Anderson at school as Raven

History teacher makes most of NFL long shot

September 26, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

The strategy was formulating in Bennie Anderson's mind.

Anderson had his job as a high school history teacher in St. Louis during the summer. Now, all he needed was a way to reach his students by using a non-conventional method, something he was working on shortly before the Ravens called and invited him to training camp.

"A lot of people will appreciate history more if you change the way it's taught. As long as I can change the way it is taught, then I can influence the kids," Anderson said. "If they learn history, then maybe that can influence their decisions in the future. That is my main reason for going into teaching."

Anderson still refers to his former plan in the present tense, because he intends to teach when his football career is over.

Anderson's teaching plans were derailed temporarily when the Ravens signed him as a first-year free agent June 14. Not knowing how things would work out, Anderson kept his job on hold until he made the final cut.

"I didn't get signed until after minicamp, so I had to prepare for my own future," said Anderson, 24. "I'm going to still go in [to teaching]. I have a lot to give to children, people period. I think that will be my best avenue to go at it. Plus, I love history. I'm a history buff."

As for how he wants to change the way history is taught, Anderson said, "I want to make them see how events of the past correlate with events of the future. Not only that, teaching is not only about tests and dates. It's about different personalities. Don't teach them to think George Washington was a great man or a bad man. Give them the facts about him and let them form their own opinion."

In essence, that is what Anderson will attempt to do over the next few weeks for Ravens followers. In two months, he has risen from long shot to solid backup to starter for at least three quarters of one game after making his debut in Sunday's 21-10 loss at Cincinnati.

Many in the Ravens' front office knew he could play early in training camp, but after possibly unseating Kipp Vickers in less than six quarters, Anderson may give the rest of the league a chance to find out about one of the team's best-kept secrets. Coach Brian Billick has not announced yet whether Anderson will start Sunday's game at Denver.

"Bennie Anderson played very well at right guard for us, took 66 snaps," Billick said.

Anderson's story is one of the best on the team. He played for Tennessee State before signing last year as an undrafted rookie free agent with the St. Louis Rams, where he was waived in training camp. He then went to the now-defunct XFL's Chicago Enforcers earlier this year, and is now possibly the starting right guard for the defending Super Bowl champions.

"Even when in college, I always felt I could rise to the occasion," Anderson said. "No matter what it was, I knew I had enough pride in myself that I wouldn't allow myself to get beat, or that I wouldn't let my teammates down, no matter what the situation was. I always felt I could play at this level.

"I know it's rare. But at the same time, I get a check like everybody else. It may be rare to the public, but I'm here to do a job. When I get in to the game on Sunday, it's not, `Oh, he's a rookie free agent.' It's, `He's a Baltimore Raven, he plays offensive line and he needs to get the job done.' That's my mind-set. I'm here now, and I have a job to do."

Just how did he move up the depth chart so fast? Coaches love his size (6 feet 5, 305 pounds), agility and poise. All were on display early in training camp.

"All the coaches noticed him," Ravens offensive line coach Jim Colletto said. "They all made comments about this guy that moves around so light on his feet for as big as he is. And then some of the defensive linemen came and said he was a competitive guy they wanted to pass rush against.

"So we started paying a little more attention to what he was doing. [Defensive tackle] Sam Adams came up to me and said, `Make sure that guy is in there when I'm rushing, because he gives me a tough look.' You take notice of that.

"He's made a lot of progress since he started in training camp. His biggest need now is game experience. He did a nice job in the game on Sunday but there were a few times in the running game when his footwork got him in trouble. But he's got some real potential."

Anderson already has been awarded a game ball, not for his play, but for his commitment to the team. In the Ravens' opener against the Bears, Anderson stayed with the Ravens rather than fly to St. Louis to be with his pregnant wife, who was on the verge of giving birth to the couple's first child (he left as soon as the game ended in time to see Bennie Jr.).

Anderson can provide a more comfortable lifestyle for his family through football than teaching, a benefit not lost on him. Anderson is making about seven times his scheduled teacher's salary.

He said the money does not matter.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.