SALT LAKE CITY — There are two directions a receiver can take when his father is part of NFL history: Down-and-out, haunted by the virtuosity that went before, or deep downfield, embracing it all.
When your dad answers to the name “Flipper,” there’s not much middle ground.
“I was like a normal kid, but everybody knew who my dad was,” says Utah wideout Dres Anderson. “Everybody was like, ‘That’s Little Flipper, that’s Little Flipper right there.’ It’s not like there were TV cameras on me, nothing like that, but everybody knew who I was.”
Everyone knows him now, too. He has played in all 26 games since coming to Utah and last year started in all but one, leading the team in receptions (36) and receiving yards (365).
Yes, he chose the downfield route.
But the 2012 Ute attack was famously ineffectual, ranking 105th in total offense and 73rd in scoring. That wasn’t Anderson’s fault. An injury-plagued line and quarterback turnover gnawed at the team’s progress.
Already this season Anderson has 59 receiving yards, 56 of them on a single play. Late in the third quarter against Utah State, the Utes’ hopes were dimming. But Travis Wilson found Anderson deep and the mood lifted. On that play, the Utes symmetrically switched field positions from their own 22 to the Aggie 22. Five plays later a field goal drew them within six. Utah then recovered an onside kick that led to the go-ahead touchdown.
Even the famous Flipper Anderson would have been pleased with a game like that.
The elder Anderson’s fame is largely linked to one serendipitous day. In a 1989 game in New Orleans, with leading L.A. Rams receiver Henry Ellard sidelined, the burden fell on Flipper, who responded with an NFL-record 336 receiving yards on 15 catches. That’s 12 more yards than the entire Utah offense averaged in 2012.
The Rams' game plan amounted to quarterback Jim Everett telling Flipper to go long. Everything Everett threw, his receiver claimed. He averaged 26 yards a catch in that eventful season.
Now comes Dres, an ebullient, likable star. He is not only a top attraction on the field but off. Media love him. His favorite phrase is “most definitely” as in “Most definitely every time I get the ball I want to score.”
A mass communication major, he says he mostly lets his play do the talking on the field.
“Every time they give me the ball they want it to be a special play,” he says. “So I try to get a touchdown or something deep.”
Off-field the talking is pretty good too. Anderson entertained himself during camp by pretending to do on-air interviews with teammates. He comes by showbiz naturally. His father got his distinct nickname from a babysitter who thought he cried like a dolphin. Later the TV show “Flipper” became his favorite. By the time he got to high school, the name was set.
Meanwhile, the younger Anderson’s entertainment quotient is rising. Though a so-so 6-feet-1, he has nice speed, sure hands and runs fine routes. In other words he can do all the dolphin tricks: flip, roll, leap and, yes, balance the ball on his nose if needed.
Afterward, it’s show time for Dres.
“I always like joking around, making catches and celebrating and stuff, going up to the quarterback and bumping,” he says.
It should be no surprise to learn he grew up appreciating motor-mouths such as Terrell Owens and Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson.
“Dres makes me laugh,” Wilson says.
The elder Anderson actually didn’t apply much pressure to Dres as a young player, except to instruct him on reputation building.
“He didn’t treat me like I was anything special," Dres says. "He was like, ‘Make your own name; go make a name for yourself."
He’s working on it, just like his dad, one deep route at a time.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company