center, rather than being a low draft pick coming out of college and struggling to make the team – a development Oates credits as pivotal to his career.

“I had such a great time,” Oates said. “I would never have left. I would have stayed at the USFL, if they had kept it.

Landeta enjoyed a 22-year career in the NFL with five different teams. He played nearly half of that career with the Giants, earning pro-bowl recognition in the two seasons the Giants won the Super Bowl. After his Towson career, however, he needed the exposure he got with the Philadelphia Stars.

“I come from a Division 2 school,” Landetta, now 60, said over the phone. “I would have gotten a tryout in the NFL after my senior year, but there’s no doubt, because I went to the USFL and played there three years, my luck was better. The USFL was a league that was above college football, but maybe a bit below the NFL. For me and many others, yes, the USFL was something that helped us get into the NFL.

The path from the USFL to the NFL was even more direct for Carthon, who played for the New Jersey Generals before becoming a fan favorite with the Giants.

Maurice Cardboard
Maurice Cardboard
NY Post File Photo: Bob Olen

Carthon, now 60, recalls then-Giants head coach Bill Parcells coming to watch the generals practice, and the two “learned a lot” sharing ideas together a few years ago. only before Carthon next played under Parcells with the Giants.

Carthon shared a Generals backfield with Herschel Walker, and both shone with 1,000-yard seasons in 1984. Carthon then got his trades from Doug Flutie, who was the Generals quarterback in 1985.

“I’ve taken a lot out of the league,” Carthon told The Post by phone. “I had just graduated from college, then I went to the USFL, then the rest is history. We talk about playing with Doug Flutie, Herschel Walker, people like that. There was good football in the USFL.

“It helped me as a football player because I played with Herschel and we both played together. Then being a 1,000 yard rusher I couldn’t believe I did it. , but I was able to do it.

New York Post

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