In spring of 2018, Calvin Anderson still believed in his dream of going to the NFL.
Anderson started 36 straight games for the Rice Owls at left tackle. He could have taken his chances and entered the 2018 NFL Draft out of Rice. He had one more year of eligibility, and wanted to use it to improve his draft stock on a bigger stage.
“I sat down with my dad, soldier pops over here, and we talked about it,” Anderson said Thursday, watching his father DeVry Anderson do pushups on the turf inside the UT practice bubble. “He said ‘look, is this your dream? If it is, you should maximize your opportunity to make it happen.’”
He decided to become a graduate transfer and schools from around the country started pressing for Anderson’s services.
When Anderson’s recruitment first started, Texas offensive line coach Herb Hand was at Auburn. He developed a connection with the coach on the plains, and the Tigers were one of his top contenders.
Then, Hand was hired by Texas. Anderson did his due diligence and checked out several schools, but playing in his hometown for a coach he had a close connection with was something he couldn’t pass up.
“When he went to Texas, it just seemed like a no-brainer to me,” Anderson said. “It was all the pieces coming together. He’s been great. He’s helped me with technique. He’s a great man, so he’s a good person to look up to. He really cares about me.”
It was an opportunity to start new somewhere else. His previous head coach, David Bailiff, was let go by the Owls. In addition, Rice didn’t have some of the resources needed to simplify his path to the draft. Anderson didn’t even send in any paperwork to the NFL Draft Advisory Committee during his 2017 season. That type of process was a foreign one at Rice. “I learned more about that after I left than when I was (at Rice),” Anderson said.
Anderson wasn’t able to put the pads on with a Longhorn jersey over it until fall camp. When he stepped on to the Denius Fields, the two-time All-CUSA honorable mention lineman was with the third stringers.
That wasn’t a surprise to Anderson. Texas head coach Tom Herman told Anderson they recruited him to be a starter, but that he hadn’t earned the first-string spot.
“I appreciated that because it makes you work for it,” Anderson said. “It’s a meritocracy here. They treat players with respect and they reward you for what you earn. I knew in my heart I was going to start but it wasn’t because I felt entitled to the position. It was because I was going to outwork everybody.”
By the time Texas’ season-opener at Maryland came around, Anderson locked down the left tackle spot and held it for all of the Longhorns’ 14 games, extending his streak of consecutive games started to 50. That half-a-hundred is something Anderson believes will stand out to NFL decision makers.
“I haven’t missed a single game to injury all at left tackle,” Anderson said. “It’s a critical spot on the offensive line. I think I’ve showed I know how to pick up an offense. To be able to come in and start at left tackle for a new team, a bigger team in a bigger setting, I think that’s a big deal, too.”
Anderson was listed at 6 feet 5 inches by Texas and told Inside Texas after his workout he weighed in at 296 pounds, lighter than what he expected to be at but heavier than his in-season playing weight.
He told reporters he ran a 7.19 in the three-cone drill, and Texas social media posted a video of him putting up 30 reps in the bench press. “Hitting 30, that’s a big deal,” Anderson noted.
The NFL didn’t extend an invite to Anderson to attend the combine. He described watching the event from home as “dreadful” since he expected to be there.
To be able to throw up good numbers in one of his biggest public showcases was an important step for Anderson in his continued quest to be a NFL player.
“You live for opportunities like this,” Anderson said. “Playing in the Sugar Bowl, winning in the Cotton Bowl, you play for those opportunities as a college football player to play on the biggest stage with the most amount of people looking and be able to still perform, that’s what you want to do. You want to show teams you can handle that pressure, that’s exactly why I came here.”