|Discovered by coach at son's game, McAnderson gives Kansas lift|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 22 November 2007 12:34|
He also found a running back who - now five years later - has been a major help in No. 2 Kansas getting to its highest ranking and biggest game in school history.
Tommy was the quarterback at Lawrence High School his senior year, just after the family moved from Oklahoma when dad became the Jayhawks' head coach.
Pop would beam whenever Tommy completed a pass. His instincts as a father were working full blast. But so were his instincts as a coach. As the season wore on, he started paying attention to another kid in the backfield.
Not many other big-time head coaches were spending much time studying Brandon McAnderson. He was a decent running back and a decent linebacker. But he didn't appear to have the speed or size to play in the Big 12.
Or did he?
``Everybody said he's a good high school player but he's not a Division I player,'' Mangino said. ``And I didn't buy into that.''
Mangino noticed Tommy's teammate had subtle skills that are not easy to teach.
``The thing that caught my eye quickly about Brandon, even though he was playing high school football, was his ability to make people miss, his vision,'' he said. ``To me, he had incredible vision. Coupled with the vision, he had the quick feet to match it. Everybody knows he's not a sprinter.''
So a scholarship was offered - and immediately accepted. As a Lawrence kid, McAnderson was a lifelong Jayhawks fan who had always wanted to play at KU.
He wasn't an instant hit. It took a lot of hard work for McAnderson to become a steady contributor. Until this season, he had only 228 yards total on the ground.
One problem was the guy ahead of him. Last year as a senior, Jon Cornish led the Big 12 in rushing. But this year, as a senior, McAnderson finally got his chance and responded with 1,009 yards on the ground going into Saturday night's game against No. 3 Missouri for the Big 12 North title.
Backfield mate Jake Sharp has contributed 788 yards and, with a big night against the Tigers, could give the Jayhawks their first two 1,000-yard rushers in the same year for the first time in history.
Everybody knew Sharp had great promise. He was one of the most heavily recruited high school players in the state two years ago. McAnderson, though, is an example of what happens when a sharp-eyed coach is able to detect long-term promise and the young player is willing to work hard enough to bring the promise to fulfillment.
``I felt he was one of those guys who was overlooked. And I knew he wanted to be here,'' Mangino said. ``He was a kid who lived in the area and this was important to him. He wanted to play for Kansas, and that carried a lot of clout with me.''
His improvement has been gradual and steady.
``Each and every year he's gotten a little stronger. He's gotten a little faster,'' Mangino said. ``He understands things a little better. He's a guy who just kept at it year after year and got better each and every year.''
McAnderson believes there would have been other opportunities at other colleges. But he didn't have to give it a second thought when Mangino asked him to become a Jayhawk. He saw good things in the new Kansas coach just as the coach saw good things in him.
``I liked KU,'' McAnderson said. ``I thought it was time for a change and I thought Coach Mangino was the guy who could turn things around. I'm glad to be a part of it.''
If he hadn't happened to play on the same high school team with Tommy Mangino, McAnderson may never have been part of a major college program because Mark Mangino would never have seen him play.
So it all turned out to be a lucky break for the player, the coach and the school, right?
``If you want to know the truth, I was hoping they were going to throw the ball more because my son was the quarterback,'' Mangino said, grinning.
``I guess you could say Brandon's gain was my son's loss.''