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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 — Houston, TX

Super Bowl hero C. J. Anderson mentors Rice RBs

Photo courtesy Rice Athletics

By Reed Myers     8/30/22 11:16pm

With three minutes and 13 seconds left in Super Bowl 50, the Denver Broncos lined up in the I-formation on the two yard-line up 16-10 against the Carolina Panthers. Peyton Manning took the snap and handed it off to running back C.J. Anderson, who ran through Carolina Panthers All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly and used a second effort to reach the end zone and put the game away. 

“Obviously, running Luke Keuchly over in the Super Bowl is one [of my favorite moments from my career],” Anderson said. “You can’t beat that, Luke Kuechly, good player, and I got a chance to seal the deal there.”

Anderson and his team would lift the famous Vince Lombardi Trophy as they were crowned champions of the 2015 NFL season. At the final whistle, Anderson’s 100 yards from scrimmage led all players in the game. This marked a special moment for Anderson, who first made the team as an undrafted rookie in 2013 from the University of California, Berkeley, and was third on the running back depth chart when the Broncos lost in Super Bowl 48 to the Seattle Seahawks. 

According to Anderson, winning Super Bowl 50 as the starting running back was a journey that started when he was on the bench for Super Bowl 48.

“Back in 2013, when we lost the Super Bowl to Seattle, I wasn’t the featured back,” Anderson said. “I sat there and I played the last three minutes of the game and I told myself what can I do to make it happen. Going through the process and the run was a lot of sacrifice.”

Anderson started the following season on the bench, but took over the starting role in the Broncos’ tenth game of the season and didn’t look back, leading the NFL in yards and touchdowns over the final six weeks of the season. In 2015, Anderson bounced in and out of the starting lineup after some early-season struggles, but regained his feature role in time to lead the Broncos to victory in the Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl 50 Broncos team included many of Anderson’s good friends, such as former all-Pro retired cornerback Aqib Talib, eight-time Pro Bowler outside linebacker Von Miller, and the late Demaryius Thomas, who he said was a big part of his life during his time in Denver. 

“I spent my first two years, it was me, [Thomas], and Andre Caldwell, who was another great teammate of mine, always at each other’s house, whether it was learning the playbook, playing FIFA, or playing pool,” Anderson said. “DT was just a joy, fun to be around, smile was always great, can always cheer you up if you’re going through it.”

Anderson would spend two more years in Denver before moving on to the Panthers, who had apparently forgiven him for his role in their heartbreak three years earlier, where he would take on new responsibilities. Anderson started just one game for the Panthers and ran for 104 yards, but according to the 31 year old, it was in Carolina where he discovered his talent for coaching. 

“I remember talking to running backs coach Jim Skipper, and he was like, ‘you’re smart, coach the room,’ so I kind of coached the room how I was coached from my running back coach Eric Studesville in Denver,” Anderson said. “I saw Christian McCaffrey doing some of the things that I was talking about, and I was like, ‘man, I might have knack for this.’”

Following his stop in Carolina, Anderson would then go on to play for the Los Angeles Rams, who signed him after star running back Todd Gurley went down with an injury. After closing the regular season with two 130-plus yard games, Anderson led the Rams in rushing during the playoffs as they reached Super Bowl 53, where they lost to the New England Patriots. According to Anderson, this provided another opportunity to mentor a promising young running back in Gurley and further hone his coaching skills. 

“I got to LA, and Todd Gurley was in his third year,” Anderson said. “So then I got to put Todd on those same things and be that vet backup role, and that’s when I was like, ‘you know what, I can probably do this.’”

Anderson would officially retire from playing in 2020 and immediately go into coaching football back in his home state of California. According to Anderson, he was able to pick up some coaching pointers from an old friend of his, Pro Football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.

“A lot of my football I learned from [Manning] and sometimes that even intimidates some of the coaches we have here,” Anderson said. “When I retired two years ago, I spent some time with him just learning a lot about the quarterback position and a lot about different things since I was jumping into coaching so I could be a better coach at all positions just because he saw the game so well.”

Fast forward to the present day, Anderson enters this season as the running backs coach for the Owls, his first position in the collegiate ranks. According to Anderson, the similarities to NFL playcalling that Rice offers is what drew him to the job.

“It is an NFL-like style from the playbook to how we practice to how we prepare, and those things are projected to help you for the next level,” Anderson said. “I always said whenever I got into coaching, whether I’m running my own program, which, that’s my goal one day, or whether I’m a coordinator or a position coach, I would want it to be in an NFL-like feeling because obviously that’s the top of the top of football.”

Anderson will look to build off of his mentorship experiences in the NFL as he will lead the Owls’ running backs this year. According to Anderson, his agenda is not about the money or the position, he is focused on helping his players grow. 

“I want to let them know that I care, truly care,” Anderson said. “I know a lot of people say that, but I will go out [of] my will and my way to do it because I don’t need the money, I don’t need the job, I’m not playing a kid because it saves my job. [I’m] truly getting to evaluate them, truly can develop and grow them and truly care about them on and off the field.” 

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