Saturday night, I checked my voice mail to see what was happening. I had a message apparently I hadn't seen on Friday. 386 area code. 386? A spammer? I hope not, that would chew up more of my precious few remaining minutes this crazy Draft season.
After checking the voice mail it turned out that a soft-spoken well-mannered voice on the other end belonged to a relatively unheralded, and almost completely unknown Draft prospect named Vince Anderson.
After making the mistake of contacting the wrong person with that name earlier in the week, I was careful to check that I had the right guy this time.
"Vince Anderson, Webber International University," I asked.
"Yes sir," the reply came.
Sir? I thought sheesh, that's stuff reserved for my parents. "Jon," I told him. "Call me Jon."
And so it began; another pre-draft interview in a long line of calls to faraway places. My phone was connected to another one of the homes of an NFL Draft hopeful. Many of them have an outside chance of getting Drafted. Some have expectations of being a first day pick, and a few of those first round guys. But this time, it was a guy who had no expectations a month ago, and now hopes he's going to be picked. He probably doesn't have to hope too hard.
In about 15 minutes I learned more about Vince Anderson than I would have imagined. The entire time, he called me sir. "Yes sir," and "No sir," were the answers.
Anderson returned punts as well as played defense. (Photo: WIU Athletics)
"Are you getting a little attention from NFL teams, or is it mostly wait and see," I asked.
"Oh no sir, I just worked out for the Colts on three days ago," Anderson said. "The Jaguars are interested, and I have more teams trying to set something up."
"Sounds like your Youtube video is doing its job," I replied.
"Yes sir. My agent, he's working hard on getting me more workouts. He's getting my name out to a lot of teams," Anderson said.
"How many?" I asked him.
Anderson rattled off the names of five teams he'd worked out so far, one of them twice. Then he listed about five or six more who were on the list of coming workouts, with even more trying to get in to see him.
"Oh yes sir," He replied. "I leave for New York next, then I'm flying (out west) right after that."
Anderson is a man in demand. Despite not being listed in the vast majority of Draft scouting report sites on the Internet, he's getting more attention than some of the mid-level prospects.
I wanted to find out more about this fast riser. "So how did you end up at Webber International," I asked. "Wasn't there a bigger school interested in you coming out of high school?"
"Yes Sir. I started at Nichols State as a true freshman," Anderson said with pride.
He went on to explain that some "things" happened, and the NCAA investigated.
The story is a bit convoluted, but the short version is that Anderson transferred due to an academic issue with someone at Nichols State that affected 13 players. After trying to fight for his rights, he finally relented and transferred, landing at WIU and red shirting that season.
"No sir," he answered. "The coaches all tried to help, but there was nothing they could do. The guy responsible got fired."
Anderson admitted that playing at Webber was different. The toughest player he faced was a wide receiver from Concordia College (Selma) named "Johnny something," Anderson said. John Halman, a 6-foot-2, 215 Pensacola Fla. product is listed on Concordia's roster. WIU won 14-9, as Anderson kept his guy to just one catch.
Competition at the NAIA is hardly stuff of legend, and Anderson realized it. "It's not the same as Nichols State," he admitted.
Still, for NFL scouts to show up at WIU to get a look at a prospect who's toughest opponent might have been The Citadel (A military college), he had to be doing something right.
|Anderson has better numbers than some of the top safeties in the Draft (WIU Athletics)|
What makes Anderson's rise up the Draft boards more impressive is that he trained for his pro workouts without the help of anyone but himself.
"Yes sir, no trainer, I'm working out on my own," Anderson said.
"Yes Sir. The Scouts, they seemed surprised too," Anderson said. Obviously taking pleasure in my reaction to his workout numbers.
Anderson ran a 4.52 40, a 4.09 short shuttle, had a 37 ½ vertical with a 10-foot-4 broad jump. He benched 225 pounds 21 times.
That's 21 times with no trainer. He jumped 37 ½" with no routine or sophisticated workout regimen or even a diet plan.
Anderson is an athletic freak. And he's hearing the same thing from scouts who can't believe what they're seeing of him in person.
"Yes Sir," Anderson said when asked if the scouts were impressed. "They're more impressed when they find out I'm not training someplace and I'm doing all this on my own."
An indication the scouts are impressed comes from their actions more than their words. The New York Giants went back to work him out a second time. Two teams told him there's no way he's going to last until after the Draft and they want to get a closer look at him.
Anderson's numbers are even more impressive when you consider he's 6-foot-2, 207-pounds. A weight he said he's used to playing at. The lightest was 203-4 and the heaviest 214.
With his size and athleticism, Anderson compares to some of the top prospects in the Draft.
Sean Smith of Utah is a good comparison. He's 6-foot-3, about 207 and he's getting attention for his 4.53 40, but he managed just 10 reps on the bench and a less impressive 34 vertical. http://nwe.scout.com/a.z?s=121&p=9&c=2&cid=849814&nid=4139220&fhn=1&yr=2009
Moore ran a 4.52 40, 37 vertical and put up 16 reps on the bench at the Combine. Chung ran a 4.52, jumped 34 vertical, but did put up 25 reps on the bench. Vaughn ran faster (4.47), but jumped just 37 and matched Anderson's 21 on the bench.
Anderson doesn't really have anyone giving him advice other than Webber's coaches and his agent. He has some family and friends rooting him on, but one person who could really help him hasn't reached out - his cousin, former Philadelphia Eagle and now New York Jet, Lito Sheppard.
"We don't talk much," Anderson admitted. "I see him at family functions and stuff, but my mom keeps in touch with his family so I hear about him. "After this is over I may call him."
Imagine that. Having a cousin in the NFL who isn't beating a drum for him.
Sheppard moved on from Philadelphia one year after the arrival of former Patriot Asante Samuel.
If Anderson lands in New England, he'll have his chance to catch up with his cousin more than twice a year at family functions. Considering how much attention he's currently getting from New England that may not be likely, but as one agent told me recently, "I've had players who never saw an ounce of interest from the team that Drafted them."
It will be interesting to see where Anderson lands. For now he's just hoping to hear his name called.
Anderson felt if it happens, it will be a blessing.
Vince, it may be a blessing, but it's because of all the hard work you've put in to get there. Good Luck.