The road from Canton to Lexington is not as easy as hopping on 75 and making your way through Ohio and Kentucky, as Chad Anderson found out. But, persistance and a strong will has landed him here, finally, on the fields of Nutter Training facility. I got a chance to talk to the young man, his current condition, and what his plans are today at the first freshman practice.
The first question that comes to mind when people talk about Chad Anderson is how much the man weighs. Coming into fall ball last year at 267 while waiting for his appeal, and an entire year of playing no football or having any guidance during conditioning, some believed that the already stout young man would come into this years fall practice ready to patrol the end of the defensive line.
Chad did just the opposite, not wasting any of his time away from the football field. He weighed in this morning at 251 lbs, 16 lbs LESS than what he carried this time last year, while improving his strength and speed.
It was definitely not an easy road to the fruition of his intentions to play for UK. After he got the phone call first from Antonio Hall, then the confirmation from Coach Goodner, Chad went through a period of disbelief. Chad was one class short of playing big time SEC college football. Soon that disbelief turned to anger at what had taken place in his hometown of Canton, Ohio, playing for what many consider one of the high school Mecca's of the world, McKinley High.
At this high school in particular, football is important, but athletics as a whole is valued as king. If you are an athlete of exceptional caliber, you are expected to compete in more than one sport, to contribute to the good of the school.
Antonio had warned Chad about this type of thinking, being that Antonio Hall suffered because of his play in multiple sports. Hall had competed in shot-put and hyper extended his elbow in competition during his senior year, forcing him to miss 6 months of weight lifting before he got to UK. He came in to fall practice (often called two a days) weak, not allowing him to compete to the level that he knew he could.
Chad also competed in shot put, had a history of tendenitis in his right elbow, and was nursing a herniated disk (for which he played his senior year of football with because his high school would not let him receive medical help), he decided to quit competing to prevent any chance of the same injury from happening.
McKinley High did not take kindly to this decision by Chad. This dissention by his superiors caused angst to grow within him, pushing him farther from doing the best that he could in his schoolwork. He then was told, once his football career was over and the spring semester began, that he did not need a 4th year of English to pass the NCAA clearinghouse. In fact, he already had the amount of credits he needed to graduate, so Chad gave in to the infamous senior-itis.
During this time, his coach, his guidance counselor, and numerous other superiors who had previous experience in getting D1 players into their D1 schools, said nothing. Although his coach questioned the grades he was receiving in his classes (being that he had been a 3.0 student throughout high school), never once was Chad told that this performance would prevent him from playing college football.
So he continued to workout, continued to get in shape, continued to do what he needed to do to compete in the SEC, at least until his cousin Antonio Hall calls him at 9 in the morning to tell him that Coach Goodner needs to talk to him.
UK appeals the NCAA's decision not to let Chad play, but it fails. Soon after Chads return to his hometown of Canton, he wrecked his car. He had a hard time finding employment because everyone knew that he would be leaving for school soon. And of course, he took a night class, 1 hour a day, 2 nights a week, to make up for the one he failed earlier that year.
The night class ends up creating more frustration than anything that had occurred before then. He would go to class, read a book of his choice (which happened to be "Shaqille O'Neil Strikes Back"), write a book report, and write poetry. He was missing playing college football for a level of English he passed when he was in grade school.
Eventually, he passed the class with ease, and made his way to Lexington, finding a roommate in his cousin Antonio. He was able to work out in UK's facilities, but only when the rest of the football players were gone. Chad worked out, alone.
With all that time to himself in the weight room, the amount of anticipation for being able to put the pads back on and hit again grew. It has been almost 2 years since he last hit. It has been almost 2 years since he racked up 20 tackles against St. Ignatius, a perennial top 5 in the country football team. It has been almost 2 years since he was ranked as one of the best high school linebackers in the country.
How sorry we will all feel when Dave Ragone gets to feel every second of that anger and frustration. Okay, well, maybe not sorry.