Joe Anderson is an afterthought. He wonders what went wrong and searches for reasons why he was not selected in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Anderson, a 6-foot-1 wide receiver out of tiny Texas Southern, was overlooked by all 32 teams and now his future in football was at risk. He was so under the radar that he wasn’t even worthy of being dubbed Mr. Irrelevant.
Then the phone rang and all that seemed a blur suddenly became clear as day for the Texarkana, Texas native. The Chicago Bears and general manager Phil Emery were on the line and they wanted to offer Anderson an opportunity to prove he belonged in the NFL with an invite to rookie minicamp.
In just a few short weeks, Anderson performed well enough to merit a three-year contract from the Bears and then backed it up with a noteworthy training camp and preseason where he would tally seven receptions for 48 yards and a touchdown.
As the regular season began, Anderson was relegated to the practice squad, where he put in work each week to sharpen his receiving skills and improve his ability to make an impact on special teams. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, but Anderson continued to work. He knew if he did everything in his power to succeed, an opportunity to play in a regular season game would eventually arise.
On December 11, 2012 the opportunity finally surfaced, as Anderson was elevated to the 53-man active roster for the final three games of the season. The rookie did not see much time on offense, but managed to record three tackles, including a forced fumble against the Lions in Week 17.
Seven months later, Anderson is in his second training camp and on much more stable ground. This time around, he is battling for more than just a roster spot, but an opportunity to do what he does best as a pass catcher. Anderson is setting his sights on making an impact on offense.
“Opportunity is everything,” Anderson told CSNChicago.com. “We have a good team pushing each other every day. The sky is the limit for each guy.”
This season, Anderson hopes to take on a larger role on offense under new head coach Marc Trestman. He -- along with Alshon Jeffery, Earl Bennett and Martellus Bennett -- are planning to reduce some of the burden Brandon Marshall had a season ago when he caught 118 receptions, 89 more than any other receiver on the team.
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“He can’t do it by himself,” Anderson said. “To help Brandon [Marshall] is going to make our whole offense that much better. When you got more than one weapon, who can you stop? We got to take that load off his back and it will help the whole team out.”
There are no guarantees that Anderson will be more of a contributor after not recording a single catch in 2012, but his confidence in himself and the team’s new vision does not waver one bit.
“We’re going to be dynamic and explosive,” Anderson said.
When asked if he will be a Week 1 contributor for quarterback Jay Cutler and the offense, Anderson responded without hesitation.
“I feel that way,” Anderson said. “You’re supposed to feel that way. I’m very competitive and full of energy. I’m doing whatever my coaches ask me to do on offense and special teams. I’m just out here competing and taking advantage of my opportunity.”
When a similar opportunity knocked after being undrafted a little more than a year ago, Anderson not only came through the front door on a mission, but he also made sure to slam the door behind him and never look back. It’s now clear Anderson has found an NFL home with the Bears, but this season he’s hoping to upgrade his appliances and maybe even help his football family add some hardware to the mantle.
“We’re going to just keep doing the things that Coach Trestman and the rest of the staff asks us to do and we’re going to come together to be a championship winning team.”