Jamal Anderson was born on September 30, 1972 in East Orange, New Jersey. He is a former running back in the National Football League for the Atlanta Falcons. He was selected in the seventh round of the 1994 draft, with 24 running backs selected before him. “Two-hundred-and-first pick? Seventh round? Twenty-four running backs ahead of me? I'm slowly but surely playing each one of those teams, and I'll let you know once the list is complete,” Jamal Anderson said. “But trust me; I'm giving all of them a little something extra.” (2) It would be easy to write him off, but Anderson wanted to make a name for himself.
Anderson Becomes Starter
When Jamal Anderson was a rookie, he noticed that his name was below four other running backs on the Falcons’ depth chart. “There was a board that had a depth chart on it, and when I saw the list of running backs, I was at the bottom,” Anderson said. “I walked up to the board, drew an arrow to the top, and put my name there. People looked at me like, 'Are you crazy, rookie?' But that's how certain I was that I was going to be somebody in this league.” (1) Most seventh round draft choices never make their mark in the NFL, but Anderson made his with a pen, then with his play.
In the 1996 season, thanks to an injury to Craig “Iron Head” Heyward, Jamal Anderson became the starter. Even when Heyward returned after the injury, Anderson did not relinquish the starting running back spot. In his first season as the starter in only 12 starts, Anderson ran 232 times for 1055 yards, a 4.5 yards per carry average, caught 49 passes for another 473 yards and scored six total touchdowns. “One man can't tackle that guy,” Terance Mathis said after a game with the Detroit Lions. “He just keeps going.” (3)
Anderson Runs to Super Bowl
1998 was a season for the ages for the Falcons talented running back, Jamal Anderson. He carried the team on his back while rushing a then record 410 times for 1846 yards, added 27 catches for 319 yards and scored 16 touchdowns. He was just 162 yards away from league leader and NFL MVP Terrell Davis for the rushing crown. All of his efforts helped lift the 14-2 Falcons to the Super Bowl before losing to the Denver Broncos led by John Elway and league MVP Terrell Davis. “To combine the power he has with the quickness, well, there's not very many people that size who can make people miss,” coach Dan Reeves said. “And he doesn't just break tackles. He makes people miss him in the open field. When you're looking to tackle him, all you see is helmet, shoulder pads and knees.” (2)
In a playoff win against the San Francisco 49ers, Anderson rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons then defeated the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game. Anderson gained 96 yards rushing in the Super Bowl.
He played eight seasons with the Falcons, amassing 5,336 rushing yards, 156 receptions for 1,645 yards, and 41 touchdowns before he suffered what became a career-ending tear of his ACL in 2001. Jamal Anderson was a rare combination of size and speed. “That's something I've always done,” Anderson explained. “I don't necessarily want to be just a 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust-type runner. To me, there are times when you have to make people miss, but there's also a time when you need to run over people. I feel like I have the whole package.” (3)
By A. Goodin, 20Yardline.com
Jamal Anderson Biography Sources:
(1) PRO FOOTBALL; Presumed Deficient, Now a Proven Winner (2001, December 29) New York Times