Gary Anderson discovered really quickly he wasn’t fond of airplanes as a high school senior in Columbia, Mo.
He was highly recruited by several schools, including Barry Switzer’s running back factory over in Norman, Okla., but it was Jesse Branch, who got to Anderson first.
He got Anderson on an airplane to Fayetteville for a visit. Gary simply decided he wasn’t getting on one again for any more visits anywhere else.
Suddenly, Lou Holtz had a running back he hoped could replace the record-setting Ben Cowins. As a freshman in 1979 when he showed off his speed and moves running with the ball, catching passes and punt returns, comparisons were made to Lance Alworth.
And, yes, there was some Heisman Trophy talk. That never materialized. Anderson could do a lot of things very well. He was the Hogs’ MVP in bowl games his last three seasons (against Tulane in the Hall of Fame Bowl, against North Carolina in the fog at the Gator Bowl and wrapped it up with a big time effort against Florida in the Bluebonnet Bowl).
But he never had the stats for the Heisman.
During his four years at Arkansas, the Hogs were 34-13-1 and played in the Sugar Bowl when he was a freshman against No. 1 Alabama.
It was after that game when Holtz, sitting on the bus leaving the Superdome, decided the Razorbacks would go to the I-formation the next year with Anderson at tailback and dominate teams the way his defense had just been ground into the fake grass in New Orleans.
That didn’t work out well and was junked midway through the 1980 season.
During his Arkansas career, Anderson had 3,074 yards rushing and receiving, plus another 1,461 on kickoff and punt returns.
He was drafted in the first round by the San Diego Charges of the NFL in 1983 and the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL. After he signed with the Bandits, his deal set off a lawsuit where Anderson contended his agent, Jerry Argovitz had gotten him to the Bandits by misrepresenting the Chargers’ offer in exchange for the league giving him the Houston franchise.
At the trial, evidence was produced showing despite spending four years at Arkansas, Anderson had not learned to read. This is one reason why he may not have understood the various documents he kept signing.
He played two years in the USFL for Steve Spurrier’s Bandits and became the fourth-leading rusher in the history of the league.
Anderson finally got to the Chargers in 1985 and played for four years before sitting out the 1989 season in a contract dispute. He played a couple of years for Tampa Bay before finishing his career with the ill-fated Memphis attempt in the Canadian Football League.