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Golden Nuggets: How C.J. Anderson overcame adversity to keep his football dreams alive

C.J. Anderson has suffered roadblock after roadblock during his football career in the classroom and on the field, but managed to overcome it all to have a breakout season in the NFL.

Though he's exploded in the past few weeks as an NFL superstar, the journey of Denver Broncos RB C.J. Anderson has not been an easy one. Throughout his whole career, he has encountered roadblocks that attempted to block him from achieving his dreams, but a great article by Jeff Farudo at his career shows the resolve that helped fuel his drive and keep him pushing for his goals. Anderson's fight can be explained by one simple quote: "Dreams don't die until you decide to give up on them."

The first hurdles came in high school, where he struggled with academics; meeting philosophy teacher Amir Sabzevary at Laney College helped him turn everything around.

Anderson said[,] "I'd sit there and soak up everything [from Sabzevary]. He helped me a lot."

Sabzevary can't recall in which class Anderson first showed up, but he said an easy connection developed.

"He just felt comfortable," Sabzevary said. "He'd come and sit in my classes and in my office."


"He was very outspoken, very passionate. The same passion he has on the football field, he kind of brought into the classroom. Or maybe vice-versa."

Beyond being a great student, Anderson left Laney to head to Cal as a great person.

"He's certainly one of those characters that deep down, no matter how big he makes it, that humility will never leave him."

Sabzevary is excited for Anderson's success in the NFL and recalls with a laugh a promise his former student made.

"He told me if he ever makes it, he's going to buy me a brand new car," Sabzevary said. "I'm still waiting for that car."

In his two seasons at Cal, Anderson split carries with Isi Sofele and Brendan Bigelow, only officially starting two games. He was not drafted and instead chose to sign with the Denver Broncos despite the talent they drafted that year and the possibility they'd focus on their passing game due to the skill of QB Peyton Manning. Though some questioned Anderson's decision, I doubt many are questioning it now considering Anderson's breakout season.

Twenty months later, the Broncos and Anderson couldn't be happier. Of those 23 running backs drafted in 2013, Anderson has rushed for more yards than all but Le'Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers.

Given a chance to become the feature back after injuries to Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, Anderson has helped the Broncos create the balance needed to keep defenses from targeting Manning.

The run started on the heels of a three-touchdown defeat at New England on Nov. 2. Playing the following week in front of family and friends in Oakland, Anderson rushed for 90 yards and added 73 more yards in receptions during a 41-17 victory over the Raiders. He scored his first NFL touchdown in that game on a 51-yard pass from Manning.

"I cried pretty much all the way home," said Neva Craig, who raised Anderson and his two brothers as a single mom.

Over the past eight games, Anderson has become a weapon for the Broncos with over 1000 rushing and receiving yards. He has evolved into a complement for Manning, if not more considering their game against Buffalo where Manning did not throw a single TD pass--for the first time in 52 games--but Anderson saved the day with three rushing touchdowns. Manning and the Broncos media, in turn, have become quite the fans of our Golden Bear:

"C.J.'s been awesome the last couple games," Manning told reporters after the Kansas City game. "I kind of like to watch him."

Columnist Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post suggested the 5-foot-8, 224-pound Anderson could be the Broncos' MVP over the second half of the season.

"He gives the fancy-pants Broncos an edge, a needed dose of mean and a different way to win when Peyton is less than perfect," Kiszla wrote.

Farudo's article has got a lot more great info on Anderson's story--including quotes from his coaches at high school and Laney and beloved Bear Ron Gould--so I suggest you give it a read. And if you haven't yet, then check out our two-part interview with Anderson wayyyy back in 2011 (part 1 and 2).

In the midst of the holiday season, things are slowing in the Cal 'verse, but check out some of the big Cal news over the past few days.

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