By John Sleeper
SEATTLE – Rich Alexis remembers when he and John Anderson were going after big-game fish off the Florida coast in high school.
It was one of those days. Nothing was biting. Then Anderson got an idea.
“He cut a Sprite can in half and tied it onto some rope,” Alexis said. “Then he threw it in the water. Next think I knew, there was this big (fish) connected to the Sprite can. He was yelling, ‘Rich! Look! Look!’”
Remarkable. Amazing, even.
But then, it wouldn’t be the last time Anderson would amaze onlookers.
The University of Washington placekicker came to Washington out of Boca Raton, Fla., primarily because the program’s biggest need was his specialty. Now a junior, Anderson has fulfilled every hope, every expectation others have set for him.
“He’s capable of being the best kicker in the country,” UW coach Rick Neuheisel said.
Stats support Neuheisel’s view.
That kind of consistency was Anderson’s hallmark in high school. He was 9-for-11 as a junior, 12-for-16 as a senior, including a 51-yarder.
“He was automatic,” said Alexis, who followed Anderson out of Pope John Paul II to Washington. “That’s what we called him. Mr. Automatic. It seemed like it didn’t matter where we were on the field or how deep the kick was. John was going to make it.”
Anderson’s unique talent started in pee wee football, where he was the league’s only kicker.
“They put goal posts up for me,” he said. “I’d kick balls into the other field. No one could believe it. I asked Santa Claus for a pair of goal posts. Not many kids do that.”
And not many kickers have the ability to push the occasional miss out of mind.
Anderson had to do that against Michigan two weeks ago when he missed a 31-yarder. Thirty-one yards. Anderson could make a 31-yarder with his eyes shut.
It could have bothered him. Could have carried on to the next kick. But Anderson would put the next one through – one from 30 yards with 2:36 left in the game that put the game out of reach.
“When I missed that, I wanted to hit my kickoff, and I did,” Anderson said. “It was 8 yards deep. I just had to go from there. That’s what you have to do as a kicker. When you miss one, the only thing you have to think about is the next one. That one’s history. You can’t go back and change it. You have to deal with what happened and hopefully make the next one.”
Said UW special teams coach Bobby Hauck: “That’s what you need in a kicker. Nothing seems to bother John.”
So what’s next for Anderson? Only the next kick, but somewhere deep inside, he thinks he can nail one from 60 yards.
“Maybe with a little wind at my back,” he said, smiling. “I can’t kick it that far into the wind. But the opening kickoff (against Michigan) was against the wind and I kicked it out of the end zone. So weird things happen.”
Like catching a fish with a Sprite can.