When Jaret Anderson started his junior season at Charlotte Catholic, he wanted to prove he could contribute to the team in his first season as a varsity football player.
Anderson and the rest of the Cougar backfield also faced the task of following Elijah Hood, a former All-American running back now starting at the University of North Carolina.
The then 5-foot-10, 185-pounder, Anderson didn’t waste time. He rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns in his first varsity game (a 34-28 win over Providence Day).
Then, he rushed for 159 yards and a score in his second game (a 45-28 win over Northwestern), and 181 yards in a loss to two time-defending 4A state champion, Mallard Creek, two weeks later.
Anderson compiled 2,067 yards rushing and 27 touchdowns on the ground that season. He also caught two touchdown passes and returned five kickoffs for touchdowns.
“Honestly, last year was even surprising to me, being my first year on varsity. I didn’t know what to expect,” said Anderson, who had 10, 100-plus yard rushing games last season. “Each game I got a little more confident in what I could do. But, I also had a lot of help from teammates, especially the offensive line. They did all the hard work. My focus is just doing everything I could to help my team win games.”
Charlotte Catholic football coach Mike Brodowicz, now in his second season, said, “To rush for 2,000-plus yards and 27 touchdowns is a career for most players, and a good career. Jaret just took the bull by the horns from the first game and played great football. He kept gaining confidence and we kept feeding him the ball. I felt like every time he touched the ball, he was going to make a big play.”
Anderson was eager to get right back to work in the offseason. He wanted to get bigger, stronger and faster, while also visiting multiple college camps last spring and summer.
But during a routine workout in April, when he was doing a broad jump, Anderson tore the meniscus in his right knee.
“When it first happened, I just thought my knee was sore and I would be able to come back in a couple days,” Anderson said. “When I found out I had torn my meniscus, it was very frustrating to know I would miss four to six months. It was really tough knowing I wouldn’t be able to work out normally or go to any of the college camps.
“After a few weeks, I realized that I had to take it as a challenge to get back full healthy. I didn’t want to let my team down. So, I was very motivated to do everything it took to get back on the football field.”
He wasn’t cleared for full contact until a week before the regular season opener, on Aug. 21. That would be the game against Charlotte Christian.
Despite being at about 80 percent in the Christian game, Anderson willed his way to 195 yards on a career-high 27 carries in a 5-0 win.
“I remember that game being 0-0 at half, and I went over to Jaret and said ‘We’re going to have to ride you a little bit here,’” Brodowicz said. “Jaret didn’t back down for a minute. He really stepped up for us in that second half and got the tough yards and moved the chains. He didn’t have his 4.4, 4.5 (40-yard dash) speed, so he had to run more like a fullback in that game. But he is always willing to do whatever it takes to help us win. That is another thing you love about him.”
With each passing game, Anderson says he has felt better.
In the week of practice leading up to the Berry Academy game (Sept. 25), Brodowicz noticed Anderson looked like he had another gear.
And he has gotten stronger. He now can bench 335 pounds and squat 455 pounds.
Againste Berry High School, he rushed for 252 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. This season, Anderson has accumulated 665 yards and nine touchdowns on 86 carries, while helping the Cougars to a 4-0 start.
He’s averaging 166 yards per game and nearly eight yards per carry (7.9).
“I think he is still about 95 percent,” Brodowicz said. “I really expect him to lay down big numbers in the next few weeks. We want to get him the ball as much as possible.”
While Anderson’s main motivation is winning, he also hopes to impress college football recruiters.
Anderson has interest from all over – the Air Force Academy, West Point, Navy, University of Richmond, William & Mary and Elon. The 3.9 GPA student is also capable of hanging in the classroom.
Anderson’s older brother, Robbie, runs track at Air Force, and older sister, Ryann, is a former Air Force gymnast. But for now, the youngest Anderson is squarely focused on helping his team win a championship.
“The goal every year at Catholic is to win a state championship,” Anderson said. “But with this being my last year, that time is now. ... We all want to go out on top.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.