Before Eddie there was Gary

Anderson was Placer?s first heavily recruited football athlete in 1973
By: Mike Ray, Gold Country News Service
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The year was 1973. Gasoline had just made an incredible jump to 40 cents a gallon. The price of a loaf of bread was 27 cents. President Richard Nixon tagged Gerald Ford to replace Spiro Agnew as vice president and Carly Simon crooned on the airwaves, "You're So Vain."

And at Placer High School, big Gary Anderson, a talented football and wrestling standout, was being recruited to play football by every major college on the West Coast.

"In a way, I guess it was different back then but then in a way it's kind of the same," Anderson said this week from his home in rural Placer County. "We didn't have the Internet or ESPN so a lot of the recruiting experience was a little more low-key."

Now 56, Anderson, at long range, has been following the recruiting process of current Placer senior-to-be Eddie Vanderdoes, who has garnered more than 50 scholarship offers and last week narrowed his list down to 10 schools.

"What 10 are they?" Anderson asked. "That's great. What an opportunity he has ahead of him."

Strangely enough, Anderson and Vanderdoes' grandfather, Bernhard Peat, were teammates on Placer's 1972 Sierra Foothill League championship team, the first of what would be seven league football title squads coached by Bill Miller andTom Johnson over a decade-long span. 

Following his standout senior grid season, the 6-foot, 4-inch, 265-pound Anderson was on every major college's wish list.

"Back then it was the Pac-8," said Anderson of the current Pac-12. "It was USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, the two Oregons and the two Washingtons. They all offered scholarships," said the coveted offensive lineman.

Making matters even more complicated in Anderson's recruiting days was the fact that he was an outstanding wrestler. So good, that in 1973 he won the California Interscholastic Federation State Championship in the unlimited division.

"The recruiting got so bad during wrestling that I finally had to ask the coaches to back off a bit," Anderson said. "I asked them to wait until wrestling season was over."

Anderson visited both USC and UCLA, and for a change of pace also took looks at Utah and Utah State. He also took his own trip to Berkeley and worked out with Cal's wrestling team.

"You've got to realize that I came from a military family," Anderson said. "It was 1973 and Berkeley wasn't the place for me."

When decision day came, Anderson picked Stanford.

"I remember Howard Mudd, Cal's offensive line coach, was on our campus the day Gary made his decision," said Bill Flake, Placer High's longtime athletic director and wrestling coach. "When he heard Gary picked Stanford, he went ballistic. We almost had to escort him off our campus."

"Stanford was coming off Rose Bowl wins over Ohio State and Michigan," Anderson said. "It was a place that was also going to let me wrestle and what a great education. I feel for me it was the right choice."

Anderson played football at Stanford and also wrestled for the "Indians" as they were then known. He also competed for the United States wrestling team one summer that toured Europe. But after injuring a knee on the mat, he turned his focus just to football.

"I had a good college career," Anderson said. "I really hadn't thought about going to the next level but it kind of just happened."

When pro scouts came to Stanford in 1977 to take a look at All-American defensive end Duncan McColl, Anderson caught their attention with his superb pass blocking skills, which he displayed on the All-American McColl.

Anderson was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the 10th round of the 1977 draft. He went on to play four years in the National Football League. He also had stints with the New Orleans Saints and the Washington Redskins along with playing in the old United States Football League (USFL) for the Oakland Invaders. One of his highlights was being invited to the San Francisco 49ers' first camp at Rocklin in 1981, the year they went on to win their first Super Bowl.

"It was a great experience I wouldn't trade," said Anderson, who is nearing retirement with United Parcel Service. "I hope things all work out for Eddie. We'll be watching him."