Like most all-American candidates, Utah running back Mike Anderson spent most of his autumn days on the football field in high school. But unlike Ron Dayne, Peter Warrick and LaVar Arrington, Anderson -- who rushed for 1,173 yards and 12 touchdowns last season -- was not wearing a helmet and pads. He was strapped to a drum in the marching band at Central High School in Winnsboro, S.C.
"In ninth grade I tried out and I was more heavyset than the other kids," Anderson said. "They needed a lineman and wanted me to try out there instead of trying out for running back. I had a love for the band, so I did that instead."
After high school, Anderson again took the unusual route and joined the Marines. He saw action in Somalia and Kenya and played in the full-contact league at Camp Pendleton in California, catching the attention of an assistant at Mount San Jacinto Junior College in San Jacinto, Calif. After four years as a Marine, Anderson enrolled there and rushed for 3,197 yards in two seasons while getting recruiting looks from Arizona, Arizona State and Washington State.
Anderson decided to attend Utah. "At the time I was recruited, I knew that one [running back] was a senior and that Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala [now with the Pittsburgh Steelers] had just turned pro," he said. "So I said, `That's the perfect situation. If I work hard, I could be a starter my first year there.' "
Anderson started all but one game last season as a junior, earning first-team all-Western Athletic Conference honors. He was the second running back in school history to rush for 100 yards seven times in a season. Anderson's teammates started calling him "Colonel."
"I get a lot of jokes, like `old man' this and `old man' that," said Anderson, who will turn 26 on Sept. 21. "But a lot of the guys look up to me and respect me because I've been through a lot and bring more to the table. They listen when I have things to say to them."
This year, Anderson was named the preseason offensive player of the year in the new Mountain West Conference. He thinks he'll improve upon his numbers from a season ago now that he's had a year to acclimate himself to the Division I level.
But will he ever return to the marching band?
"It's two different worlds," Anderson said. "Band was fun, but it doesn't compare to being on the field and playing this game."
As Division I independents without big-money television deals, Central Florida and Louisiana Tech have trouble raising funds and visibility for their programs. The schools get around these problems in an odd way -- they embark on brutally hard schedules.
Central Florida, now without star quarterback Daunte Culpepper, opens with No. 22 Purdue at home before traveling to No. 4 Florida, No. 10 Georgia Tech and No. 12 Georgia on consecutive weekends.
Louisiana Tech already has lost, 41-7, to top-ranked Florida State. The Bulldogs face sixth-ranked Texas A&M in Shreveport, La., Saturday and travel to Birmingham to face Alabama on Sept. 18. Louisiana Tech also travels to Southern California on Nov. 26, and has just three home games at its Ruston, La., campus.
Louisiana Tech's game with Florida State was shown nationally on ESPN2, and the Bulldogs were paid $500,000. Central Florida generated $1.4 million for the program in 1997 by playing five powerhouses, including Nebraska and Auburn, and earned $700,000 last season with games against Purdue and Auburn.
Rebuilders at Work
Lou Holtz begins the monumental task of rebuilding the South Carolina football program Saturday at No. 24 North Carolina State. Holtz coached the Wolfpack from 1972 to 1975 and compiled a 33-12-3 record before leaving to coach the New York Jets. The Gamecocks went 1-10 last season, with their win coming against Ball State. . . .
In a less-heralded, but also interesting coaching debut, former Atlanta Falcons and San Diego Chargers coach June Jones seems unlikely to help Hawaii end the nation's longest active losing streak. The Rainbow Warriors take an 18-game skid into Saturday night's home game against 21st-ranked Southern California. But they play Division I-AA Eastern Illinois on Sept. 11.
Defending national champion Tennessee did not mail its 1999 media guide in envelopes. It went with heavy-duty cardboard boxes labeled "Handle With Care -- National Champions Inside." On one side of the box is a picture of three Volunteers tackling Florida State quarterback Marcus Outzen in last year's Fiesta Bowl. The other side depicts ABC's Lynn Swann interviewing Coach Phillip Fulmer with the national championship trophy after the Volunteers beat the Seminoles. . . .
Brigham Young publicists have come up with an early contender for the year's most creative postseason-awards campaign items. In an attempt to push linebacker Rob "Freight Train" Morris for the Butkus, Nagurski and Bednarik awards, they have mailed wooden train whistles, a flyer promoting Morris's accomplishments and a letter from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers that endorses Morris for the Butkus Award.
What, No Homework?
"I took two classes, tennis and weightlifting. You should see me on the tennis courts now!" -- Running back Travis Prentice, a Heisman Trophy candidate from Miami (Ohio), describing summer school in an e-mail sent to members of the national media.