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MCGILL: Anderson Credits Hoops Background for Football Footwork

Anthony Anderson.
Oct. 5, 2016

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall has a 252-pound running back. Before he earned a college scholarship for his ability to run with a football, he was known in his home state of Minnesota for his deft shooting touch on the basketball court. On the football field, coaches tried him on the defensive line.

There's little that foreshadowed where Anthony Anderson's journey would take him. Then, during Anderson's junior year at Eden Prairie High School, he found a home in the backfield.

"The first time I got the ball I scored a 47-yard touchdown," he said, "and they never moved me again."

Anderson is 6 feet, 2 inches tall, and his weight is common for the defensive lineman he used to be. But what makes the sophomore junior college transfer a promising prospect at running back is how he carries that weight, and that is a credit to his footwork.

"That's the one thing that separates him from a lot of other backs his size," said Pepe Pearson, Marshall's first-year running backs coach. "He does have good feet. I was fortunate enough to play with Jerome Bettis for a year and he reminds me of Jerome Bettis in the sense that he has good feet for a big guy."



Anderson set FBS career-highs in carries (13) and rushing yards (56) at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh last Saturday. He also scored his first collegiate touchdown, an 11-yard run. He took the handoff and made a quick cut right to avoid a diving tackler at the 14, cut again at the 11 to make another would-be tackler whiff and then stutter-stepped at the 7 before breezing into the end zone.

"I've always been good on my feet and coaches have told me my athleticism and good feet skills will take me a long way," Anderson said. "I've always been big but never been given a shot to show what I could do until high school."

Anderson said he was over the weight limit for Little League football, so he was relegated to the offensive line. He didn't start to perfect his footwork until basketball, where he blossomed into a legitimate Division I prospect. He played point guard, shooting guard and small forward.

"Basketball helped me get my feet better when I'd have to shuffle and play defense," said Anderson, who has 33 carries for 132 yards in four games. "It correlates a lot. I was an all-around guy on the court. I played the perimeter; I'd bring the ball up the court. We'd just get the ball and go."

He didn't even play football as a high school sophomore so he could focus on hoops.

"Basketball was, at one point in time, my life," Anderson said. "For years I thought basketball was going to be my way to college."

That is part of Anderson's intrigue. He only played running back his last two seasons at Eden Prairie, where he concluded his prep career with 165 rushing yards and a 51-yard touchdown reception in the state championship game. He sat out one of his two seasons at Iowa Western Community College, so the mileage most running backs carry in their third year out of college isn't an issue for Anderson.

"He hasn't gotten beaten up, so he's still a pup in that regard," Pearson said. "He's sort of like a true freshman, but he's done a good job of picking things up.

"He's getting better and better every week. He's progressing into what I envisioned him being."