College football has enough millionaire miscreants taking up all the oxygen these days, it’s easy to overlook those who gamed the NCAA system for themselves.
Calvin Anderson sure has. The Georgetown native finished his high school career at Westlake and earned all of two stars from the recruiting services back in 2014. That didn’t bother Rice coaches. They signed the 6-5, 240-pounder and put him to work.
“I was a small boy coming out of high school,” Anderson said. “I thought I was a good player; I just knew I was really light.”
So he ate, lifted and studied his Owl tail off. Anderson redshirted and then started all 36 games he played at Rice from 2015-17. Along the way, the whip-smart 22-year-old became a mathematical economics and religion major with a minor in business at the “Harvard of the South.”
Then, Anderson got acquainted with NCAA bylaw 14.6.1 — the graduate transfer rule. Athletes who earn an undergraduate degree can qualify for a one-time transfer exception and go play anywhere they want, even in the same conference.
Anderson got his degree from Rice, setting him up for life beyond football. He’s got one friend working at Goldman Sachs and another working at Barclays. One gets the feeling he’ll make a fortune someday. For now, Anderson can spend the next three months working on his football résumé on Texas’ dime.
“It was a business decision to come here and play football and to set myself out to be ready for the 2019 draft — all of that stuff,” Anderson said this week, wearing a gold Rice ring. “I’m not so focused on that right now, because I’m focused on winning games for this team. But life is unpredictable.
“I think I tried my best at Rice,” he added, “even while I’m still here, trying to set myself up to have as many options as possible and see what the future brings when it comes.”
A business decision? Life is unpredictable? As many options as possible? Anderson’s parents, Keiko and DeVry, take a bow. Heck, I’m giving you a standing ovation myself.
Anderson’s second choice had been Michigan. Make no mistake, UT coach Tom Herman is happy Anderson’s here. The Longhorns needed a left tackle with Connor Williams’ departure. Herman gets a one-year rental player, so to speak, and Anderson gets to play for his hometown team. Nowadays, the 6-5 tackle weighs 300 pounds.
As for playing at Texas, Anderson said, “It’s better than what I thought it would be. And I thought it would be pretty great.”
Every single high school recruit should study Anderson’s career path, not to mention that of UT running back Tre Watson, a graduate transfer from California. First, that means you’ve got to, you know, study.
Both athletes took advantage of the overwhelming academic support afforded to them. Watson had plenty of time to study last season. He suffered two torn knee ligaments in September and was lost for the year.
In fact, all high school recruits that are serious about playing college football should talk with their guidance counselors about graduating high school early. That’s the fastest way onto the field these days. UT freshman Caden Sterns enrolled this January and he started last weekend against Maryland.
If you want to play all four years at one school, that’s great. By taking care of their academics, athletes give themselves options and can essentially become free agents.
The numbers indicate more athletes realize this. The NCAA reported there were only 17 football-playing graduate transfers in 2011. Six years later, that number jumped to 211. That may not seem like many on the surface. College coaches looking at their depth charts would love some plug-and-play veterans.
Men’s basketball also has a similar spike in numbers; there were 15 in 2011 and 104 in 2017, although most try their luck with the NBA instead of transferring as a graduate student. Track and field has the most movement among women’s athletes. There were 68 grad transfers last year, according to the NCAA.
“Cal was a great situation for me coming out of high school,” Watson said. He’s also 22 and, like Anderson, speaks like an adult who knows where he’s going in life.
“I got my degree from there, and I wanted to pursue my masters and couldn’t get in the programs there,” Watson said of Cal. “So Texas was perfect. It was the perfect situation for me to come here and play the game I love while also pursing that.”
It works the other way, too. Cornerback John Bonney took his corporate communications degree and left Texas in August when it was clear he was falling on the depth chart. Bonney showed up at Texas Tech literally one day later and finished with a team-high eight tackles in the season opener against Ole Miss.
“He handles his business, always has, his entire life,” Kingsbury said of Bonney, a four-time member of the Big 12 Commissioner’s honor roll. At UT, Bonney started in 15 out of 37 career games and had 87 tackles and one interception.
“As soon as I got here, I knew I didn’t have much time,” Bonney told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, “so I had to get in the playbook every day, learn the defense as best I could and learn my teammates. It’s a quick adjustment, but I feel with my experience, playing so much, I was able to grasp everything.”
Anderson had a similar fast-and-furious adjustment. It took him a few days to get up to speed with UT’s playbook under offensive line coach Herb Hand. Midway though training camp, he was working with the first team. Anderson was atop the depth chart prior to the Maryland game.
Anderson’s bio says he can solve a Rubik’s Cube behind his back. Yeah, we’re gonna need proof of that, big guy. He can probably do it, though. Anderson has already solved a far more complicated puzzle — getting through college and the business of college football.
“Even after a loss, I still feel very privileged to be here,” Anderson said. “To be able to play for Austin, to be able to play for the Longhorns, I see it as a privilege. That’s another reason why I try to work so hard. The resources and the fan love, it’s not like that everywhere in the country. I count it as a blessing that I’m able to be here and play for the school. Anything I can do to make myself play better and put things out there for the fans to see, that’s what I’ll be doing.”
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.