New attitude helped Anderson's play

August 11, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Editor's Note: This is one of the stories that will be in the preseason college football preview in this Sunday's Advocate.

Often Kentucky has to count on players to overachieve if it wants to develop impact football players.

Linebacker Chad Anderson did the opposite. He was underachieving at Kentucky after a standout Ohio prep career that had him ranked among the nation's top players.

He was sent home just before the start of the 2001 season, his first year at Kentucky, after being ruled academically ineligible because he lacked a required English class. He made it to UK for the 2002 season, but was limited mainly to special teams duty before breaking his ankle in the seventh game after making only one tackle all season.

Then he had to endure a coaching change last season when Guy Morriss left and Rich Brooks arrived. He did not open the season as a starter. However, by the time the year ended, he was not only a starting inside linebacker, but he was also led the Southeastern Conference in tackles with 11.4 per game.


"I think Chad has become a more responsible person, which makes him a better football player," said Brooks. "He's obviously a vocal guy. He never stops talking. His play last year made other players stand up and take notice of him. He really developed as a player and came into his own. Saying that, when he does say something now, people are more likely to listen."

Not many were listening when he said he was interested in coming to Kentucky, especially with Ohio State also interested. But he wanted to be part of building a winner at Kentucky rather than continuing a winning tradition at Ohio State.

Yet he never expected to have the troubles he did when he was not even allowed to enroll at Kentucky in 2001.

"I did a lot of stuff that year that I don't like to talk about now," Anderson said. "I kind of went the wrong way for a while. I got real depressed. I didn't lift weights. I pretty much didn't do anything. I watched football, of course, because I always watch football. But I kept thinking I should be doing that (playing for Kentucky).

"I came back here out of shape. I weighed 269 when I came back up here in February. I got down to 248 by summer, but I didn't have enough strength under me when practice started because I got too out of shape."

Once he realized he was not ready for Southeastern Conference competition, he asked Morriss if he could be redshirted.

"I wasn't going to play and I knew that," Anderson said. "In two-a-day practices, I was not in the first or second groups. I knew even if someone got injured during the season, they would just go to a three-man rotation because I had not been getting any reps.

"So I asked again if I could redshirt. But they told me I would be starting on special teams and then at the end of the year I would be playing. I didn't want to look selfish, so I said fine. So what they actually did was talk me into breaking my ankle and making me waste a year."

Injury in 2002 may have been best thing for him

Still, he admits now the injury late in the 2002 season might have been the best thing for him. While rehabilitating his ankle, he got back in much better overall shape.

"I got fit again. Things finally started working out because I started working even harder," Anderson, an inside linebacker, said.

Brooks didn't know about Anderson's past problems when he arrived.

"We felt athletically that he had a chance to be one of our better players," Brooks said. "But he didn't show it that first spring. Then he had the suspension the first game last year and was slow getting started.

"But now he's matured. He has become a more accountable person as well as a solid, more accountable player. I'm looking forward to going into this season with him ready to make plays."

His teammates feel the same way.

"Chad is really coming along," said defensive end Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns, an all-SEC player last season. "He's really got a whole lot better. He's worked on his pass coverage skills. He's not only just going to be a tackler this year, he's going to show you he can cover running backs and tight ends as well. He could be an even bigger force for our defense."

Anderson likes Kentucky's defense, which has eight returning starters and several incoming freshmen that could provide needed depth. It only justifies the faith he had in the program that kept him from ever seriously considering walking away when things were not going so well for him.

"What else am I going to do? I love to play football," Anderson said. "I have to get up at 6 a.m. to do something. I have to lift and work out or I will just sit on my butt. I am not going to lie. If I didn't play football, I would just sit around and play video games, sleep and do other stuff that I shouldn't if I wasn't playing. I might make straight A's, but I would also probably drink (alcohol) a lot more and do things I shouldn't. Football keeps me on the right path.

"Football has given me the chance to do so much stuff that I never would have been able to do otherwise. Nobody likes to practice, but you have to have respect for the sport. You have to be focused and try to get better. I think I've done that and can help our defense be a lot better this year."

Anderson spent the summer trying to improve his speed to help him cover receivers. He says now that's he healthy again and has playing experience, he should be faster and a better overall player

"At least people can quit saying that I have potential," Anderson said. "I have moved past that at least. I have proven I can play and do something, but you can never be satisfied. If you get satisfied, you get passed. And trust me, I don't want to experience that feeling again. I've been there, done that and don't want to go back."

On The Net:

Chad Anderson bio on

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