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Interview with New California Golden Bear Running Back CJ Anderson (Part I)



Anderson attended Jessie Bethel High School in Vallejo and his athletic prowess attracted the attention of several Division 1 colleges, but was an "academic non-qualifier" for a scholarship. He came to Oakland’s Laney in order to play football and improve his academic record in order to fulfill his dream of playing for a Division 1 college football team. Once he arrived at Laney, Anderson began excelling. "I found really great professors who got me interested in school again," says Anderson.

He studied hard, met his academic requirements and has gone on to maintain honor-roll standing. In one of his early Philosophy classes, C.J. was inspired by Laney faculty member Amir Sabzevary and is now a Philosophy major who plans to continue his philosophy education at Cal with the hopes of ultimately becoming a university Philosophy professor.

"In addition to his enormous and remarkable accomplishments on the football field, the young and humble philosopher, C.J Anderson, has shared his inspiring philosophical reflections and discoveries, and his passion for football with me for two years," says philosophy professor Amir Sabzevary.  "He sits in my office, a young genius who has cultivated a passion for life which has been inspirational both on the football field as well as in the classroom. It has truly been an honor to have been allowed to mentor him and, at the same time—and perhaps more importantly—to have learned from him about the enormity and profundity of the human spirit and courage [1]."

Couldn't have written a better intro intro for CJ myself. I want to thank CJ for taking the time to talk to the fans. He is truly mature beyond his years and I can't help but cheer for his success.

This is Part 1 of CGB's interview with CJ Anderson. You can find Part 2 here.

Thanks CJ.  I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to the fans

CJ: Anything I can do for the fans.  Anything I can do for the fans.

You have an interesting story to tell.  You are a Bay Area boy who’s done good for yourself.  Do you want to begin by telling the fans a little bit more about yourself, how you’ve gone through Bethel, Laney, and now Cal?

CJ: Really just going through Bethel, being a young kid in high school, I’ve always wanna go and play at a Division 1 college.  Preferably I would’ve liked to stay in the Pac-10. That’s what where I really want to play.  Having offers from Montana State and Utah State as a corner, you know, I thought I was a better athlete than that.  Another thing was that my grades weren’t all that impressive. I wasn’t as mature as I am now.

First thing I did when I got to Laney was to buckle down on my grades.  Of course my game play got better. I’m back at running back because I played quarterback in high school. Everything just flowed out for me. I’m going to Berkeley and compete. It’s just a great wave I’m riding on since high school.

What did you learn at Laney that you think will help you at Cal?

CJ: The biggest thing about Laney is that it’s playing in the toughest conference in JC football, against community colleges like San Francisco, San Mateo, Butte, and Santa Rosa. That’s one thing that prepared me for the next level, to playing in the Pac-10.

Another thing is fundamentals. Fundamentals never change. They just get more and more advanced at each level. We are running the same offensive system that Cal does at Laney. I don’t really have to go in and learn a lot. The obvious thing I have to learn is football terminology. Every football coach has different vocab words. But actually I was running in the same system at Laney. Now I’m at Cal that’ll definitely help me a lot.

How would you define your running style?  What other running backs would you compare yourself to?

CJ: I’m 210lbs. I can be this power back in certain situations, but I’m more of a nifty shifty guy. I have a lot of people say that I can make you miss in a phone booth. One of my friends called me. He told me that Russell White says he loves my vision and that he loves that I can make a man miss. Russell White was a great back from Cal in the 90s, and he was comparing me to JJ and Marshawn. Hearing that from him is a huge compliment and I just don’t want to let nobody down.

So you would say you are a power back who can make people miss when you want to?

CJ: Something like that hehe but it’s really the other way around. I can make people miss and I can have more power if I want to.

You already told me a little bit about working out w/ the team, and you also told us about not having to relearn the system, are you starting to learn and practice the playbook with the team then?

CJ: I have some voluntary workouts. Everything is going well. You know this group of backs I’m w/, they are not so biased and oh, he’s coming to take my spot. They are very open-armed and helpful. I mean, if I have some questions, they are helping me. We all having fun out there. We have big goals and big dreams this season. And you know, I have the playbook already and I’m studying at home. Just learning the vocab words and terminology Coach Tedford and Coach Gould want me to learn. That’s the only thing I really have to get down. As far as the rest of everything, they are the same exact as when I was in Laney.

What do you plan to work on during this off-season to get better?

CJ: Speed. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, every coach wants you to get faster. You know, Coach Gould made a joke to me on my recruiting trip that he told Jahvid Best to get faster. What’s faster than Jahvid Best right now hehe? For the simple fact of speed, and you know, work on my pass blocking. I know I have to do that. As a running back you gotta play every position in the backfield. You’ve gotta catch the ball like a receiver, block like a lineman, run like a running back, and see things like a quarterback. Those are the two things I’m really really focusing on.

What are your personal and team goals for the upcoming season?  

CJ: First thing first I wanna get on the field and make an impact right away. I think I do have the ability and tools to do that. If the awards come they come. The Heisman sounds nice but I’m not the type of the kid who’s all working for the Heisman. I’m all about the team. If the Heisman comes with that I would have smiles I know I have to work extra hard for the Heisman or an Championship.

