Palo Alto Weekly

Sports - December 28, 2012

A step up from state title

Paly High grad Anderson has a new best football moment

by Rick Eymer

Kevin Anderson's best football moment was helping Palo Alto High win the CIF Division I Bowl state championship game two years ago. On Tuesday, that's about to change.

Anderson, who stepped across the El Camino Real to play football at Stanford, will be with his eighth-ranked Cardinal teammates getting ready for Stanford's first appearance in the Rose Bowl in 13 years.

"I never envisioned myself playing there, even though it has been a goal here all along," Anderson said. "I'm definitely looking forward to it."

Stanford (11-2) and Wisconsin (8-5) meet in Pasadena for the 99th Rose Bowl on January 1, 2013, with a scheduled kickoff of 2 p.m. (PT) on ESPN.

Anderson, a redshirt freshman, won't be some sideline observer either. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound outside linebacker, worked his way into the rotation and has been contributing to Stanford's defensive success all year.

Anderson has appeared in all 13 games as a special teams player and a linebacker. He recorded two sacks among his seven tackles on the year, helping the Cardinal lead the nation in sacks (56, a 4.31 average per game), and tackles for a loss (120, 9.31 average).

Stanford ranks third in rushing defense (87.69), 14th in scoring defense (17.46) and 21st in total defense (338.92). Anderson has had a hand in all of it.

"We all take pride in being the best at what we do," Anderson said. "What we do best is rush and play defense. We take it play by play."

Anderson plays alongside linebackers Shayne Skov, Chase Thomas, Trent Murphy, Jarek Lancaster, A.J. Tarpley, Alex Debniak and James Vaughters to form one of the toughest, most cohesive units in the country.

Thomas and Murphy were named first team All-Pac-12 selections and Murphy was named a third team All-American by Associated Press.

"We always say we have 22 guys who can play on defense," Murphy said. "Our four outside linebackers (Thomas, Murphy, Debniak and Anderson) could play at any university. We help each other out and can talk about what we see."

The four outside backers combined for 23 1/2 sacks and 38 1/2 tackles for a loss. Murphy led the team in both categories with 10 sacks and 18 tackles for a loss.

Anderson added a pass break-up, a pass deflection and a forced fumble to his resume. Not bad for a guy who came to Stanford as a defensive end.

"I was moved to linebacker right away," said Anderson, whose biggest adjustment was dropping back into pass coverage. "I had to work hard to get stronger and I think I'm more suited as an outside linebacker."

Anderson had no illusions when he arrived at Stanford in the fall of 2011, just after the Cardinal was victorious in its visit to the Orange Bowl, its second appearance in a BCS bowl game since the inception of the BCS for the 1998 season.

"I figured I would come in, work hard and play when a spot opened up," said Anderson, who spent an informative year on the scout team and eventually earning the Greg Piers Team Award for outstanding contributions to Stanford's scout team.

Anderson calls himself more of a football fan than a fan of any specific team, perhaps a politically correct way to stay in good graces with parents who graduated from California.

Anderson was born at Stanford Hospital and has not strayed too far. Former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, a Palo Alto grad himself, told him as a junior he would be offered. Scout.com listed him as the nation's 41st best defensive end prospect as a senior.

"The No. 1 thing was how good the school was academically," said Anderson, who could have played right away at a number of other colleges. "It came down to how well I liked the coaches and the players and how good the team was."

With the Orange Bowl trophy in hand, and Andrew Luck returning for another year, Anderson's decision was made easy.

He's been part of Stanford history, three consecutive 11-plus win seasons and a third straight BCS bowl game. This one, the grandaddy of them all.

"It's exciting," Anderson said. "Last year I was on the scout team helping the offense. This year I'm helping the team on special teams and defense."

He's become part of a rotation that doesn't seem to drop off no matter what personnel are on the field.

"He's definitely a strong athlete," Murphy said. "I know he started inside and then moved outside and responded well. We've all been impressed at how well he did and that he is able to hold his own. I think the hardest thing was adjusting to the game speed. He's been impressive."

Anderson, as a two-way lineman, helped Palo Alto compile a 14-0 mark (best in school history) and the No. 2 ranking in the state in that remarkable 2010 season. Two of his former Paly teammates already have appeared in bowl games this season.

Maurice Williams caught a pass for the College of San Mateo in its win over Sierra in the Bulldog Bowl and Davante Adams caught 13 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown for Fresno State, which lost to SMU in the Hawaii Bowl.

Now, it's Kevin Anderson's turn.

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