Ames, Iowa — Smarts and patience have been two of Brandon McAnderson's greatest tools in earning him a significant role on Kansas University's football team in this, his junior season.
Smarts and patience enabled McAnderson to execute one of the biggest plays of his career Saturday in a 41-10 blowout victory over Iowa State.
The second-quarter play called for McAnderson to take the pitch from quarterback Kerry Meier, roll right, then turn around and either hit Meier with a pass in the left side of the end zone, or if he was covered, throw the ball away. He did neither. Instead, as usual, he made the smart play.
He saw Meier covered, noticed a couple of bodies on the ground on the left side and seized the opportunity to run the ball into the end zone, a four-yard touchdown run.
His first of two touchdowns put KU up 27-3. McAnderson said he heard Cyclones yelling, "Watch for the throw-back," before the ball was snapped, causing him to wonder later if they "had a spy in the backfield."
The problem with asking a running back or a wide receiver to turn into a passer for a play is he wants to throw regardless of whether anyone is open.
"The coaches have faith in me," he said. "They know I would not make the mistake of throwing it into coverage."
The son of Ramon (a youth football coach) and Michelle McAnderson and a proud graduate of Lawrence High, Brandon is a fourth-year junior. He's the best pass-blocker of the three running backs KU coach Mark Mangino uses. He has quicker feet than most 6-foot, 235-pound running backs.
McAnderson rushed seven times for 42 yards Saturday. He has averaged 4.4 yards on his 26 carries and has scored five rushing touchdowns.
His favorite plays?
"I love tackles on kickoffs and punts," he said. "It's just that when I think of football, that's how I think of football, running down and making tackles and just hitting people. My dad used to sneak me in on the kickoff since I was 5. To me, kickoff and punt coverage are so important. At this level, there are no more important plays. If you don't do your best, it can cost you field position, and it can cost you touchdowns."
Many talent evaluators liked the way McAnderson hit so hard playing for Lawrence High they projected him as a linebacker in college.
"I'm glad it worked out the way it did," he said. "I'm getting to be what I wanted to be when I came here, being a major contributor, helping to lead the team. That's something I wanted to do here."
For a long, long time.
"I loved Lawrence High football," McAnderson said. "When I was growing up, KU was really good in the early '90s, and Lawrence High was really, really good, and I always wanted to play for Lawrence High. When I played for Lawrence High, I always wanted to play for KU."
He started to say, "I've been lucky enough," and that's when he stopped himself and reversed course, similar to when he changed from would-be passer to touchdown rusher.
He restarted: "I worked hard enough to do what I've always wanted to do."
Once again, McAnderson showed that when he changes direction, he tends to make the right cut, not the shortcut.