Anderson, the son of former NFL star receiver Willie “Flipper” Anderson, was blessed with natural ability. During a breakout junior season, Anderson turned his 53 receptions into 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns. However, in the seventh game of his senior season, Anderson sustained a knee injury that not only cost him the rest of the season but threw his draft status in flux.
There would be no all-star games or Scouting Combine, and he remained on the sideline for the school’s March 26 pro day. That makes his personal pro day on April 14 a crucial day, even with his proven production and famous father.
“Yeah, it’s a big day for me,” Anderson said last week. “You go to the Combine and you perform at the Combine. If you don’t do as well as you want to, you’ve got your pro day for a second chance. So, it’s my one shot but I’m confident I’ll make it a great one.”
Even with his laid-back personality, Anderson’s senior season came to a difficult conclusion. His 42-yard touchdown catch at UCLA — his father’s alma mater — was a key play in an upset victory over the eighth-ranked Bruins. Three weeks later, on Oct. 25, Anderson made a key catch on the game-winning drive as the Utes improved to 6-1 by knocking off USC. In that game, however, he sustained a torn meniscus in his left knee. Without Anderson, a team captain, the Utes went 3-3 down the stretch.
There’s never a good time to get hurt, obviously, but the timing of the injury could hardly have been worse.
“If you get hurt with what I had, you want it to be earlier so you have that much more time to get ready,” Anderson said. “I made the best out of my situation and I’ll be good when it comes to OTAs. In the big picture, everything will work out but, yeah, it was a bad time.”
After months of rehab to get his knee right and sharpen his route-running skills, Anderson said he “can’t wait” for the 14th.
“Oh, yeah, I’m full speed. I’m feeling fast again,” Anderson said.
And how fast is that?
“You never know. We’ll see on the 14th when I run that 40,” Anderson said with a laugh.
Anderson called himself a “natural receiver,” and for good reason. His father, a second-round pick by the Los Angeles Rams in 1988, played in the NFL for 10 seasons. During his second season, he caught 15 passes for a NFL-record 336 yards against the Saints. He led the NFL in yards per reception in 1989 and 1990 and ranks fourth all-time with a career average of 20.1 yards per catch.
At Utah, Dres Anderson showed some of that explosive ability in spite of subpar quarterback play. He averaged 15.5 yards per reception for his career. As a junior, the 6-foot-1, 187-pounder led the nation with seven receptions of at least 50 yards.
“Because of the abilities passed down from my dad, I feel like growing up I always was one of the best players on my team,” Anderson said. “I think it came natural to me, just being electric and being able to perform the way that I did. Some people really have to learn some things that I feel like I was born with. I’ve always had those expectations over my head. ‘Do you want to do this? Do you want to go to UCLA like your dad? Do you want to be a receiver like your dad?’ Through all those things, my dad, he always supported me and always told me to be myself, so I never felt like I was ever in any shadow. I never really stressed about it or felt like I had to live up to this or that. It’s been good for me. It’s gotten me far.”
Especially with their similar playing styles, comparisons to his famous father are natural. Anderson is used to hearing them and isn’t bothered by always being “Flipper Anderson’s kid” rather than simply being Dres Anderson.
“I have no problem with people bringing my dad up,” he said. “You want to bring my dad up, it’s all good with me. Let the man shine. I’m here to keep his name going, right? Yeah, I want people to know me for me but you can always give my dad some shine, as well, because he did give me great ability.”
Who’s the better player? The question elicited a hearty laugh.
“Well, so far through college, I’ll say I was the better player,” he said. “I haven’t been in the NFL yet so we’ll see who has the better career. Yeah, I have watched some tape and he was amazing. He was a fast guy, a deep threat. I do all the same things. He had a good career at UCLA but I felt like mine was a little bit better at Utah. He had a great career in the NFL. I want to be better than him. Everyone should want to be better than their father or whoever went before them.”
Anderson said he’s never been bothered by the pressure of the family tree. Rather, the pressure has come from within, to be the best player he can be and to help his team win games.
Now, the draft is at hand. A career’s worth of hard work and months of rehab have set the stage for him to follow his father’s speedy footsteps to the NFL.
Anderson smiles a lot but not even he’s sure of the emotions he’ll be feeling when he’s selected — likely early in Day 3 of the draft.
“I’ve thought about that moment and I’ve dreamed about that moment but when it hits me, I don’t know what’s going to overtake me,” he said. “I don’t know if I’m going to be emotional or excited. I feel like I’m going to be excited but you never know. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s coming soon and I’m ready for it.”
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