Rodney Anderson said multiple times last week it’s funny how things work out shortly before signing his first professional football contract with the Cincinnati Bengals.
The rookie running back selected in the sixth round of last month’s NFL Draft went to the same high school, Katy High near Houston, as quarterback Andy Dalton. And he played at Oklahoma with running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Jordan Evans after he initially verbally committed to Texas A&M, where he would have teamed up with fellow Bengals draft pick and running back Trayveon Williams.
For Anderson, there’s plenty of familiar names and faces around him at Paul Brown Stadium. And, due to those connections, something Mixon told Anderson after he was drafted has been on point.
“He just told me that it’s a great place to be around, that he fit in real well and that I’d have no problem fitting in just the same,” Anderson said.
Anderson, at 6-foot-0, 224 pounds, continues recovery from late-September surgery to repair a torn ACL, and said he expects to be 100 percent healthy when training camp opens in late July.
If he returns to form from 2017 — he rushed for 1,161 yards and 13 touchdowns and starred on the biggest stage with 201 yards and two scores in the Rose Bowl — the Bengals will have pulled off a steal in the draft. At least one NFL draft analyst, The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, said this time last year that Anderson was a first-round talent.
But Anderson’s junior season was cut short after just two games. Adding the knee to a list of injuries that included a broken leg and surgery to repair an ankle tendon in 2015 and a neck injury that cost him the 2016 season, Anderson slid to the Bengals and the overall No. 211 selection.
“He’s a guy that we thought highly of, with the stuff that he could put on tape when he did play in college,” said Bengals coach Zac Taylor. “He’s in the rehab phase, and we knew that when we drafted him that he wouldn’t be practicing this offseason. He’s in there with (Bengals running backs coach Jemal Singleton) getting the mental part of it down. I have no worries that he will be able to do that and continue with the rehab, and so when training camp rolls around we’ll see where he is at that point.”
Anderson watched on Friday during the Bengals rookie minicamp.
His goal right now, he said, is to, “basically show I’m attentive and I can pick up the plays and the system and that I’m just a smart player that can learn the system and take mental reps and stay focused and locked in. I’m just doing a lot of rehab right now and trying to finish that up. I fully expect myself to be ready for training camp when we come back in July.”
Anderson and Williams were part of a draft that revealed Taylor’s vision for the Bengals offense and a dedication to establishing the run game. Offensive linemen Jonah Williams and Michael Jordan and Drew Sample, utilized mostly in college for his blocking, were picks that Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan joked would make Mixon a happy man.
Anderson and Williams were added for depth as Giovani Bernard enters his seventh season and final year on his contract and after Mark Walton was cut earlier this year. The two rookies were nearly teammates in college, but Anderson changed course and signed with Oklahoma the year before Williams, a native of Houston, arrived in College Station.
Now, finally, they share a locker room.
Cincinnati Bengals halfback Rodney Anderson (33) watches drills as he walks though in a knee brace during a rookie mini camp practice at the Paul Brown Stadium practice field in downtown Cincinnati on Friday, May 10, 2019.
Cincinnati Bengals halfback Rodney Anderson (33) watches drills as he walks though in a knee brace during a rookie mini camp practice at the Paul Brown Stadium practice field in downtown Cincinnati on Friday, May 10, 2019. (Photo: Sam Greene/The Enquirer)
“I’d heard about him growing up and stuff,” Anderson said. “He’s a great player. It’s cool to be on the same team with him now. It’s funny how things work out.”
Last season, 175 players from Texas were on NFL rosters in September, third-most of any state behind California and Georgia. Entering this season, only two, Dalton and Anderson, played for prolific program Katy High, which is tied for the most state championships at eight.
More than a dozen years ago, a young Anderson attended a summer football camp Dalton helped coach. It was so long ago that Anderson said he couldn’t remember if he caught a pass from Dalton or asked for an autograph.
Dalton, though, said he remembered hearing about Anderson.
“He may be the best player to come out of Katy,” Dalton said. “He’s a stud. He’s an absolute stud. And for us to only have two guys in the NFL from Katy High School, to both be here, that’s pretty cool. I don’t really know him. But I knew of him.”