Auburn Wide Receiver Looking to Contribute

This is the sixth in a series of articles featuring lesser known Auburn football players who have a chance to contribute for the 2005 Tigers.

Auburn, Ala.--Maurice Anderson had to literally overcome a tough break to advance on to college football as a member of the Auburn University football team.

The six-foot-three, 207-pound redshirt sophomore from Semmes, Ala., was attracting attention from colleges as both a football and basketball prospect as a senior at Baker High. However, a fractured ankle suffered early that season reduced the interest considerably.

Anderson, the nephew of former Auburn star offensive lineman Willie Anderson, didn't let that setback discourage him. He opted for a season at prep school to show college scouts what he could do.

However, big-time programs still weren't asking him to sign scholarship papers so he decided to take an offer from veteran assistant coach Joe Whitt to walk on as a member of the Auburn football team.

Anderson has consistently improved since arriving at Auburn and hopes to expand his playing time after seeing limited duty during Auburn's 13-0 run during the 2004 season.

"Maurice had a good spring," says Greg Knox, who coaches the wide receivers for the Tigers. "He is improving. He still has a long way to go with his route-running and his technique, and we emphasize that a lot.

"Maurice improved in the spring and made some good catches," Knox notes. "He is continuing to make progress. He is a kid who works hard and does everything you ask of him."

It is not surprising that Knox has good things to say about the walk-on because the game is important to the receiver.

"I have been playing football ever since I was six years old," Anderson tells Inside the Auburn Tigers. "It has always been in me. Watching my uncle play, I have always wanted to play."

Anderson makes a touchdown reception in a spring training practice.

Anderson was the starting quarterback for Baker High School when he suffered his injury. "As a senior I fractured my ankle and that threw away all of the scholarship offers I had," he says. "I went to Valley Forge Military Academy for a year and then I came to Auburn."

Former Auburn offensive line coach Rick Trickett, working for West Virginia University, actually suggested that Anderson go to the prep school in Pennsylvania. "He just came to my school one day and he started talking," Anderson remembers. "He said I can get you in this prep school. He said it is a postgraduate school and you won't lose any eligibility like you would if you went to junior college."

Anderson made a position change to wide receiver at the prep school. "I was getting letters from a number of schools," he says. "I had a couple of touchdown catches at Valley Forge, but I didn't really have any (major college) offers coming out of there. Being from Mobile, I was always attracted to Auburn. I love the program and the tradition. My uncle played here and watching him influenced me to come here."

Willie Anderson, an all-pro tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals, has worked out with his nephew during the offseason.

"I was invited to walk on at Auburn in 2003 and I have been working hard ever since," the receiver says. "I was about 200 pounds when I got here. I had been training with my uncle and I put on 30 pounds with him. I knew I was going to have to get bigger to compete at this level. I was skinny as a high school senior. I was 6-3, 175."

Anderson is a big target who showed good hands in spring practice. Quarterbacks Brandon Cox, Blake Field and Calvin Booker all completed passes to the receiver during the workouts and he proved to them he is a reliable receiver.

"I am just trying to put it all together," Anderson says. "I am still learning. I am taking advice from Coach Knox. It is just a matter of time before I will get on the field and when they call me I will be ready.

"I believe I have made tremendous improvement since I got here," Anderson adds." I had played some receiver in high school, but I had a lot to learn. I had played quarterback and that correlates with playing receiver because I had to know what the receivers are doing. I am still learning and the smarter I get the better I get."

Anderson, who played point guard in basketball at Baker High and at Valley Forge, says he had scholarship offers in both sports from small colleges, but he grew up following SEC football and wasn't interested in playing at a lower level. "I was about the same in both sports, but I have just got the love for football," he says. "That is why I chose it."

A public administration major at AU, he says classes are going well and he is looking forward to the start of football practice in August.

"I just want to help out the team," he says. "I will even play defense if that is what they want me to do. My goal is to push the guy in front of me to get better and I want him to know that I am trying to play, too."

Anderson finished spring drills second team on the depth chart at one of the wideout spots behind senior Devin Aromashodu and ahead of redshirt freshman James Swinton. He showed good hands in spring drills and he says that is the strength of his game.

"Catching the football is what I do best," Anderson says. "I have good hands. If the ball is the air, I believe I am supposed to get it. I am working on route-running, which is important, too. It is not always about size and speed. Guys like Marvin Harrison, who don't have size, run good routes and get open."

The wide receiver says he has set a goal of earning a scholarship. "Paying for school is hard," he says. "It will be such a big burden off me and my family if I can get a scholarship. I don't want it handed to me. I want to earn it. A number of other guys worthy of having a scholarship don't have one now."

The best part of playing football comes on Saturdays, he notes. "I like the rivalry games, the competition, the fans, the media, everything about it and the potential to go to the next level. I like the friendships you make with guys on your team and even with guys on other teams."

Last fall, Anderson's first college catch was a memorable one as he scored on a short pass vs. Louisiana Tech. "It was exciting to make the first catch with it going for a touchdown," he says." It is something I will always remember."

Anderson hopes that was just the first of many catches in the coming three seasons. If he continues to improve, it won't be a big surprise if his playing time increases and if he does the quarterbacks have shown they like to throw the ball to the six-foot-three receiver who has proven he can catch the ball in traffic.

"When the quarterbacks catch me in one on one coverage, they take a chance on throwing on me," Anderson notes. "I have the confidence I will make a play. You have to have the confidence if you are going to play receiver."

Article Five, Patrick Martyn

Article Four, Nathan Farrow

Article Three, Matthew Motley

Article Two, Chas Crofoot

Article One, Jamoga Ramsey

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