While the NFL replacement referees have not been receiving rave reviews for their work during the preseason games, one ref did provide a fond memory for Bengals defensive end Jamaal Anderson.
“Last week when we played Atlanta, one of them actually came up to me and said that he was one of the refs when I was playing wide receiver in high school,” said Anderson with a laugh. “He remembered when I was 205 pounds. It’s so funny that it’s such a small world that you’re able to run into guys like that.”
At 6’6”, 280 pounds, it’s hard to picture the 26-year old as a wide receiver now. But according to his 2004 Scout.com recruiting profile, Jamaal ran a 4.6 40-yard dash in high school and was the “big, physical, and quick type of wide receiver that both college recruiters and NFL scouts are looking for.”
“I thought that I was going to be a receiver in college,” said Anderson. “When I stepped on to campus at Arkansas, they told me that I was a defensive end. I had to go to the equipment manager and change my shoulder pads, my facemask, my low-top cleats, and prepare for a whole new transition. I had my rough patches, but I had a great supporting cast around me that kept me motivated. I had to binge eat and eventually I put on weight and got comfortable at the position and was able to become an NFL defensive end.”
After having 13.5 sacks for the Razorbacks as a junior, Anderson entered the NFL draft and was selected eighth overall by Atlanta. Jamaal started 46 games in four years for the Falcons, before spending last year with the Colts where he recorded a career-high three sacks. In March, he signed a two-year, $5.5 million free agent contract with Cincinnati.
“It made perfect sense for me to come here to Cincinnati,” Anderson told me. “I had a great relationship with (defensive coordinator) Mike Zimmer and because of that familiarity and where this team seem to be headed, the arrow was definitely pointed up. There is a great feeling around here in Cincinnati from what they accomplished last year and I definitely wanted to be a part of something special.”
Anderson was signed to help the Bengals maintain their defensive line depth after the departures of free agents Frostee Rucker and Jonathan Fanene, and his value quickly become evident after preseason injuries to Carlos Dunlap and Robert Geathers moved Jamaal into the starting lineup.
“It seemed to be a type of a curse on us when four guys (Dunlap, Travelle Wharton, Rey Maualuga, and Taylor Mays) went down in the first preseason game within five to seven minutes,” said Anderson. “But the NFL motto is ‘Next Man Up.’ There really are no backups in this game with the type of injuries that occur and the brutal force that we face each week. You have to be prepared for that. I’ve been a starter in this league before so I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
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