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.
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.