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Failure isn’t an option for Bears receiver Joe Anderson

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hands off ball wide receiver Joe Andersduring practice Bears Summer Training Camp Olivet Nazarene University Bourbonnais

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hands off the ball to wide receiver Joe Anderson during practice at Bears Summer Training Camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., August 6, 2013 | Jessica Koscielniak ~ Sun - Times

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Updated: September 9, 2013 2:52PM



BOURBONNAIS — When receiver Joe Anderson was at Texas Southern, hoping to play in the NFL, people warned him that he was a long shot to reach the league and that maybe he should aim a little lower.

‘‘I’ve been having to prove something to someone all the time: ‘You’re not going to do this.’ ‘You should look into the Arena [Football] League,’ ’’ said Anderson, a 6-1, 196-pounder from Texar-
kana, Texas. ‘‘Coming out of college, people told me, ‘Make sure you’ve got your backup plans,’ and this and that. ‘Don’t feel like you’re too good for the Canadian [Football] League.’ ’’

That might be sound
career advice for most, but not for Anderson.

‘‘I said, ‘I want to go to the [NFL],’ ’’ Anderson said. ‘‘I didn’t grow up saying, ‘I want to go to the Canadian [Football] League.’ I grew up saying, ‘I want to go to the NFL,’ and I meant that. So I’m not going to let someone else tell me, ‘You should try doing this or that.’ I want to accomplish my goals.’’

Though Anderson’s thought process straddles the line between admirable and foolhardy, it has worked so far. An undrafted rookie in 2012, Anderson parlayed a rookie-minicamp tryout with the Bears and a will to succeed into a training-camp
invitation. He made the practice squad, was promoted to the 53-man roster in December and played in the last three games of the regular season.

He’s not stopping there. Anderson has gained the confidence of Brandon Marshall, who invited Anderson to train with him in Miami during the offseason, and the trust of quarterback Jay Cutler and has a chance to
become a regular contributor in coach Marc Trestman’s offense, especially with Earl Bennett out for the first preseason game Friday
because of a concussion.

‘‘I think everyone’s pleased with him,’’ Cutler said. ‘‘He’s taken advantage of every
opportunity. He caught a big ball [Tuesday]. He’s in the right spots. He’s blocking well. He’s doing really well on special teams. So that’s what you like to see: When a guy gets a chance like that, step in with the first unit and take advantage of it.’’

Anderson doesn’t have the height of the 6-4 Marshall or 6-3 Alshon Jeffery, but he makes up for it with
gumption.

‘‘When I catch the ball, I’m an attack guy,’’ he said. ‘‘I try to turn into [Vikings running back] Adrian Peterson. I’m not a finesse receiver; I’m very aggressive. I’m just a dog. I’m not stepping out of bounds for nobody.’’

Anderson knows he has a lot to learn. So even though he thinks big, he keeps his mouth shut and pays attention to Marshall and other veterans.

‘‘It’s by the grace of God I’m still here,’’ he said. ‘‘I came in as a tryout guy, and I’m still here swinging.’’

He’s well aware of the odds he is beating, but he also knows other undrafted free agents have taken similar routes to the NFL. Victor Cruz. Arian Foster. And Rod Smith, the former Broncos receiver from Texarkana, Ark., and Missouri Southern who played 14 seasons in the NFL and made the Pro Bowl three times.

‘‘Arian Foster — undrafted free agent. He spent the whole year on the practice squad [and] got pulled up for the last three games, just like me,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘Rod Smith [spent] the whole year on the practice squad his rookie season. Started out on special teams. Victor Cruz got an opportunity.

‘‘It’s all about opportunity and taking advantage of it. And not looking back. When I see guys like that, there’s no reason that can’t be me.’’

Email: mpotash@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MarkPotash



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