I have an older brother Bryon Brooks who has two championships in his football career. My little brother K’lan Anderson has two football championships in his career and he’s still continuing to play at Bethel right now. I also have a sister Raquel Torres who has multiple championships in basketball who is still playing at bethel right now. With all the individual awards that I can ever have, MVP, Best Player in the State, Best in Section, Rank #2 JC player in the County, I have no rings and no championships to show for it. That’s not cool to me. The biggest goal is to get Berkeley back into the Roses or back into the National Championships. That’s the team goal and the personal goal.

What are your goals outside of football for your Cal career? What are your academic goals and interests are.

CJ: I want to major in philosophy. I met a great philosophy professor at Laney. He’s just amazing and he’s a wise man. I got a test in philosophy though. Going to Cal where it’s typically #1 in every category in the world, the biggest goal is to sit back and be a sponge and learn as much as possible with the great professors at CAL. That’d be great. That’s one big academic goal. I promised my mom a degree. That’s another academic goal. I want to hold a 3.2-3.5 during my time there.

You sound really smart. I’m sure you are not gonna have any problems achieving your goals. During your recruitment, what really impressed you about Cal?  Were there any other schools you were interested in?  

CJ: Miami - Just playing in the ACC I thought it’d be great and get away from California.  Oregon State - They are also in the Pac-10. They also recruited me in high school and they’ve been w/ me since high school.

The thing that stands out w/ Cal was that, me and my mom went on a visit together, and the fact that they were treating my mom like she was already a Cal fan and already in the family. Cal is so family oriented. When we went to the hoops game, everybody was open-armed to us. It was like a church. That’s a simple fact that I didn’t see anywhere else on my visits.  When I went to Miami & Washington State,& Oregon St, it was always family w/ the team. But the whole community, the whole student body of Cal was one big happy family. That’s what attracted me and my mom the most and that’s when we made the decision.

Did the history and unique reputation of Berkeley as a place for tolerance, diversity of thought and background, and encouragement of self-expression factor into their choice?

CJ: It didn’t really hit me until you actually see it. Growing up in Vallejo California and hearing a lot about Berkeley, it was always about Berkeley football. Actually when you step into the town of Berkeley, everybody wants to take care of you. It’s one big happy community. If you are down, people wanna help you out there. The diversity and the different cultures and everything it was kinda amazing. I can’t wait to see how much further it can go when I finally get down there.

What are your initial impressions of the team and the coaching staff?  How much of a chance have you had to speak to Coach Gould?  

CJ: Me and Coach Gould, we do talk a lot. We actually text a lot. He’s a busy man. Coach Tone Perry [at Edison High School] is the best he has a bunch of kids he sent to a Division 1 college and I am glad to be a part of the group.  He o help me be the football player and the young man I am today. Meeting all the coaches was amazing. Coach Tedford – there’s a lot of reputation about Coach Tedford. A lot of good ones and a lot of bad ones. Meeting him for the first time, it was everything said good about him. It was right on point. He’s a family guy. He cares about the kids. He cares about the program. He’s very competitive. He’s also very mellow. He’s not the type of coach who will brag about how many of his players are in the NFL. He’s just very mellow and very humble. I like that about Coach T.

The thing about Coach Gould is that he’s so competitive. It’s crazy. We went to Coach Tedford’s house for the recruiting trip. Me & him, we were playing shuffle board. Coach Gould, he’s energetic and high-fiving me and everything. The competitiveness in the coaches is what I like. Coach Gould’s got a great resume. All the running backs that has been through Cal. I can’t wait to do that at the next level.

What is the difference between this year’s S&C coach compared to the one you have had the past few years?

CJ: Oh man. Coach B. He is just outrageous. It speaks for itself when you have people like TJ Ward Maurice Jones-Drew, Marshawn Lynch come back to work with him. He was at De La Salle when Maurice was there. I am assuming he knows TJ somehow some way. When you have people come back to work w/ a specific guy that speaks a lot about it. He’s not walking w/ his chest out boasting and bragging how great of a strength and conditioning coach he is. His players speak for themselves. This year, working with him, we are all gonna be at the best level we can be to compete. The preparation starts now. Everything he does now it’s going to be easy when it comes to fall camp.

What about the Spring Practice? Do you get to participate?

CJ: You know what, they might throw me in here and there. I know the Spring Game I can’t participate. But as far as the Spring Practice, they gave me a schedule to keep a hold of things. Coach Tedford says that’s the good thing about being a local guy. Growing up in Vallejo I can always come up and see Cal whenever I feel like it. It’s like I’m w/ the team already when I’m not enrolled in the school. It has its flavors, but it also goes, ah I wish I can be out there w/ them. I gotta wait my turn. At the end of May, everything will just flow in perfectly forward.

I leave you w/ CJ's freshman year highlights at Laney:

You can find Part 2 of CGB's interview w/ CJ Anderson here. Congrats CJ for becoming a Bear. Can't wait to meet you!