Matthew Anderson grew up playing chess, tennis and was also an Eagle Scout.
He played a month in junior high before walking away.
“I wasn’t really able to embrace it, so I stopped playing,” Anderson said.
This past fall, during his junior year of high school, Anderson decided to give the game another shot. There were two things about football he was drawn to – the first was recognition.
“I remember I wanted to play defensive end or tight end, wide receiver,” Anderson said. “Someone that gets all of the praise.”
As soon as he stepped on the field, Anderson was assigned to offensive line. Not exactly what he had in mind.
“I was mad. I was so angry. I was like, ‘Man, offensive linemen, they have the most boring job. They don’t get to do this, they don’t get to do that.’
“I was angry. I came home, complaining about it. I’m not going to be able to hit anybody! All I get to do is block! Then, the first game rolls around, I hit somebody and they fall to the ground. Then, I was like, ‘This is actually kind of fun!'”
Anderson discovered the second part of football he loved – hitting people.
“That’s one of my favorite things about football that you can just hit someone as hard as you can and you get praise for it,” Anderson said. “Quite frankly, it’s the best sport in my opinion when it comes down to that.”
He’s the No. 1 ranked tennis player at Leesville High School in Leesville, Louisiana, but his efforts on the court are going toward making him quicker on the field.
“It’s a sport that I play in the offseason just to kind of keep nimble.”
Nimble, physical, and athletic. That’s what Northwestern State offensive line coach J Pond saw in Anderson that other Power Five programs didn’t. So Pond, a friend of Nebraska running backs coach Ryan Held, called the Huskers and several other major programs to make them aware of the tight end-turned offensive tackle.
Nebraska was the first major program to get in touch.
“I didn’t have any other Power Five offers,” Anderson said. “I probably could have waited a little bit longer, and I probably could have gotten those SEC offers, but I decided to fire my shot. Once you feel at home, you commit. I think I’d be doing myself an injustice if I were to go SEC or if I were to go to one of those other schools.
“I don’t think I’d be able to thrive as much as I’ll thrive in Nebraska and their conditioning program and the way they coach and the way they care for their players.”
Anderson gave praise to Held, offensive line coach Greg Austin and of course, head coach Scott Frost in his recruiting process. But, the only who really sold him on Lincoln was head strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval.
“I really love the way he talks about helping athletes,” Anderson said. “He really cares about what he does, and you can really tell the sincerity in all of his words and all of the things he said.”
Anderson is certainly new to football, but his 6-foot-6, 250-pound frame puts him at an advantage. His size and athleticism make it seem like he’s been playing for much longer than he has, but Anderson knows there’s much work left to be done if he wants to hit people and get praised for it at the next level.
“I definitely do need to be in the weight room a little bit more,” he admitted. “I think everybody could probably be in the weight room a little bit more. I’ve been definitely trying to get a little bit bigger muscle-wise. I’m not trying to gain that belly weight, because I know that’s going to be a little bit harder for me to lose up in Nebraska.”
Anderson plans on redshirting once he’s on campus next year, but his pursuit to become a player who both hits people and gets praise for it won’t slow.
Fortunately for him, Nebraska is a place where many offensive linemen have come through and received recognition for knocking people over.
“I’m really excited to compete for a starting spot for the Cornhuskers,” Anderson said. “I mean, that’s going to be a huge deal for me. It’s great to have a scholarship and be on the team. I’m not going to be happy until I’m starting. I’m happy, but I’m not going to be okay until I’m starting.”
You can contact Tommy at 402-840-5226, or you can follow him on Twitter @Tommy_KLIN.