BY CRAIG T. GREENLEE
SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE
Dedrick Anderson and his Johnson C. Smith teammates didn’t get any love from the CIAA football coaches’ preseason poll. The Golden Bulls were picked to finish next-to-last in the conference’s six-team Southern Division.
Anderson, a senior tailback from Winston-Salem, admits being baffled as to why league coaches have such low expectations for his team. J.C. Smith closed out last season with a heart-thumping victory over SIAC champ Miles College (Ala.) in the Pioneer Bowl and they appear to be in good shape with 12 returning starters from that team.
“That’s a lack of respect,” said Anderson, who played at West Forsyth. “Teams might look past us, but that’s OK. When we hit them in the mouth, then they’ll know better and they’ll definitely take us more seriously. Commitment, leadership and focus – those are the keys for us.”
At 5-feet-4, 150 pounds, Anderson has big-play skills as a double threat. A year ago, he ran for 558 yards and five touchdowns (6.2 yards per carry) and he caught 26 passes for 190 yards and two scores.
Despite his lack of bulk, Anderson has shown surprising durability, having missed only two games during his college career. Speed is his chief asset (he runs 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and he’s mastered the art of dodging the big hits.
“I know how to hide behind the offensive line, I run hard and stay low,” he explained. “I’ve always been the smallest guy on the field, so I know how to run in such a way where tacklers can’t get a clean shot at me.”
J.C. Smith football has not served as a model of winning consistency. Last year’s bowl victory gave the Golden Bulls their first winning season (6-5) since 2006, when Anderson was a 10th grader. Considering the school’s football history, there’s no evidence to support any hopes for a break-out season. The last time the Golden Bulls posted back-to-back winning seasons (1973), the price of gas was 40 cents a gallon.
Anderson, a three-year starter, is convinced that the Bulls are ready and able to establish winning consistency in his final season, which begins on Saturday at West Virginia State.
“When I came in as a freshman, things were tough,” he recalled. “We were in a system where everybody was used to losing and they accepted it. But the new people that came in with me that year kept fighting against that. We wanted to win so badly. Then last year, things started coming together.”
J.C. Smith finally pushed past the break-even point to assure itself of a winning season by winning its season finale, which just happened to be the Pioneer Bowl. Anderson did his part by scoring the game-clinching touchdown with less than 90 seconds left to play in the game.
Leading 28-27 in the fourth quarter, the Golden Bulls put together a time-consuming drive that stalled when they got inside Miles’ 30-yard line. Faced with a third-and-10, J.C. Smith desperately needed a first down. Anderson took the handoff and sprinted up the middle for a 24-yard touchdown. Miles scored in the waning seconds, but missed the conversion and the Golden Bulls won 35-33. Anderson rushed for 104 yards on 15 carries.
“What I remember most is how badly we needed that first down,” said Anderson, who served as a ball boy for Winston-Salem State’s football team as a 12-year old. “The offensive line did a great job to make it happen. They opened a hole, I saw the end zone and I just went for it. When we got the bid to play in the Pioneer Bowl, we all felt that it was not our destiny to get that far and lose. It was a great win, not only for us, but for our fans.”