Our Ron Lippock caught up with former Steelers running back Anthony Anderson, who won a Super Bowl with the Steelers after the 1979 season.
First, can you let me know what you’ve been doing since your time in the NFL?
Well, I am a developer. I’ve been in real estate, have been a general contractor and loved that work since I was in college. Even in high school, really. It stayed with me. It was my first love. My second love was sports. Both required strong work ethics.”
Was it difficult adjusting to post NFL life?
I didn’t have a problem adjusting. From childhood to adult, you have to be responsible for yourself and make God number one. More than your sport or career.
When I lost my dad, I realized then that life can be serious and you have to use every moment to prepare for what’s next. I lost my dad in the middle of my NFL career and it hit me hard. He was my number one fan. It gave me a different perspective.
Also, I left the game without any regrets. It was important that I did my best from high school to college to the NFL. That was always my goal and I did that. That’s all I could do.
It wasn’t easy in the beginning. I’m quite sure everybody who leaves the game has dreams still of playing — of putting that jersey on again. When we played you couldn’t get that uniform on fast enough. Back then everything was so structured. You had to be somewhere at a certain place and time all the time. Then, you’re not scheduled any more, and you wonder how to do that.
Let’s talk a bit about ending up in Pittsburgh. As an undrafted free agent, how did that happen?
Well, it all goes back to my childhood. I loved the Steelers since I was 14. Our coaches took our high school all-star team to Pittsburgh to play the Morningside Bulldogs in Pittsburgh. The coaches had a connection to the Pittsburgh coaches and they played every year. The Morningside team was so good it didn’t lose a game in two years and didn’t let up a touchdown over that time.
Well, we played a muddy, rainy game. The day before we had to stay at the other kids’ homes. When we played them, they were so big, they looked like pros. They looked like the New York Jets, they had those same colored uniforms. They were beating us in the fourth quarter 20-0. That felt like a moral victory to us. We were hanging in there when my quarterback told me that we may not win, but let’s try to score a touchdown here. So they pitched the ball to me on the right side and I ran it — with great blocking — 75 yards for a touchdown. They ran me off the field! They told me not to come back just because I scored a touchdown on them!
Well, years later, when I was on the Steelers, I was wearing my Steelers jersey and a guy walked up to me and said he knew me. I thought, well, he probably followed the Steelers and knew me that way, but he said no. He told me he remembered me — that I was the guy that ran for 75 yards against his team in high school! We got a good kick out of that.
So you choose Pittsburgh due to that love of the team?
Well, I did love the team, but they were also the first ones that called. Coach [Dick] Hoak called me – and he was one of the greatest coaches I ever met. He was so intelligent. He watched me when I played Pitt and found me that way.
Anyone help mentor you as a rookie?
Randy Grossman took me under his wing.
Another undrafted free agent who knew what it took?
Yes, he knew how to carry himself and that as an undrafted free agent, you just couldn’t make any mistakes. When I first got there, they had Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Sidney Thornton — and they drafted Greg Hawthorne and Russell Davis too. So it was a lot of guys ahead of me.
How did you make the team then?
My fourth day of training camp, Jack Lambert and I got into a fight. I was blocking him and we ended up in a tussle. I thought I was off the team. I didn’t know who he was. But when practice ended he came up to me and told me I was the kind of guy they were looking for an took me under his wing.
You were part of the 1979 Super Bowl team as a rookie. Were you able to appreciate then how rare that was?
Well then it was the kind of thing, you just didn’t have the time to allow yourself to think about that stuff and dream. I was mostly just appreciative of the opportunity. Every step of my playing career got me there, from little league, college, to NFL, It all prepared me for this event. It was strange to play with people you saw on TV and be a part of all that. But I had to stay focused and stay within myself.
Any fun stories of your time there?
When you’re a rookie you have rookie camp first, that’s when the coaches are all nice to you. Then they tell you that they’ll see you Sunday when rookie camp ends and you start practicing with the veterans. I roomed with Dwaine Board, and I remember getting up that first day of practice and seeing thousands of fans waiting to greet the veterans. I’ll never forget that.
That first morning I walked up to LC Greenwood, he was getting out of his car. I walked up to say hi, and he looked at me and said, “Hey, grab my bags rookie and take them inside.”
They’d make us sing and and go through initiations as rookies. Some guys left camp due to the intensity.
Despite making the team your rookie season, you were let go the following year. What happened?
When my father passed away, it was right before George Perles told me the players voted me the MVP of training camp. That was good to know, I said. But then I had to take a week off when my dad passed away. That affected me. It was one of those things, it’s not an excuse, but I think it affected me. That’s what happened.
Lastly, any thoughts on the NFL game and how it’s changed?
I think they can do a better job on replays. But I think the changes overall are a great thing. It’s a spectator sport and no one wants to see guys laid out on the field. I think they are doing a good job keeping the game respectable for players. The players are the ones that suffer later on in life. Not the fans. I hope the fans appreciate that.