Anderson Reflects, Adjusts As VSU Coach
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Sep 3, 2014, 10:43
Jordan Anderson set the single-season rushing and touchdown record last season
ETTRICK — Jordan Anderson lined up in the backfield in the third quarter of a one-touchdown game against Chowan University last November. He eyed the Chowan defense in front of him, knowing the ball would be placed in his hand as the play-clock slowly inched closer toward zero. Then, quarterback Justin Thorpe called for the snap, turned toward Anderson and with his right hand, placed it on the chest of the running back with a full head of steam.
Anderson followed the left guard's block on the edge, made a stutter-step to bypass a would-be tackler and ran as fast as he could. The senior running back, in his first and only season at Virginia State University, saw nothing but green grass in front of him and when he reached the end zone for the Trojans' second touchdown of the game, he turned to the stands.
Anderson pointed upward toward them with his arm outstretched, emotion drawn on his face as the run made him just the fourth running back in Virginia State history to go over the 1,000-yard plateau while eventually setting the record with 1,142 yards gained. But the touchdown also meant something as well as he eclipsed Robert Morgan for most touchdowns in a single-season as well, finishing the year with 21.
Almost a full 10 months later, Anderson is still walking to the Trojans' practice facility and still donning the familiar orange and blue colors, but is no longer suiting up with shoulder pads and helmets. Instead, the offensive star from last season is an offensive graduate assistant who focuses on working with the running backs.
But on this particular walk, Anderson wasn't thinking about how to get the best of the new stable of running backs vying to pick up his lost production. Instead, he allowed himself to look back and reflect on what he accomplished last season and most specifically, the 73-yard touchdown run.
"My mom had actually been at the game and it was the only one she had been to all season," he remembered of the moment. "If I was going to break the record, I wanted to break it by putting my stamp on it. I remember when I was a kid, Emmitt Smith could have broke the record by going all the way, but he was tripped up. I didn't want that happening to me ... It just happened to be a 73-yard touchdown run which put my footprint here."
However, there is still one part of a footprint he wishes he had a chance to make. When he transferred into Virginia State after playing at James Madison University, he aimed to make the Trojans' program relevant.
To him, that meant capturing a CIAA title in his only year to do so with the Trojans and for much of the season, they seemed to be trending toward accomplishing his goal. Virginia State rolled through the regular season by dominating teams in the trenches on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball and had earned a date to the title game.
However, it was not played due to off-the-field actions and it's still a sore subject for Anderson. Although, when he takes a step back to view what they accomplished, the fact the league voted them as preseason Northern Division favorites showed they have elevated the program to new heights.
"Of course the main goal is to go to the playoffs, win the title and then go to the Division II playoffs," he said. "So I'd say the goal was halfway reached. Whatever happened, happened, but as a team, we were on our way to achieve it ... Whenever someone changes their votes and puts you higher, that is some respect, but it's also just preseason rankings."
And it's why much of Anderson's focus this offseason has been on ways to keep that mind-set around the team.
He remembered the time when he played at JMU and Virginia Tech entered the year as big favorites before losing to both Boise State and the Dukes. Anderson has made that a point of emphasis to the running backs and it's been an obvious team-wide mantra as well with each practice containing a high-level of intensity.
But he's also focused on passing down any lessons he learned last season to the newcomers at the position. While the situation is unique — he played with many of the players on the roster just one year ago — it also brings about a certain amount of respect because they have seen how hard he worked to accomplish the records last season.
Although he still sometimes wishes he can strap on the pads and continue playing, he has so far enjoyed coaching while helping everyone get a little better each day.
"I don't know right now, but I am having fun," he said with a laugh. "It is fun, so I can see a future if it is brought in front of me."
While Anderson won't make any eye-popping touchdown runs this season, his impact on the Trojans' success will be seen in the steady improvement of the running backs this season, perhaps helping himself find his own niche in the process.