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Where the 15 Minutes of Fame Never End
One day, you’re going to be in a position to answer a trivia question, for either a bunch of
money or a pair of tickets to your next local sporting event, or something of that nature. Maybe it’s on Jeopardy. Alex Trebeck is going to look you in the face and say “Call him both an early and late bloomer, because he holds the NFL record for most time in between 1000-yard rushing seasons.” And because of Obscure Athletes, you’ll correctly answer the question. Maybe it’s a Final Jeopardy question, who knows? And if it is, you’ll answer “Mike Anderson” and smile. Hopefully you wagered all your money and weren’t that guy who sees the Final Jeopardy category and bets $0. Isn’t it really lame when that guy wins?
Anyway, today we’re talking Mike Anderson– the pride of Winnsboro, South Carolina and a former sixth round pick out of the University of Utah. Anderson served in the Marines after high school and was 26 by the time he was drafted in 2000 by the Broncos. Anderson was thrust into the starting role after Olandis Gary went down early in the season, and did not disappoint. On his way to NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, Mike Anderson rushed for 1487 yards on 297 carries and an impressive 15 touchdowns.
Anderson’s carries were cut in half both of the next two seasons, and his production diminished. Finally in 2004, Anderson suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason, and the already improbable run of Mike Anderson all the way to the ranks of the NFL looked to finally be ending.
Going into the ’05 season, Anderson was determined to prove he had one more good NFL season in him, and behind a stellar Broncos offensive line, Mike Anderson once again broached the 1000-yard plateau. In fifteen games Anderson rushed for 1,014 yards and 12 touchdowns, and added another three in two playoff games for Denver.
After that 2005 season, Anderson was a salary cap casualty for the Broncos, after which he signed on with Baltimore, for whom he played only one season. That year saw him carry the ball only 39 times from a backup role with the Ravens. Mike Anderson’s NFL career came to a close when he was suspended for a full season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, after which no team was willing to take a chance on the running back. He finished his career with 919 carries, and a 4.4 yards per carry average. Anderson ran with a chip on his shoulder, making sure to always fall forward. And his fifteen minutes of fame will remain well-preserved here at Obscure Athletes.
The continuing saga of Broncos’ 1000-yard rushers gets even more obscure next week, think you can guess who we’ll be looking at?
Today on Obscure Athletes we’re starting a miniseries that, like every
miniseries we’ve done here, may or may not one day be completed. I promise to try my very best. We’re going chronologically here, so that means we’re stepping into the DeLorean and setting a destination time of 1999.
The turmoil is palpable in Denver. The greatest quarterback in the history of their franchise just retired, leaving the reigns in the hands of Brian “I’m telling my dad on you” Griese, and the remaining offensive star, running back Terrell Davis, has just gone down four games into the season. The team is 0-4.
Enter Olandis Gary. In the fifth game of the season he rushed for just 64 yards on 20 carries in a win over the Raiders. Gary’s performance picked up over the remainder of the season–one that many Broncos fans consider a lost one. Denver went 6-10 but Olandis Gary finished with 1159 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns in just twelve games.
Gary looked to be the full-time starter in 2000, but on opening night of the season, on Monday Night Football in St. Louis, Gary carried the ball 13 times for 80 yards, but tore his ACL in a 41-36 loss to the Rams, and would miss the whole season. To make matters worse for Gary, future star of this segment Mike Anderson stepped into Gary’s role and racked up 1487 yards and 15 touchdowns, and the team went 11-5.
Gary never regained his full-time starting position in Denver. He would start just four more games in his NFL career, and after 2002, move on to Detroit. He appeared in 13 games, starting one, and rushed for just 384 yards on 113 carries.
Indeed it seems Olandis Gary could have had a long, successful career in the NFL, yet like so many players (Particularly Denver running backs) he was a career victim of injuries. That, coupled with the Broncos’ backfield that once seemed to create thousand-yard rushers out of thin air, left Olandis Gary out of the NFL for good. The system that built up Olandis Gary for one magical 6-10 run in Denver, was responsible for tearing him down. Good thing Olandis Gary has Obscure Athletes to forever preserve his fifteen minutes of fame.