Welcome back to another exciting edition of our 2019 Countdown to Kickoff series! In 24 days, the Oklahoma Sooners will return to Owen Field for a Sunday night season opener versus the Houston Cougars. As for today’s countdown topic, it’s only appropriate that we use this opportunity to reflect on the career and journey of running back Rodney Anderson, who in some respects could be regarded as the modern day version of ‘The Best That Never Was’.
Coming from Katy, Texas as a four-star recruit in the 2015 class, Rodney Anderson was obviously talented, but entering a backfield with established names like Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon was going to be tough for any unproven back to receive that many carries. Nevertheless, No. 24 impressed his coaches enough to allow him to play right away instead of benching him for a redshirt.
OU running backs Samaje Perine, Rodney Anderson and Joe Mixon signing autographs #Sooners pic.twitter.com/al0IuQTNc4— News 9 Sports (@News9Sport) August 6, 2016
Then Week 2 of the 2015 season came, and Anderson was finished for the year. The talented RB suffered a broken bone in his leg on a special teams play early in Oklahoma’s road contest at Tennessee. Fortunately for the Sooners, depth at the position was not an issue, but unfortunately for Anderson, he’d have to begin his college career by overcoming a year-long setback.
Actually, make that a two-year setback, because in August of 2016, just as Anderson was returning to the fold from his leg injury, he sustained a neck injury that would sideline him for yet another season. Was it bad luck, or karma for a past life? Whatever it was, Anderson wasn’t playing the blame game. All he did was continue to work, and trusted where the journey would lead him.
Going into the 2017 campaign, Oklahoma was entering a new era of leadership, as Bob Stoops called it a career and Lincoln Riley was promoted to head coach. The Sooners also needed to replace the massive amount of production that was lost when Mixon and Perine went in the second and fourth rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, respectively. On the team, Anderson was suddenly the eldest back, but because of his circumstances, his in-game experience was about as bare minimum as it gets (one rush for five yards).
Through the first six games of the 2017 season, Anderson was more-or-less even in the rotation with his running back counterparts, with none creating much separation for themselves. Along with Trey Sermon and Abdul Adams, the Sooners were solid in the running game, but it didn’t look like a true game-changer was part of the mix. Then the Kansas State game happened, and Anderson looked to have finally found his confidence after years of working to reclaim it. Not only did find his footing, he became an instant gridiron hero.
2⃣4⃣ Days Until ️ .— Sooner Gridiron (@soonergridiron) August 8, 2019
Rodney Anderson scores the game-winning touchdown with 7 seconds left against Kansas State in 2017#OUDNA | #BoomerSoonerpic.twitter.com/d4YLYIstlh
After that manic moment in Manhattan, Anderson started the final seven games of the season, and continued put together huge performances every Saturday. In the six games before his big night against K-State, he had a total of 82 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on the season. In the final eight games, he went ballistic for 1,079 yards and 11 scores.
Beyond what he can do with a simple hand-off, what makes this running back truly unique is that he brings the entire package to the position. At 6’0” and over 220 pounds, he has the size to run between the tackles throughout the duration of the game. He also has the open field speed to gain chunk yardage if not flat-out beat defenders to pay dirt. He has the cutting ability to effectively make people miss. He’s also an exceptional receiver out of the backfield and a smart blocker in pass protection. After the 2017 season, the college football world was finally and properly introduced to Rodney Anderson.
In 2018, he was back for an encore, but once again, the cosmos had other plans in store. As his career began with a season-ending injury on the second weekend of Oklahoma’s schedule, so too did it end in his final go-around, as Anderson suffered a torn ACL against UCLA. In total, he wrapped up his days as a Sooner with 1,285 rushing yards, 16 rushing TDs, 281 receiving yards and five more scoring receptions. Even with all that talent, the Katy native proved time and again he had even more heart. Knowing that, it should come as no surprise to anyone that he didn’t dwell on the setback. He simply went back to work.
In the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Cincinnati Bengals selected running back Rodney Anderson from Oklahoma. There, he’s been reunited with former OU RB Joe Mixon, and although he was still on the mend from his knee injury during the draft process, Cincy took notice of his ability and his story. Now, as of Aug. 7, 2019, he’s been cleared to practice.
NEWS: RB Rodney Anderson passed his physical and has been cleared to return to practice— Cincinnati Bengals (@Bengals) August 7, 2019
If he can stay healthy for a good, long stretch, the Bengals will be overjoyed with Rodney Anderson’s athletic gifts. He’s done it before, and he can certainly do it again.
Now let’s cover any days we missed since our last countdown post:
25 Days! - Joe Mixon as a Cincinnati Bengal
With Anderson now in Cincinnati, it’s fitting that one of his new running mates is actually an old teammate. As I mentioned previously, Joe Mixon is also a Bengal, and before he donned No. 28 in black and orange, he wore No. 25 in Crimson & Cream.
After being selected with the 48th pick in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Mixon came in and was immediately inserted into the upper tier of Cincy’s running back rotation, receiving starts in seven of 14 games played and rushing for 626 yards on 178 carries and four touchdowns. He followed that up by taking the next step as a second-year pro, starting 13 of 14 games and racking up 1,168 yards on 237 attempts, all while adding another nine scores to his career total.
After becoming the Bengals’ feature back in 2018, Mixon is now poised to carry Cincinnati’s running game as a rising star in the league. The dream for Sooner Nation would be to eventually see a Mixon-Anderson backfield duo teaming up against the AFC North. If all goes well, that possibility is definitely in play.
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