It’s incredible what $31 million, 80,000 square feet and a 12-1 Orange Bowl championship season can bring a football program.
Specifically, for this year’s Kansas University football team, such currency delivered the state-of-the-art Anderson Family Football Complex that the Jayhawks now call home.
Gone are the annoying bus trips across campus from the old locker room to the stadium. The outdated, overcrowded meeting rooms, film rooms and training rooms the Jayhawks used to make do with have been traded in for newer, more spacious, more triumphant quarters.
The facility, situated at the southwest corner of Memorial Stadium, is a constant reminder of the heights the KU program has reached. It’s something that is not lost on the student-athletes who frequent the new digs.
“It’s definitely a reminder of what we’ve accomplished,” senior linebacker Joe Mortensen said. “And I’m so glad, being a senior, that I got to experience it.”
From the sound of things, Mortensen has experienced the complex more than just about anyone on the team. An informal survey of a dozen or so Jayhawks made available at a recent media session revealed that.
“Every time I go down there, I see him in there doing something,” defensive lineman Caleb Blakesley said of the senior linebacker.
Senior offensive lineman Adrian Mayes also was quick to pick Mortensen as the one player who calls the complex home.
“I think Joe Mortensen spends the most time in there for sure,” Mayes said. “He doesn’t have a car, so he’s always walking everywhere and showing up way too early. It’s been pretty special to have a facility like that. It’s real nice.”
Mayes, who admitted he spends a minimum of two hours a day at the new facility, said his favorite room in the building was the hydro-therapy room.
“There’s a hot tub and a cold tub in there,” he said. “That’s some good stuff.”
Mortensen, meanwhile, has two pretty good reasons for logging so many hours in the new complex.
“My favorite room is probably the weight room. I’m a weight-room fanatic,” Mortensen said. “Other than that, I’d have to say the players’ lounge. In the players’ lounge, we’ve got flat screen TVs, X-Box, Playstation 3 and all that stuff. We’ve even got an arcade in there, and we play Street Fighter and go old school.”
The players’ lounge seems to be far and away the most popular room in the entire joint, and that’s largely because of the freedom it offers.
“It’s away from the coaches and away from everybody else, and it’s just the players,” sophomore wide receiver Dezmon Briscoe said. “It’s just a cool place to chill.”
Defensive lineman Russell Brorsen said Briscoe’s assessment of the lounge was right on the money.
“That’s really what it is,” Brorsen said. “It’s just a place you can go if you have some extra time It’s always open. The whole facility’s always open if you have the code. You can go in there at 3 a.m. if you can’t sleep, or you can go in there just to watch TV. Nothing bad ever happens there.”
Of course, it’s not all fun and games in the new facility. A fair amount of actual work gets done there, as well. And, for some players, like red-shirt freshman offensive lineman Jeff Spikes, it’s having the room to work that he appreciates most about the Anderson Family Football Complex.
“It sounds cheesy, but I would say the offensive line room,” said Spikes, asked his favorite spot. “You can get yelled at, but there are so many people there, you can’t get torn into too bad. All the film work, all of the different things we need to go over, all of our plays … we build a lot of plays in there. It’s just like a learning center. Every time I go in there, it’s a chance to get better.”
Spikes was one of the few Jayhawks who went a different route when naming the player that gets the most face time on the complex’s security cameras. He chose Mayes.
“Adrian Mayes spends his whole day there,” Spikes said. “He has nothing else to do, and he loves the game of football.”
Senior wide receiver Dexton Fields went with the oft-injured Kerry Meier.
“Probably Kerry Meier, because he’s been in the training room all year, working hard trying to get himself ready to play,” Fields said.
And Mortensen, the man who tried to beat strength coach Chris Dawson into the facility by showing up at 4 a.m. a couple of times, voted for linebacker Justin Springer.
“I’m up there a lot,” Mortensen said. “But I’d definitely have to say Justin Springer. He’s a weight-room fanatic like me, but he takes it to another level. I guarantee he sleeps in there. I see him sleeping in the players’ lounge all the time.”
No matter where the room or what the reason, the 2008 Jayhawks have adapted to their new off-the-field home with ease.
“We have great people in there, all of the coaches, our strength staff, our trainers. It’s a fun place to be,” Mortensen said. “If you’re bored, you can go in there and just talk to someone. Or you can jump in the cold tub and see how long you can hold your breath. I’ve got the record, I’m a minute-15. I don’t know how cold the water is, it’s like 48 degrees or something like that. I think someone, I think James Holt, got 50-something seconds. I’m owning everybody.”