Rashard Anderson Interview

Story line for Anderson thanks to the Calgary Herald:

Rashard Anderson paid a stiff price for his poor judgment and immaturity. But now the Calgary Stampeders are handing him a fresh start.

As reported by the Herald last week, the former National Football League first-round draft pick signed with the Stamps and will arrive in town Friday for training camp.

It will be Anderson’s first football action since the 2001 NFL season, when he patrolled the Carolina Panthers’ secondary. In May of 2002, Anderson was suspended for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy and he’s been out of work ever since.

His presence in Calgary is sure to elicit a variety of reactions.

“I understand every bit of it and every way a person could take it,” Anderson said Tuesday, from his home in Forest, Miss. "I could understand if they were excited because I know the type of athlete I am and I know what they’re getting.

"You’ll have people who are curious because they know I’ve been out for a couple years and are probably wondering if I still have it. And I know some people might be mad – ‘We don’t need to deal with someone who was an outcast by the NFL’ – this, that and the other thing.’’

“The only person that can answer all those questions and actually prove what needs to be proved is me, myself and I.”

After the Panthers selected Anderson 23rd overall in the 2000 NFL lottery, he played 27 games over two seasons, primarily at safety. But in 2002, he tested positive for a banned substance and was suspended.

While undergoing treatment, he failed another drug test and was suspended indefinitely. When he finally was reinstated, the Panthers immediately released him and he seems to have been black-listed by the league.

“It felt terrible,” said Anderson, 27. "It felt bad because no one walked up to my door and said, ‘Rashard, we want you, we want you, we want you.’

"I sit back and think about some things. My coaches would say, ‘How could you mess up millions of dollars?’ That wasn’t the reason a person should stop doing those things. You should stop because it’s your life, you’re sacrificing yourself, your family and all that. That’s when you realize this stuff is messing you up. As far as money, the fame and the glory, it doesn’t mean anything.

"You have to learn that it (drug use) is affecting your life, your family life, your kids . . . I realized that’s not the way to be. I didn’t realize that in five days. It took me three years.

“It was (because of) immaturity. Stubbornness. This is the example I use and I use it more now that I have a kid: I see him making mistakes that I made a long time ago and I’ll say, ‘Don’t go over there, don’t play with fire, you’ll get burned.’ But if you don’t know, if you’re too immature, or too stubborn to understand, you don’t (listen).”

Anderson’s agent, Ben WIlson, said his client has been clean for 15 months.

And Anderson said his checkered days are behind him.

“I don’t know if they test (in the CFL) and I really don’t care if they do,” said Anderson. “If they want to, they can. I wish they would. I don’t have to worry about it.”

If Anderson is clean, content and in good shape, he could be a huge asset for the Stamps.

When he came out of Jackson State, he offered a rare combination of size and speed for a defensive back. He was progressing as an NFLer until the off-field problems derailed his career.

Now, he plans on making a impact in the CFL.

A few months ago, he starting working out with Tom Shaw – a highly-regarded personal trainer who whipped Deion Sanders into shape for his comeback last season – and believes most of the rust will be gone early in training camp.

“I thank God that they gave me the opportunity. It’s a blessing to get back into football,” said Anderson. "I don’t know what the future holds, but at this time, Calgary is my No. 1 objective. I’ll do what they want me to do, go in and play ball.

"I’m not the only one who has gone through issues. You look at other people and they make mistakes. That doesn’t mean they’re bad people. They’re good people who are going through things. Someone might have trouble with their bank account. I had trouble dealing with the drug-abuse policy.

“I’m just happy I can see a difference and I’m happy that someone else noticed the difference because I’m back into playing football.”

mpetrie@theherald.canwest.com

NFL first-rounders to play in the CFL in the past 16 years:

Rashard Anderson, CB, 23rd overall, 2000, Carolina Panthers – Calgary

R.Jay Soward, WR, 29th overall, 2000, Jacksonville Jaguars – Toronto

John Avery, RB, 29th overall, 1998, Miami Dolphins – Edmonton, Toronto

Marcus Nash, WR, 30th overall, 1998, Denver Broncos – Winnipeg

Lawrence Phillips, RB, 6th overall, 1996, St. Louis Rams – Montreal, Calgary

Bernard Williams, OT, 14th overall, 1994 Philadelphia Eagles – Toronto

Andre Rison, WR, 22nd overall, 1989, Indianapolis Colts – Toronto

Todd Marinovich, QB, 24th overall, 1991, Los Angeles Raiders – Winnipeg, B.C.

Rashan Salaam, RB, 21st overall, 1995, Chicago Bears – Toronto

Reidel Anthony, WR, 16th, 1997, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Edmonton

Well he sounds sincere. But who really knows? Everyone(or at least MOSTLY everyone) say the right things at this time of year. We’ll see what happens out on the field.

Give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise. Could be an excellent addition for the Stamps.