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Ottis Anderson of Miami, Before the Canes Were Good

In honor of Miami’s current 8-0 record, I wanted to bring up one of it’s heroes of the past.

The Miami Hurricanes were rarely any good before the arrival of coaches Lou Saban and Howard Schnellenberger. Usually, Schnellenberger gets the credit and deservedly so, but Saban did get the ball rolling before he left abruptly.

Their idea, was to try and keep as many south Florida kids home as possible while cherry picking the rest of the nation for quality talent. The plan worked beautifully bringing in quarterbacks Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar and Vinny Testaverde from the north, and plenty of south Florida recruits to supplement

the incredible talent coming to Miami.

But, in the years before that 1980’s success was a lot of failure. Miami had something of a coaching carousel in the 1970’s with most of them lasting only a season, or two.

In 1970, Walt Kichefski was head coach. But, he coached 9 games, leading the Hurricanes to a 2-7 record and then he was gone. He was known as something of a ‘Gator hater’. Fran Kurchi followed, but he only lasted 2 seasons before taking off for Kentucky to become their head coach. His record at Miami was an unimpressive 9-13.

Pete Elliott was next. The Michigan man and brother of former Wolverine coach Bump Elliott also only lasted two seasons and compiled an 11-11 record. His tenure covered the 1973 and 1974 seasons. 1975 and 1976 were the years that Carl Selmer held the Miami job, but after dismal 2-8 and 3-8 seasons, Selmer was also gone.

Lou Saban came along after Selmer and coached the Canes during the 1977 and 1978 seasons. Saban led the team to only a 3-8 finish during his first season, but the team improved to 6-5 during his second year. After that, he just took off for another job.

These were bleak times in Miami Hurricane football history, but there were also signs of the coming times.

Ottis Anderson was one of those signs.

The Hurricanes signed Ottis Anderson out of West Palm Beach Forest Hill High School where he was a standout running back. The 6-2, 220 Anderson just carried would be tacklers when he got the ball. He was something of a man among boys at that level. In his last high school game, Anderson ran for over 200 yards and scored 3 touchdowns. He was good enough to be named one of the all time top 100 players in Florida’s first 100 years of playing high school football. Other players on that list included Bennie Blades, Anquan Bolden, Scot Brantley, Derrick Brooks, Jerome Brown, Bobby Butler, Anthony Carter, Tommie Frazier, Frank Gore, Ted Hendricks, Devin Hester, Michael Irvin, Ray Lewis, Deion Sanders, Warren Sapp and on and on. I left out many great players on that list and to them I apologize, but the state of Florida has produced some outstanding players over the decades and to be among them says a lot about Ottis Anderson of West Palm Beach.

Ottis Jerome Anderson was signed by former Miami coach Carl Selmer in his 1975 recruiting class,

so credit must go to him for doing at least one thing right. The 1974 Hurricanes finished their season at 6-5 and Anderson may have seen them as an up and coming program, but he was a few years too early.

During Anderson’s freshman season of 1975, the Canes had a simply awful record finishing up 2-8 under Selmer. However, things aren’t always as they appear. The Miami Hurricanes of those years were an independent which means that they weren’t in a conference. There are very few independent schools today, but back then there were quite a few with Miami, Florida State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and so many more.

In the 1975 season, Miami’s second game was against top ranked Oklahoma and the Sooners beat the Canes only by 3 points, 20-17. Their next game was against 4th ranked Nebraska and the Huskers prevailed 31-16. 13th ranked Colorado was next and the Buffaloes beat Miami 23-10. Schools would schedule a home and home with Miami just to get a vacation type trip out of it.

The Canes beat Houston by a total of 4 points and they lost to Boston College and Navy, before they beat rival Florida State. They closed out their season with a loss to Notre Dame and to 13th ranked Florida.

True freshman Ottis Anderson was a budding star and led all Hurricane rushers with 365 yards on the ground. He was also the second leading receiver that season.

The 1976 Miami Hurricane football team annihilated Florida State, 47-0. They also crushed TCU,  49-0, and they also beat Boston College, 13-6.

But, that was it. They lost every other game that season. But, in all fairness, they played a pretty tough schedule with national champion Pittsburgh with Heisman winner Tony Dorsett carrying the football. The schedule also included 5th ranked Nebraska, 13th ranked Notre Dame with Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana, and 6th ranked Houston. Plus, Florida, Colorado and Penn State adding quality opponents. It’s no wonder that they finished 3-8 on the season.

Ottis Anderson was not part of the problem for the Hurricanes and he ran for 918 yards that year and 6 touchdowns.

Head coach Carl Selmer was gone and he was replaced by Lou Saban who was not related to Nick.

Saban’s first season was not any better with the Hurricanes finishing 3-8. Our guy Anderson, only ran for 782 yards and 1 touchdown, but again the competition was tough being an independent and in a resort city.

The Canes played Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama and Notre Dame which were all top 10 teams in 1977.

1978 was Ottis Anderson’s senior year and players did not leave early for the NFL back then.

The schedule was somewhat easier in 1978, but they still had some tough opponents to play. Florida State had entered the Bobby Bowden era and they were now ranked and Miami lost to them in 1978. They made up for it some by beating their other rival, Florida. The team finished 6-5 with solid wins over the Gators and 19th ranked Auburn.

Ottis Anderson made history in 1978 by becoming the first running back in Miami history to crack

the 1,000 yard barrier when he ran for 1,266 yards. He also broke the great Chuck Foreman’s career rushing record at Miami with 3,331 rushing yards.

The St Louis Cardinals picked Ottis Anderson with their 1st pick of the 1979 NFL Draft which was the 8th pick.

Not as many guys make it in the NFL as the general public thinks, but Ottis Anderson was that rare breed. As a rookie, he rushed for over 1,600 yards. The big bruiser of a running back ran for over 1,000 yards in 5 of his first 6 seasons.

By the year 1986, the Cardinals figured he was used up. The New York Giants were more than happy to take him off of their hands and signed him as a back up.

He was playing behind Joe Morris up until Morris was injured and Anderson stepped up and ran for 1,023 yards. The following season, Anderson was still the starter and the New York Giants won the Super Bowl over the Buffalo Bills when the Bills’ kicker missed a field goal at the end of the game.

Ottis Anderson was named MVP of the game becoming the oldest player to win that honor at the time at 33 years of age.

Anderson played another two years, but not as a starter and he had run for over 10,000 career yards in the NFL.

After his retirement from the NFL, Anderson spent a great deal of time helping the less fortunate even setting up scholarship funds in his home town for those that qualify.

Ottis Anderson was a great Hurricane before the Hurricanes were great.