For the small-college superstar, the path to the National Football League is narrow and fraught with difficulties and doubters at every turn.
Ottawa wide receiver and return specialist Clarence Anderson is walking down that path at this very moment.
“You know, honestly, with talking to scouts and talking to my agent, I really think I’ve got a chance to get invited to a (NFL) training camp,” said Anderson, a Wichita Southeast product. “And that’s what I’m hoping for, just to get that chance.”
After four years of rewriting the Braves’ record books – and leading his team to three straight NAIA playoff bids – Anderson has spent the last four months preparing for the NFL Draft on April 26-28 in hopes of either being a low-round pick or securing a free-agent contract if he goes undrafted.
A two-time NAIA All-American and three-time All-KCAC pick, Anderson racked up 4,300 receiving yards the last three seasons. He capped off his career by leading the NAIA with 1,981 all-purpose yards in 2011 – 857 of which came on punt and kick returns.
Sixteen NFL teams visited Ottawa’s campus during the season – teams that have kept tabs on Anderson in the months since.
“My workouts have been tailored to improving my power,” Anderson said. “But we work on my speed a lot, too ... obviously the 40-yard dash is important.”
Anderson, 5-foot-8 and 169 pounds, turned heads at Kansas State’s pro day on March 13 in front of a contingent of pro scouts. His 40-yard dash time of 4.45 seconds — averaged over several runs — delivered what pro scouts expected of him and his low time of 4.38 put him in elite company.
“I heard from some of the people there that the only person that ran faster than my low time was (former Kansas State running back) Bryce Brown,” Anderson said. “Now, I’m kind of in a holding pattern until the draft.”
A big question for scouts has been Anderson’s weight, although he’s put on almost 10 pounds of muscle since the end of the season by working out in Lawrence with former Kansas strength and conditioning coach Fred Roll.
“The speed is there but the weight has been my biggest concern for him, but even with that not being ideal he’s attracted a lot of NFL attention,” said Anderson’s agent, DuWayne Upton of U-Sports in Las Vegas. “The thing that he’s got going for him is he’s not only a dynamite receiver but he can return kicks and punts.
“And the thing about getting that much attention from NFL scouts is that when that happens, Canada usually follows suit.”
Along with a workout with the Kansas City Chiefs scheduled for later this month, he’s also got a workout scheduled with several Canadian Football League teams on April 24 in Houston.
“The feedback we’ve got on Clarence is that he’s met all the scouts expectations, and that he’s very precise in his routes, that he gets out of his breaks extremely quickly great instincts,” Upton said. “And you can see how that, with his speed, could translate well to the fields in the CFL because they’re wider and longer.”
A season in the CFL or Arena Football League might be necessary for Anderson to prove he can play against a higher level of competition — the biggest knock on his resume being the level of talent he played against at Ottawa.
“A couple of guys at (Kansas State’s) pro day asked me how I ended up at such a small college,” Anderson said. “And I just told them that’s how it rolled for me out of high school, I’m not mad about it. I loved my time at Ottawa.”