Charlottean Blaine Anderson certainly didn’t choose Alabama for college with the intention of playing football.
Anderson was solid at Myers Park High, playing some quarterback and mostly defensive back for the Mustangs. He’s not particularly big or husky at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds. But he was tough growing up and had a knack for taking good angles as a tackler.
Then he got to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and realized he wasn’t done with football. Maybe football was done with him, but he didn’t want to just surrender to that.
So he tried out as a walk-on at arguably the top college program in the country.
"My sophomore spring is when I tried out. I played in the spring game and stayed there all summer," Anderson recalled Saturday. "The day before school started I found out I didn’t make the final roster. My junior summer I was told they wanted me back if I still wanted to come back."
This time he stuck. Anderson, who will graduate this spring, will be in uniform in Glendale, Ariz., Monday night for the national championship game against Clemson at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
He went through a lot just to make this team with no expectation of a tangible reward.
"I realized it was still in me, so I tried out. It’s been uphill ever since," said Anderson, who plays defensive back for the scout team. "It took a lot of willpower not to quit, with all the running and conditioning. Getting strong enough in the weight room to prove myself."
Anderson dressed out for four of the Crimson Tide’s seven home games this season, along with the national semifinal victory over Michigan State in suburban Dallas.
You can define a walk-on as extraneous, but Anderson doesn’t see it that way. As part of the scout team it’s his job to prepare the starters for what they’ll see from an opponent . That means lots of study this past week to size up the particulars of Clemson’s defensive secondary.
"We watch every opponent’s film. You’re assigned a specific jersey number and it’s your job to research that guy’s strengths and weakness," Anderson said. "Then you go out and implement that so the starters get the best look they can.
"Clemson is a fast defense, very athletic, very well coach. They’re here for a reason."
So is Alabama, and Anderson feels blessed to be along for the ride.
"It’s been a crazy experience, something I never expected. It’s a different world," he said. "I always have food and all the cool gear we get. It’s just been a crazy ride."
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129; @rick_bonnell