The Kid That Would Be a Man

Ah, yes, it's summertime. The weather is warmer, the Oregon views are spectacular, and in just a few short months…it'll be football season again!

A true football aficionado never really stops thinking about it, and I’d wager a dollar or two that several of you out there are looking for anything to gratify your fix in this desert of football information after spring camp.

Sometimes, you have to look back in order to see what’s in front of you. If you go too far back into the Beavers’ season last year, you may not like what you see. So, let’s only go back two games; let’s look at the contests with the Lobos of the University of New Mexico and the University of Southern California Trojans.

D. Anderson on the run. Getty Images
Anderson could have an All-Pac-10 season in 2004.

As we gaze into our time machine view finder, let’s not look too deep. Rather, let’s focus on what should give hope to the Beavers this upcoming year.

Quarterback Derek Anderson took quite a bit of criticism throughout the year, and I handed out my share of it. I’ll not apologize for my opinions. As the old adage goes, I call ‘em like I see ‘em. But to be fair, anything I’ve written, and most things I’ve read, have always said that Anderson is an exceptional talent. That’s true, he is. Most pundits spotlight his overthrows, interceptions, and bad decisions as main detractors from him realizing his potential.

Early last season, I chose to focus on his lack of leadership, field presence, in essence, his quarterbacking. Following that, I received an email from a gentleman (an Oregon Duck fan if you can believe it) extolling the former Scappoose High star and his abilities to both play and lead. I can’t say I disagreed with him, but it seemed that Anderson might have forgotten he knew how to do at least one of those things.

Derek had not yet matured enough to match his physical skills. Kids play the game of football across the country, at all levels. But in order to truly lead a football team to success at the Division IA level, you have to be a man.

I’ll admit, I’ve never talked to Anderson, never met him, and never interviewed him. I watch him play. I watch him react. I watch the team respond or not respond to him, and then I form an opinion which I’m lucky enough to be able to share with you. It is what it is.

So let me share with you what I saw in those two games, and why, after being critical of the Beavers’ season last year, I have hope. Let me share with you why I think Derek Anderson is about to have a career year and propel the Beavers to a record equal to or better than they’ve posted the last two seasons at 8-5.

During the Las Vegas Bowl against the Lobos, the Beavers put everything together and gave viewers a glimpse of what could have been during the season. Anderson masterfully directed the team to the end zone drive after drive. The confidence he had in himself manifested itself in his teammates. Running back Steven Jackson had a career game racking up four touchdowns on the ground and one through the air. But give credit where credit is due: Derek Anderson led the Beavers.

Now go back just a littler further, to the last game of the regular season against USC. Time and time again the offensive line, the same one that ESPN analyst Mel Kiper called one of the worst in the country last year, allowed the Trojan defenders to batter Anderson to the ground. Time and again he got up and assumed the helm of his ship.

Anderson getting sacked. Getty Images
Anderson took a beating at USC, but still managed to throw for over 400 yards.

Nobody expected the Beavers to win that game; everybody hoped they might. Instead they were beaten in a lopsided 52-28 outcome. But one moment made that game. One span of time following a play gave hope to the future. After having been driven to the turf in the backfield, Anderson was seen in a close up on national television on all fours, wincing in pain, head hung.

Suddenly, as if woken in a start from a foggy slumber, an unwavering look came across his face, his jaw tightened, his eyes focused, and his limp body came back to life. He snapped his head up, stood with determination and turned back to lead his team to whatever fate awaited. That moment, that instant, I saw the Scappoose Kid…become a man.

Robert Nesta can be reached at

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