|HometownGrand Island, NE|
|High schoolGrand Island|
Mike Anderson joined the Huskers in 1990 as a scholarship linebacker. At 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Anderson came to NU after playing previously at Grand Island. He is from Grand Island, Neb.
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The following Q&A ran in The World-Herald on Sept. 2, 2016.
When Roger Anderson and his brother decided to partner up and buy a Ford dealership in Grand Island, it not only moved the family out of northeast Wyoming but likely changed the course of his son’s football future.
Mike Anderson would have been heading for his sophomore year at Newcastle High near the edge of the Black Hills, and at the time he was thinking about playing for the University of Wyoming.
He hadn’t even considered the kind of career he ended up having as a Nebraska linebacker.
“I don’t think Nebraska did much recruiting in the Wyoming area,” said Anderson, who lived in both Newcastle and Cheyenne for about five years apiece. “Our team wasn’t that good. So I don’t think I would’ve had that chance or have it work out that way.”
Anderson said he remembers being both excited and nervous for the move to “the big city.” His work with head coach Ken Fischer and Grand Island High — and his move to linebacker as a senior — led to his eventual Husker offer from the Tom Osborne staff.
After redshirting in 1989, Anderson lettered from 1990 to ’93 at NU, moving into the starting lineup as a sophomore. He was second on the team in tackles in both 1991 and ’92, as the Huskers were making the first of four straight Orange Bowls.
Anderson is now based in Lincoln as owner of the Anderson Auto Group, which his late father founded and sold to his son in 2008. Anderson has two locations in Lincoln and St. Joseph, Missouri, and one in Grand Island.
Grand Island also is where Anderson first crossed paths with former NU defensive tackle and current assistant coach John Parrella, who was a year older and attended GI Central Catholic. Their teams never played, but competed once in a weight-lifting contest in the Central Catholic gym.
Anderson takes a look back on his Husker career:
Q: What veterans were you maybe in awe of when you first reported?
A: At my position, Pat Tyrance really caught my attention, because he was a real specimen. He looked like a linebacker that you would chisel out of a rock. But he was just a great guy, and I think a pretty good mentor to young kids. But I was probably more in awe of just playing for Coach Osborne than anything.
Q: How fast before you realized the standards that went with being in the program?
A: It was pretty quick. Back then, we really had a lot of traditions. Things had been kind of the same way for such a long period of time, so there was a way you were expected to do things and you learned them pretty fast.
Q: What were your first impressions of Trev Alberts and Will Shields coming in with that same 1989 class?
A: They were really great guys. They were just friendly. Coming in as freshmen, you all get along really well because you’re all going through the same thing. I still remember maybe our first week of practice, there were four scholarship middle linebackers that year — myself, Trev, Troy Branch and Daren Williams — and Coach Osborne pulled us all in and said, “We have way too many middle linebackers here, so I’d like for one of you guys to move to outside linebacker.” I remember we’re all standing there looking at each other, and Trev says, “I’m the tallest one, I guess I can move out there.” Worked out pretty good for him.
Q: What was it like going through that switch from a 5-2 to a 4-3 defense?
A: Back then, the 5-2 was our run defense, and so the 4-3 was kind of our dime. I think it was my sophomore or junior year when we played a lot of dime, playing these teams that pass, and it turned out that we could stop the run pretty good with that defense. So we just kind of morphed into that. But it was kind of a change for me, going to (being) the main middle guy now.
Q: Did you ever envision Parrella as a future coach?
A: I guess you don’t even really think about it when you’re playing with somebody. He was always a fierce competitor and a guy sticking his nose in things, so from a player standpoint you really respected the guy. I guess I wouldn’t have pictured him as a coach, but with his tenacity and desire to always be the best, you could see where he could be good at it.
Q: What was it like finally getting to that first game after eight months of offseason?
A: It’s just like a breath of fresh air. All your sweat and tears and everything you went through, and now you get to enjoy hitting somebody else (other) than your teammates. This part of the year was always exciting because you get to do what you love to do, and that’s play the games.
Q: What satisfaction did you take from the 1994 and ’95 championships, knowing what you contributed in the years before?
A: I was excited, but yet you’re a little disappointed because you weren’t part of it. My senior year, when we played for the national championship and lost (18-16 to Florida State), we were just so close. And I think that gave the guys the next year the understanding that, “Hey, we can win this whole thing.” So we definitely maybe got things going in the right direction for those guys ... but they were the ones that actually did it, and it was pretty exciting.
Q: You played the 1992 Colorado game just 11 days after arthroscopic knee surgery. What would it have taken for you to miss that one after not playing at Missouri?
A: I hated sitting out. I felt like I was letting my team down. If I had an opportunity to be on the field, I wanted to be on the field. I just kind of planned on being there. I have a hard time today with kids ... are you hurt or are you injured? There’s a difference.
Q: Who was the best player you ever went against?
A: It’s kind of hard to say, because as a linebacker you’re always going against linemen, so it’s always linemen who stick out. I remember Lincoln Kennedy being a pretty formidable lineman. Then on the running back side I would say maybe William Floyd, who was a pretty good hitter. Probably the best quarterback was Charlie Ward.
Q: What would you have said in 1993 if somebody had told you that 20 years later Nebraska would be in the Big Ten?
A: I’d never believe it. I’d never believe we’d just be out of the Big Eight. What’s really sad is we haven’t won a conference championship in so long (1999). If somebody told me that we’d be in this big of a drought, I wouldn’t have believed that, either.
These are the players who built Nebraska football.
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