It hasn’t been the same for Rodney Anderson, sitting on the couch, watching Oklahoma play football on television.
“I want to be out there in person,” he said. “I’m just yelling at myself, really, in the living room.”
A day after OU launched its Heisman Trophy campaign for quarterback Kyler Murray — dubbed “Kyler Knows,” it included a recreation of the iconic two-sport star Bo Jackson’s shirtless photo with him in shoulder pads, holding a wooden baseball bat — it’s worth wondering if the Sooners could have two candidates for the award, had Anderson not been hurt a third time in his college career.
The redshirt junior running back’s torn ACL in Week 2 against UCLA was the latest in a gut-wrenching string of physical setbacks, which drove his decision to begin rehabilitation out of state and declare for the NFL draft.
“You know, I guess I could entertain thoughts like [a Heisman], but it just is what it is. It wasn’t in the cards for me,” Anderson said. “I guess that’s just the plan God had for me.”
Anderson is in Norman for OU’s senior day against Kansas (6:30 p.m., Saturday) and said he expects to be healthy in time for the NFL combine (Feb. 26-March 4) and OU’s Pro Day. Recovery time was set at five to six months, and he said he may be slightly ahead of schedule.
He broke his left fibular in his second career game in 2015, then missed the entire 2016 season with a preseason neck injury. With a degree already in hand, Anderson announced two weeks ago his plan to enter the draft. He has been rehabilitating in Birmingham.
“I had a lot of talks with my mom and dad and my family, just personal talks with myself, talking to God and everything. Just seemed like a logical thing for me to do,” Anderson said. “I came here early, so I’ve been here almost four years, I guess. It just seemed like it was the right move for me at the time.”
OU fans only saw glimpses of what Anderson could do.
Following his first two injuries, he surged during the final half of the 2017 season, totaling 1,333 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns during OU’s final eight games. That included a monster 203-yard, two-touchdown performance against Georgia in the Rose Bowl, a team that ranked 11th in rushing defense at the time.
Former OU running backs Samaje Perine and Adrian Peterson have reached out to him with advice, Anderson said, and he remains in contact with the current team.
Trey Sermon and Kennedy Brooks have helped keep OU’s rushing production afloat in Anderson’s absence. The Sooners rank ninth nationally with 257 rushing yards per game.
“I keep pretty frequent contact with everybody,” Anderson said. “I would say probably the running back room the most and the O-line, just because those are my dogs. It’s definitely tough watching them on Saturday just through the TV.”
Anderson said it took about a day to get over the initial shock of the latest injury, which was the first major ailment in one of his knees. He’s excited to feel the atmosphere Saturday in Owen Field again.
Playing in that environment will be his lasting memory of OU.
“I think I’ll remember the most, probably after I score, after one of my teammates scores, being in the end zone with my teammates, celebrating, seeing the fans go wild for us,” Anderson said. “That kind of thing, I’ll never be able to experience anything like that again. It’s sad to think about, but I’m very blessed to say I have those memories.”