Damien Anderson, a football legend at Northwestern, calls his son “DA 2.0.”
“He’s the upgrade,” Damien said.
Drake Anderson waited two years to finally be able to show on a Friday night what he can do with a football.
After undergoing surgery on both hips to repair torn labra, missing all of his junior season, and only playing a couple of games as a sophomore, Anderson showed off cutback moves and explosiveness in last Friday’s 35-28 overtime win at Phoenix Pinnacle that was reminiscent of his dad, a former Cardinals running back.
Anderson caught four touchdown passes, including the game-winner in overtime, when he got past one defender and lunged forward into the end zone.
When Anderson wasn’t in on offense, junior DeCarlos Brooks played tailback, showing off a downhill running ability that makes his dad proud. They’ll need to be at their best Friday night when the Wolves (2-1), No. 10 in the Super 25 football rankings, play host to Phoenix Mountain Pointe (1-1) in a rematch of last year’s 6A championship game.
Carlos Brooks played cornerback in 1995 for the Cardinals. It appeared DeCarlos would follow his dad at that position. He played cornerback last year when the Wolves won the 6A title.
But his passion has always been at running back.
“I taught him a lot, and he was a sponge, but he said, ‘Dad, I want to go back to running back,’ ” Carlos said. “I think they’re a one-two punch that every team dreams about having. You’ve got a strong, hard-nosed runner, and you’ve got a shifty, quick fast back.”
The sons of the former NFL players have known each other since they were 10, competing against each other in track-and-field meets, moving from the long-jump pit to the blocks for sprints.
They bring the best out of each other.
And when they finally got a chance to team up this year for Chandler’s football team, they’ve complemented each other in a 2-1 start.
“We used to be really competitive with each other,” DeCarlos said. “It’s the same thing now. But we’re just having fun out there.
“There’s no bad blood between us. We’re close and we’re happy to see each other do well.”
It wasn’t about being like Dad.
Damien Anderson, who played spot duty carrying the ball for four seasons with the Cardinals from 2002-05, threw every highlight tape he could find of former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders at his son. Damien emulated Sanders when he was at Northwestern, where he became the school’s all-time rushing leader and finished his career in 2000 by becoming only the fourth player in Big Ten history to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
He liked to make people miss.
He sees that with Drake now.
“I gave him everything that I knew, playing smart, playing fast, being physical,” Damien said. “But I also sprinkle a lot of Barry Sanders in there, too.
Drake Anderson has a picture of Sanders on his Twitter account.
Chandler offensive line coach and co-offensive coordinator Chris Chick sees a lot of D.J. Foster in Anderson. Chick was an assistant coach at Scottsdale Saguaro when Foster broke rushing records there.
Anderson is just happy to be able to do what he always wanted to do: run free and easy without pain.
“I feel 100 percent,” he said.
He said his father’s best advice is “stay hungry and everything will work out.”
Damien said finding the right doctors was crucial to get his son back on the field. The labrum tears in the hips, Damien said, was a combination of Drake’s bone structure and his cutting ability.
Drake’s surgery on one hit was done in July 2016. Six to eight weeks after rehab, he had surgery on the other hip.
His comeback is more than his dad expected.
“Just to see him happy,” Damien said. “Any time you have to see a kid go through adversity, it’s disheartening. But to see all the work he put in, the smile on his face, see the results on the football field, it means the most to him.
“You just want your kid to have a better outcome, a better experience than you did, and support them and put them in the best position possible.”
Chandler coach Shaun Aguano calls Carlos Brooks and Damien Anderson role-model parents, who let the coaches coach their sons.
What Anderson did against Pinnacle – rush for more than 100 yards and catch four TD passes – didn’t surprise Aguano, who saw Anderson tear it up on freshman fields at Chandler.
“He’s a strong guy, and he’s quick as heck,” Aguano said. “DeCarlos is more like a power guy. Having those two guys helps a lot.”
There is no pressure on either back to be like their dads, taking it to the highest level.
Brooks, 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, has rushed for 188 yards and a TD on 32 carries in three games. Anderson, 5-11, 170, has run for 252 yards and three TDs on 46 carries.
“You’ve got high expectations, but I don’t really think about that when I’m playing,” DeCarlos said.
Drake likes sharing the spotlight with DeCarlos.
“It keeps our legs fresh all game and they don’t know what to expect,” Drake said.