CRAIG KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Jazen Anderson hopes to lead Hawaii to 13 wins and a BCS bowl after he becomes a starter at running back.
Anderson carries lofty goals to Hawaii
Jazen Anderson's brother still draws a crowd.
But that's to be expected; not everyone's brother played in the Super Bowl.
"We'll be walking in the mall and I'll be amazed at how people still embrace him as a public figure," Anderson said about his famous sibling, Jamal "He's my catalyst. He represents what I want to reach -- to be an All-Pro, to take a team to the Super Bowl."
The new University of Hawaii running back knows it will mean a lot of hard work to match or surpass Jamal, who was second behind Terrell Davis in NFL rushing in 1998 and was a major reason the Atlanta Falcons made it to the 1999 Super Bowl. But the huge workload ahead doesn't stop Jazen from having other lofty goals.
"I want to be a supreme blocker, and that's a lot of the reason why I came here," said Anderson, who played for Moorpark College, a JC in California. "I want to help Hawaii to a 13-win season and a BCS bowl bid, if that's possible. I would also like to be a 1,000-yard rusher, which Hawaii hasn't had in 11 years or so (Travis Sims was the last to do it, in 1992)."
The 5-foot-10, 211-pound Anderson wasn't being cocky, and it's much too early for him to know where he fits in with the Warriors' plans. Still, he was serious, speaking as breezily and politely as one might about the weather.
"I'm learning a lot about the offense," he said moments after the first, wet week of spring practice wrapped up on a surprisingly sunny Friday morning. "I love everything about being here. I love the team, I love the enthusiasm of the coaches, I love the beautiful weather, even though it hasn't been that great lately."
There's no guarantee Anderson will play this fall, but head coach June Jones and running backs coach Mouse Davis are certainly interested in finding out what he can offer.
"He's picking up everything fast and he's a good kid, bright-eyed and smart, got good hands and running ability, and he's doing what he's supposed to do," said Davis, who was an assistant under Jones in Atlanta during Jamal's first three NFL seasons. "He's got strong legs and great squat strength. How many snaps he'll take this year, I don't know. When we look for a running back, he's got to be a blocker and he's got to be durable. We've got to give Jazen a look and see what comes to pass."
Jones includes Anderson among the handful of running backs on his off-the-cuff, unofficial depth chart.
"It's Nate (Ilaoa), Reagan Mauia and Jazen, and David Farmer really does a lot for us, too, especially as a blocker," Jones said. "Jazen is a real north-south runner and that's a plus for us, and he's physical enough that he can block. He's a real hard worker and he's motivated. When they get the pads on, that's when they really get their chances to show what they've got."
Ilaoa started last year, but is still waiting on a decision by the NCAA for a medical extension for another year of eligibility. Mauia got lots of late-season playing time as a backup, and Farmer also had a sizable role as a backup. Bryan Maneafaiga and others could also be in the mix at running back, but, like Ilaoa, Maneafaiga is waiting to see if he gets another year.
Anderson's role could increase if Ilaoa and Maneafaiga don't play. Either way, he knows he's going to get a serious look, and it's not just because he's Jamal's brother.
"I'm practicing with the first-team guys, so that should be a pretty good indicator," he said. "I take every play 100 percent in practice, because that's how you take it over into the game. I don't stop. In blocking drills, I'll continue on to see if there's a cornerback I can get to so our receivers can get that 1 extra yard."
Anderson has improved his upper-body strength (from benching 305 to 355) and credits strength and conditioning coach Mel deLaura.
"Most weight rooms I've been in, you get guys slacking off," Anderson said. "Mel is constantly on us. If there's five sets to bench press, he makes sure we do our five sets.
"Jamal's work ethic carried over to me. I'm up early every day and all I want to do is train."
Anderson is also trying to add some moves to his game.
"I'm working on the ability to juke people, my elusiveness" he said. "I've always been straight forward. When we're working with the linemen and I get the ball (on running plays), I'll go an extra 10 yards and pretend there's a defender out there and make a move. A lot of times, because the opponents aren't expecting the run, I've been told our running backs will find themselves downfield, one-on-one, so being more elusive should be a plus.
"Other times, Reagan puts the bag up and I'll work on running around it. Then, I put the bag up for him. Even Reagan is trying to be more elusive, and at 300-plus pounds (Mauia's spring roster weight is 351), with his ability to also knock people down, that will be pretty dangerous."
If UH has a spring game, Jamal Anderson is expected to attend to watch brother Jazen.
Maybe some day they can settle a sibling dispute.
"In a divisional playoff game against San Francisco, Jamal stiff-armed Merton Hanks and dove into the end zone," Jazen said. "He says he dove 7 to 8 yards and I say it was 4 or 5. I'll give him 5, maybe, never 7 or 8, but that's what he'll say if you ask him."
Typical Jazen Anderson: straight forward.