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The next spring was to be a new start for Anderson, but it became a nightmare. Over the winter, while continuing the injections, he had worked out in the weight room, and by spring he felt refreshed and strong. However, only a week into spring practice he began to feel the same kind of weakness he had experienced in the '87 season. "I hit bottom that spring," Anderson says. "All of a sudden I thought I was never going to play again, that I wasn't an athlete anymore. That was very depressing."
Back home in Capitol Heights, Md., he sought advice from his mother, Elois, his father, Norman, a guidance counselor at Foulois Middle School in Morning-side, Md., and his best friend, Ricky Byrd. Anderson decided to redshirt for the 1988 season and concentrate on recuperating and pursuing his degree in speech communications.
Still, he remained part of the team, wearing his game jersey with street clothes on the sideline for every game, and dividing his time between cheer-leading and helping Krivak. The coach remembers one Saturday at Duke when Anderson overstepped his bounds. "We were behind 16-14 in the second half and [wide receiver] Barry Johnson made a touchdown catch to put us ahead," says Krivak. "All the players ran down to the end zone to congratulate Barry. Mike was wearing his jersey and sweats and taking care of my phone cord, but all of a sudden I turn around, and who's on the top of the pile but Mike. We got an unsportsmanlike conduct call because Mike was on the field, but that's the kind of guy he is."
The next season Anderson had improved to the extent that he played 10 games in '89 and was the Terps' fourth-leading rusher, with 187 yards on 56 carries. Maryland finished a disappointing 3-7-1, but Anderson was the catalyst in removing a monkey from the team's back. Maryland had lost 24 straight games to Penn State when it took the field against the Nittany Lions at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore on Nov. 11. Late in the first half, Anderson sneaked out of the backfield and caught a swing pass for the first touchdown of the game. "He had tears in his eyes after the touchdown," says Lowery. "He knew he was back." The game ended in a 13-13 tie, a moral victory for Maryland but an enormous personal triumph for Anderson.
Meanwhile, back in Cole Field House on the Maryland campus, Williams was starting to worry about his basketball team. Talent was not the problem. Tony Massenburg, Jerrod Mustaf and Walt Williams were All-ACC material. What worried Williams was more subtle. He was in charge of a program in turmoil. The psychological residue of Len Bias's death in 1986 and the subsequent resignations under fire by Williams's predecessors, Lefty Driesell (in 1986) and Bob Wade ('89), had left the players drained. That's why Gielen mentioned Anderson to Williams.
"With all that has gone on around this team the last few years, our guys had a tendency to go into shells," says Williams. "As soon as Mike Anderson came out, he made it O.K. to show emotion. He has showed them the way."
Anderson's way is to dive for loose balls during warmups. To high-five the water boy. To set picks that induce emergency orthodontia. And to laugh at himself when he dribbles the ball out of bounds off his foot. The team has embraced him and dubbed him with the inevitable nickname for a two-sport athlete: Bo. "Everything Mike does the guys say, 'Bo knows this' and 'Bo knows that,' " says Gielen. "He keeps everybody loose."
The Terps immediately rallied around Anderson, running off five wins in the first six games he was with the squad. Anderson played only briefly in those games, but his presence uplifted his teammates. "I've thrown him out there whenever there is a lull," says Williams. "Sometimes you have to hide your eyes, but you know he'll make something happen."
Take what appeared to be, in the final stats, a simple assist by Anderson in the Terps' Jan. 4 win over Wake Forest. He fired a perfect pass to Massenburg, who took it moving under the hoop and jammed in a tomahawk slam. The running back-turned-guard then sprinted to his teammate for a high five, and all the Terps joined in a spontaneous love-fest. "That play was when basketball became a student activity that people could enjoy again," says Maryland sports information director Herb Hartnett. Anderson's role expanded to the point where he has become the first guard off Williams's bench. His numbers are puny, but the Terps, who struggled early in the season, have jelled with Anderson in the fold. "His stats don't matter much," says Massenburg. "Just having him out there picks everybody up."
Anderson shrugs off his image as some kind of Moses in hightops. "I just put my mind to something, and I feel I can follow through," he says. "That's the way I attack it on the court and with my leukemia."