The NFL journeys that are beginning for Stephen Anderson and Brennan Scarlett are the stuff of dreams for all rookie free agents: sign after the NFL draft, get into a training camp, and put together enough in practice and in the preseason to lock down a spot on the 53-man roster. That is exactly what both Anderson and Scarlett did when they arrived to the Houston Texans. They give the Texans some youth on different sides of the ball to help for the now.
This is just the beginning for both rookies but this journey actually started in 2011, when Anderson and Scarlett met each other on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley.
“It is crazy,” said Scarlett of sharing this experience with Anderson. “It is just a cool story having him around and he is a good friend of mind. For us to share this experience is pretty cool.”
“I see a familiar face from college and makes everything alright and that we are in the same position,” explained Anderson. “I am really happy that he is here. “
Anderson was a walk-on wide receiver from in state, attending the school both of his parents graduated from, while Scarlett, from Portland, Oregon, was offered a scholarship to play defensive line at Cal. It was there that their paths would cross to set up a more unlikely scenario nearly five years later.
“It is amazing,” said Scarlett of looking back at when he first met Anderson. “Knowing when we are at Cal coming in we had a summer bridge program, Stephen was the first guy I met at Cal. We were roommates through the summer and ended up rooming again our senior year.”
“It was really great,” said Anderson. “That was my first college roommate and we lived together another year after our freshman year. That is my guy and back on the same side with him only makes this better.”
Their times at Cal that the two took different directions; Anderson worked up the depth chart and by his senior season, became a vital target in Cal’s offense in his new position of tight end. Scarlett battled through knee and hand injuries and tore his ACL in 2014, which would be his last season with the Bears.
While Anderson was preparing for his final season at Cal, Scarlett, due to his injuries, graduated from Cal but had one season of eligibility left to play football. He chose to head to Stanford, where his brother, Cameron, was entering as an incoming freshman, for his final season of football. Scarlett became the first ever graduate-transfer in Stanford program history and the first transfer from Cal to Stanford since 1962.
Anderson, to this day, is still in disbelief his good friend in Scarlett opted to head to the rival school.
“He is not going to get over that. See, Stephen’s Cal roots run deep,” said Scarlett. Those roots go back to Anderson’s parents meeting and graduating from Cal.
“When I am in the room, I am rooting for Stanford because my brother is there. When I try to update him on Stanford, he doesn’t want to hear it,“ Scarlett continued explaining about Anderson’s love for his alma mater, laughing.
Their friendship never stopped, despite a season spent away from each other but, all at once, their paths crossed in an instant after the conclusion of the NFL draft. Anderson was a scheme specific tight end while Scarlett’s injury history led them both to be signed by the Texans after the draft.
Anderson remembers when he got the call from his good friend shortly after the draft.
“He actually called me after I signed (with the Texans) after I put something on my Instagram telling me 'I am coming to Houston, too!' That was really cool,” said Anderson.
Their arrival in Houston took a similar feel to what happened in college.
Anderson arrived in Houston and immediately worked his way up to the depth chart, while Scarlett was dealing with a hamstring injury that slowed him to start training camp. It was clear that Anderson belonged on the team once he stepped on the field with his upside as a pass catcher. However, the wait for Scarlett was well worth it because, when he had his first practice of camp in a joint practice against the New Orleans Saints, he showed in that practice he could play at the NFL level.
Neither was surprised with what they saw from each other during camp.
“I saw the work he put in during college,” said Anderson of Scarlett. “He was injured but I knew of his ability and how hard he works. We trained together, I wasn’t surprised at all.”
“Stephen puts in the work every day and competes his butt off,” said Scarlett. “For him to be out here making plays, everything is falling into place for him position wise. He is a matchup nightmare for sure. I am not too surprised honestly.”
As the Texans started working to set their roster prior to week one, Anderson and Scarlett were both uneasy on what their respective fates would be. Both realized that their futures were known when they were heading to their first team meeting, with their teammates and each other.
“After it all happened and we figured it out that we were going to be on the 53-man,” said Scarlett. “I was like, five years ago could you imagine that this would happen?”
Anderson spent time with his good friend that weekend prior to the start of preparation for their first NFL game. It was just like old times at Cal as roommates.
“We ... hung out all weekend,” said Anderson. “I talked to his parents, he talked to my parents. We are really close and it is a great feeling both of us making it."
In life, paths cross with many people, but to start a college and NFL career with a familiar face would make most appreciate the journey so much more. With the Texans set to open up their 2016 season against the Chicago Bears, two long shots in Anderson and Scarlett are proving hard work and fate make moments like this even better.
“It wasn’t even a thought that we could play on the same NFL team and both make it as undrafted free agents and be on the team,” explained Scarlett.“Now that it has happened we are both like 'Wow, that is amazing.' You can’t write it better than that.”