Navy center Terrence Anderson is the type of collegiate hero
only the service academies seem capable of producing these days.
On the field the 5'11", 285-pound senior is a devastating run
blocker, one of the best offensive linemen in the nation. Off
the field he carries a 3.8 grade point average while majoring in
economics and minoring in Japanese. He has been awarded an
$18,000 postgraduate scholarship by the National Football
Foundation, which he plans to use to help pay for medical
school. He is team captain and chairs the academy's Captains
Committee--the captains of all 30 varsity sports--which makes
him, in essence, the captain of captains. He also sings in the
Academy's gospel choir. Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel is
speaking metaphorically and literally when he says Anderson
"fills up a doorway, and he fills up a room."
In short, Anderson is the consummate NCAA student-athlete,
everything his father raised him to be. The irony is that his
father was the consummate NCAA cheater--in 1989 Willie Anderson
received what amounts to a 12-year ban from coaching at a
Division I school because of recruiting violations while he was
an assistant coach at Oklahoma State.
When Navy plays Army in their centennial meeting in Philadelphia
on Saturday, Willie will be in the stands for only the third
time in his son's collegiate career. Despite his banishment by
the NCAA, most of Willie's life has been about doing good. He is
pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church near his home in Perry,
Okla., and for the past 11 years, he and his wife, Gail, an
education professor at Langston University, have regularly taken
in teen boys at the behest of local judges trying to keep the
youths out of the juvenile detention system.
Ambition turned a sharecropper's son into a college graduate.
Ambition made him lean down to his wife's pregnant belly and
softly tell his unborn first son that someday he could be the
first black president of the United States. And it was ambition
that led to Willie Anderson's shameful fall.
November 29, 1999
Though he made All-State as a senior at Stillwater High,
Terrence drew little attention from college recruiters. Even his
hometown school, Oklahoma State, ignored him. "[Coach Simmons]
came and watched us practice," Terrence says. "He never spoke to
me. I was a slow, 5'10", 230-pound linebacker." Rice offered him
a full academic scholarship and the chance to walk on. He
applied to Yale simply to see if he could get in; the framed
acceptance letter hangs in his home. Terrence had already mailed
his housing deposit to Rice when a Navy assistant coach who was
a Stillwater native begged him to visit Annapolis. "I was
expecting prison gates," Terrence says, but he went and fell in
love with the campus. He also discovered that life with his
father had prepared him for life as a Navy plebe. "Growing up,"
he explains, "I had rules and wasn't allowed to question why."
As strict as his parents were, Terrence pushed himself harder
still. "Very few young men get up at 6 a.m. and go to the weight
room to work out," Willie says. "T's an old man; he's always
been that way." Gene McKeehan, Navy's offensive line coach,
says, "If you talk to Terrence, he's never done anything right
his whole career. Kids here are overachievers, but even on that
scale, he's extraordinary. On the field he can do things that
screw up our line play. He'll tell me, 'I can get that guy in
the gap.' I'll say, 'No, no, that's fine. Let the poor guard get
him.'" Anderson is averaging 14 knockdowns a game and a grade of
95% from McKeehan this season.
Terrence's drive is apparent in the second half of games, when
tired defensive linemen across from him start moving backward
more often than forward. "He was always trying to get to the
next player, trying to hit another linebacker," Rutgers
defensive tackle Mike Belh said after Anderson limited him to
one tackle in Navy's 34-7 victory on Nov. 6.
"I feel like, athletically, I haven't been given a whole lot,"
Terrence says. "Having to work for it is just what I'm used to.
How else am I going to catch up to that guy with natural ability?"
Even Willie believes that his son pushes himself too hard--"My
oldest boy got my serious side too much," Willie says--but
Terrence comes by his drive naturally. Willie was one of 12
children of a South Carolina sharecropper who, he says, "had a
third-grade education and a Ph.D. in Jesus and common sense."
Willie was plowing behind a mule at age five. In ninth grade he
told his father he wanted to go to college, then found a
way--through football. Clemson recruited him, but Willie had to
sue the ACC in order to play. At that time the NCAA required
recruits to score 750 on their SATs to be eligible for a
scholarship, but the ACC's minimum was 800. Anderson and another
Clemson recruit sued the ACC, and Judge Robert W. Hemphill ruled
in their favor in 1972.
Willie was a 211-pound All-ACC noseguard as a senior in 1974,
then stayed on as a graduate assistant and served as dorm
manager when his two sons were infants. Surely no one has ever
had so many All-Americas as babysitters: At Clemson, Terrence
and his little brother, Derrick, were watched by William
(Refrigerator) Perry and basketball center Tree Rollins; at
Oklahoma State, they played with Barry Sanders and Thurman Thomas.
Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Rickey Bustle shared an
office with Willie at Clemson. "He worked hard," Bustle says.
"He could talk your ears off, a great personality for
recruiting. He was always on the phone, talking to coaches,
selling them the moon."
Anderson left Clemson in 1983 to join Jimmy Johnson's staff at
Oklahoma State. There he befriended two other young assistants,
Houston Nutt and Kevin Steele, now the coaches at Arkansas and
Baylor, respectively. "I've never met a better recruiter," says
Nutt, whose walk-ons this season include Derrick, a 6'1",
270-pound defensive lineman. "He started on guys early. If there
was a sixth-grader making a blip, Willie would drop him a note.
He was on the phone at 7 a.m., talking to kids--'Hey, you were
unbelievable last night!'"
The Oklahoma State scandal stemmed from the recruitment in 1985
of Hart Lee Dykes, the high school All-America wide receiver
from Bay City, Texas, whose testimony helped put four schools on
probation. According to the NCAA, Anderson paid Dykes $5,000
when he signed with Oklahoma State, made several payments of
$125 to $200 during Dykes's first two years and arranged for him
to get an expensive sports car by putting someone else's name on
Once the NCAA began investigating Oklahoma State, coach Pat
Jones, Johnson's successor, fired Anderson. Nutt says, "I
remember Pat saying, 'The guy couldn't help it. He just had to
cheat.'" Says Willie, "He hired me to coach football and recruit
players. That's what I did. I blame no one but me."
In 1989 the NCAA cut off Oklahoma State's scholarships for three
years. Terrence, who was eight years old when the Oklahoma State
scandal broke, never believed his father was a villain. "All he
told me was that he didn't do anything wrong," Terrence says.
"[I believe] he didn't do anything he wasn't forced or asked to
do with his job at stake. He took the fall."
A decade later Willie is still in football--he is the defensive
coordinator at Langston, an NAIA school 30 minutes from his
home--and filled with what he calls a "searing desire." It's
clear that he still believes in discipline and hard work. As he
walks out of his office on a sunny but windy fall morning, he
encounters one of his players. Willie says nothing--just stares
until the player sheepishly slides a cap off his head.
"Thank you," Willie says.
Gail Anderson is proud of the calm with which her husband has
accepted his fate. "He basically left it behind him," she says.
"He did what he had to do and he got caught. It's unfortunate,
but those things made us stronger. Have you ever seen a storm
that didn't pass?"
Anderson's coach says, "Kids here are overachievers, but even on
that scale, he's extraordinary."
Terrence says of his father, "He didn't do anything he wasn't
forced to do with his job at stake."