In the Trenches with John Anderson

Oct. 10, 2002

In his four years at Washington, John Anderson has established himself asone of the school's greatest placekickers. Anderson equaled the schoolrecord with a 56-yard kick in 1999, and holds UW records for career 50-yardfield goals (4) and 50-yarders in a single season (3). His four field goalslast week against California, which equaled the second-most in schoolhistory, gave the Boynton Beach, Fla., native 49 for his career, trailingonly legendary kickers Jeff Jaeger and Chuck Nelson on the Huskies' careertop-10. Anderson's contributions have been more than just what fans see onthe field, however -- after arriving in 1999, Anderson tipped off the Huskycoaches to an up-and-coming tailback at his alma mater, Pope John Paul IIHigh School. Thus, Rich Alexis became a Husky, and the following year, sodid PJP II alum Charles Frederick. With just seven regular-season gameremaining in his Husky career, Anderson reflected on all that has happenedin his four years with the Dawgs. You had to kick two field goals over 50 yards indistance in the Cal game this year. What kind of mindset do you have rightbefore kicking one that long?
John Anderson: 'You just have to go out there and kick it like anextra point. I'm blessed that I don't have to kick any harder to make a50-yarder than I would an extra point. I just have to go out there relaxedand try to make it.'

GH: Last year, you made two game-winning field goals, one againstArizona State, and one against USC. With the game on the line, do yournerves escalate?
Anderson: 'Both times I was really excited to go do it. Luckily, Imade both of them and won both of the games. I was a very neat experiencefor me. It's something that when I'm 40 years old and talking to my kids Ican say, 'yeah, I beat Southern Cal, and I beat Arizona State.' It was justa very exciting moment in my life.'

GH: Kickers are put in a difficult position: if you make it, thecrowd breathes a sigh of relief, but if you miss, you're the bad guy. How doyou react to that?
Anderson: 'I guess the media and other people might think of it ashero or goat, but that's the reason we go to practice, to off-seasonconditioning and to mat drills -- to build a team. I'm sure if I missed oneof those [game-winning] kicks there would have been 50 guys putting theirarms around me saying, 'That's alright, don't worry about it, the season'snot over.' That's just the type of relationship we have on this team. No onepoints the finger. When we lost to Cal there was no finger-pointing,everyone stayed together.'

GH: You're on pace to kick 24 field goals this year, which would ranksecond all-time at UW [Chuck Nelson kicked 25 in 1982]. Is that a goal ofyours?
Anderson: 'It would be cool. If it happens, it happens, and if itdoesn't, it doesn't. Every time I go on the field, I'm just going to do mybest to make the kick because this team is going to need as many points asit can get, and that's my job. If I get two more attempts the rest of theyear and we win, I'll be as happy if I get 40 attempts and we lose.'

GH: Last year you were a preseason candidate for the Lou Groza Award,given to the nation's top kicker. Does that enter your mind during theseason, and is there pressure to win it in your last year?
Anderson: 'Football is not an individual sport. My goals this yearwere to kick as best I can, and help this team win as many football games asI can. If I get nominated or elected for the Lou Groza, it happens. I'll beexcited for that after the year. It's a postseason award, and that's whenI'll probably think about it.'

GH: Do you have any advice for freshman kickers coming in next yearto play for the Dawgs?
Anderson: 'Actually you'll have two freshman kickers coming in. Justdon't take it too seriously. The people here will love you if you make it ormiss it. Just go in and try your best. I just hope they realize what itmeans to come in and wear a purple and gold helmet. You don't point fingersat anybody else; the hold was never bad, the snap was never bad. I just hopethey come in and continue to help this program.'

GH: Speaking of the hold, that job falls to Cody Pickett. When youkick a field goal do you ever worry about accidentally kicking his hand? Andwould the coaches kill you if you did?
Anderson: 'Every once in a while he won't get his fingers out of theway in time, and you'll see it. Quite a bit in practice it'll catch hisfingers, it doesn't hurt him at all, but the ball doesn't go very far. Idon't think it's ever happened in a game and I hope it never does happen.'

GH: Is there any difference kicking in Washington versus kicking inFlorida?
Anderson: 'About 40 degrees! The footballs at home are maybe a littlesofter. As with anything, as a football gets warmer, it gets softer. It'sstill a football and goal posts, though, so there is really littledifference.'

GH: When you were growing up in Florida, what collegiate sports teamswere you a major fan of?
Anderson: 'I guess, Miami and Florida State. I never liked Florida.The first thing I thought of this weekend after we lost was, 'at leastFlorida lost.' When I came up here, though, and I didn't really realize whatPac-10 football was all about. I'm a Washington Husky now, and probably thebiggest moment of my life was beating Miami, the team I grew up cheeringfor. I'll always cheer for those teams. I'm a fan of this sport, and I'mjust happy to be at Washington; I could never be anywhere else.'

GH: So you grew up a 'Cane fan, eh? When Miami and Washington splitthe national title in 1991, who do you think deserved to win it more?
Anderson: 'I don't know. I think everyone in college football wouldhave loved to see that matchup. Both of those teams went through really goodschedules unscathed, and both blew a bunch of teams out. I think it wasPresident Bush who said that maybe they should've just played on the WhiteHouse lawn. Both teams can say they won the national championship that yearand both of them earned it.'

GH: So you're dancing around my question?
Anderson: (chuckles) 'Yes.'

GH: It's somewhat of a football legend that kickers are a tad quirkyand weird. Is that true?
Anderson: 'I don't know. I consider myself a football player. I'vealways played football, it's just at this level I'm not big enough or fastenough to play another position, so to get on the field I have to kick. Iwouldn't consider myself quirky or anything. I'm just really laid back anddon't take anything too seriously. I just want to go out there and help myteam win.'

GH: So I hear you're dating Jill Johnson on the UW cross countryteam. She runs a lot! Do you two ever go running together for a date orsomething?
Anderson: 'Absolutely not. I would never ever put myself through thattorture.'contributing to Steve Hitchcock

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