Unwanted to Almost Unstoppable – Mario Anderson’s Journey from Newberry

Several years ago, high school coach Joss Creek (South Carolina) was sitting with a group of district coaches discussing who the best players were.

At one point, the jogging attitude appeared. Several coaches tended to one player, who ended up in school at the Sun Belt Conference.

But Fordham was thinking of someone else. He had seen a movie running backwards from Stratford High School named Mario Anderson. Although he played for a different team than his, Fordham was convinced Anderson was the real deal.

“He was the best, most aggressive and physical, the perfect combination of size and speed,” said Fordham, who also serves as a coach at The Factory, a sports performance facility in the area.

One of Anderson’s teammates in Stratford happened to be training at Fordham Gym. Anderson decided to join him one day. He was introduced to Fordham, and the two hit him on the spot.

“When I went there, Coach Fordham said he was always a fan of me,” the sophomore recalls of the 5-foot-9, 210-pound Red Shirt. “He loved the way I ran the ball and things like that. Since that day, he’s given me the tools that I think have me in my back today.”

A native of Summerville, Anderson is the second youngest of four children of Mario Sr. and Sequoia Anderson. His older brother ran racetracks in Ohio and Arkansas. His younger brother also plays football in Newberry.

Anderson and his siblings were raised by his mother and grandmother. Sequoia worked as a call center supervisor while raising four children. Life was by no means easy, but Anderson learned a lot from watching the sacrifices his mother and grandmother made for the family.

“I wouldn’t say we were the poorest family, because that would be a lie, but a lot of things were a struggle,” he said. “My mother raised four young men by herself with my grandmother. The only thing my brothers and I have for peace is sports.”

Sequoia would drop the boys at school every day, often having to quit early from work to pick them up from every sporting event.

Mario Anderson struggled academically for most of his school life.

He went to live with his father in Cleveland for a short time and attended Jane’s Academy, a private school for boys founded by Ted Jane Sr., a local coach and father of widespread NFL receiver Ted Jane Jr. It was there that Anderson began to see his potential, both as a footballer and as a young man.

“Ted Jane Sr. pushed me to see my potential,” Anderson explained. “I’m still in touch with him to this day.”

2022 March Hill vs Newberry

Anderson returned to Summerville and scored at Stratford High, where his football career began to take off.

As a senior, he ranked 25th in the state in the rushing yards and was selected in the North/South All-Star Game. Stratford coach Denny McDaniel, and his crew, took Anderson training under their supervision, just as Ted Gein Sr.

“Back home to Stratford, (the coaches) really helped me push in the weight room and with my grades,” Anderson said. “I graduated with a GPA above 3.0. They helped me with school and everything, and that’s when I knew I had a chance to play at least at university level.”

Anderson initially committed to Charleston Southern University, but at the week of the North/South All-Star Game, he was informed that the school had made a change of training, no longer suitable to their plans, forcing him to drop the commitment.

What followed was a frustrating series of shows and rejected offers. Anderson spoke with several schools at the South Atlantic Conference. Each one made an offer, then retreated.

It wasn’t because of his grades, and it certainly had nothing to do with his talent as a footballer. Anderson was involved in an accident at school that got him into trouble.

While he was aware that this was the main reason colleges were reluctant to offer him a scholarship, it was frustrating to realize that no one wanted him. Fordham did his best to encourage him.

“It was an isolated incident,” Fordham said. “Mistakes happen. Just because you made a mistake doesn’t mean you’re a problem. I think a lot of people have had a hard time seeing the mistake and seeing the person. They described it as any accident they had.”

Anderson’s big break finally came.

McDaniel was well acquainted with Newbury coach Todd Knight and placed a call with him on behalf of Anderson. Knight liked what he saw in the movie and invited Anderson to visit. There was only one problem: Knight could only bid $500, which meant Anderson would have to join the team as a rally.

“That was when I was at the lowest levels of my career,” Anderson recalls. “I didn’t think I’d go to college. Coach Nate gave me the chance even if it was $500. I told him I’d take it there.”

Once in Newbury, Anderson was behind a group of several large protestors, and was behind on kindergarten. It was a tough adjustment after he became a star in high school, but it also gave him a chance to learn patience and become familiar with the rules of the game.

“God has time for everyone,” Anderson said. “My first year wasn’t my time.”

Anderson’s chance to play finally came during the shortened 2020-2021 spring season, when he rushed for 504 yards and four touchdowns in 69 games in six games. Last season, he rushed for 1,237 yards and 12 TDs in 13 games.

This season cemented Anderson’s reputation as one of the best quarterbacks in the NCAA Division II.

Through eight games, he carried the ball 164 times for 1,232 yards and 16 touchdowns.

He had 246 yards and fours at Catawba on October 15. His longest scrimmage distance came the following week, a 75-yard sprinter against Lenoir-Rhine, a watchlist for the Harlon Hill Cup, Division II tie for Heisman.

“He takes (the game) very seriously,” Knight said. “If the people around him aren’t moving at the same pace he’s moving, he’ll let you know quickly.”

Anderson’s greatest asset, according to Wolverhampton full-back coach Pierce Spangler, is his strength.

“If you looked at him in street clothes, you wouldn’t think he was as strong as him,” Spangler said. “But he’s a very strong kid in the weight room. He’s very explosive and physical and violent when he runs. It’s rare for him to come down on first contact.”

When he returns home in Summerville, Anderson makes it a point to practice in Stratford and share his story with the team’s current players. It was a difficult but humbling journey.

“I came from a place that was little or nothing,” he explained. “Any kind of opportunity I get is greatly appreciated. I am grateful for everything I have.”

More challenges are sure to follow, but Fordham believes Anderson will get a chance to play at the next level when the time comes.

“I think he will continue to show everyone who he is,” Fordham said. “I always tell him, ‘If you have the ability, and if you think you are, they will find you and notice who you are.’ I expect he will get a chance after he finishes all his eligibility in college.”

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