NORMAN, Okla. — On Sept. 8, Heisman hopeful running back Rodney Anderson took a give to the right 10 yards down to the 10-yard line on the final play of the first quarter against UCLA. It would be the final play of his Sooner career.
Anderson came up clutching his right knee, limping off before trainers examined him on the sideline table. He later walked off to the locker room under his own power, but the verdict was the worst one possible: a torn ACL.
“It was weird because I never really had a major knee injury like that,” Anderson said. “So, I mean, when I did it, it didn’t really hurt, so I was pretty confident coming off the field it was just something I’ve got to rest for like a week or so. But then I just didn’t feel stable at all, and so I went back to training room and they told me it was my ACL.
“And it was pretty devastating because I obviously wanted to be out there with my team, but it was fine.”
The Sooners’ 1,100-plus-yard rusher from a season ago then embarked upon yet another lengthy rehab after previously working back from a fractured vertebrae in his neck in 2016 and a broken leg suffered on a kickoff the year before at Tennessee. Only this time, his rehab will set him up for the next level and not a return to OU.
“I had a lot of talks with my mom and dad and my family and just personal talks with myself and God and everything, and it just seemed like a logical thing for me to do,” Anderson said. “I’ve been here for—I came here early, so I’ve been here for almost four years, I guess, and it just seemed like it was the right move for me at the time.
“I mean, it was tough. I have all my friends here, and just I love the program here. It’s a great atmosphere. I couldn’t be happier in a place like this. So it was very hard leaving a place like this, especially with the fans and everything, because I feel like you can’t get much better than this.”
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Anderson has been undergoing his rehab in Birmingham, Ala., with Dr. Kevin Wilk of Champions Sports Medicine. Wilk, of course, has worked with the likes of fellow former Sooner running back Adrian Peterson and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
“It’s been going great,” Anderson said. “I’ve been having a great time down in Birmingham with Kevin Wilk. That’s who I’ve been doing all my rehab [with]. So he’s been keeping me ahead of schedule and on the right track.
“I guess the average is like five to six months. So I’m ahead of schedule right now, so it may be a little bit sooner than that.”
That would put him on track to return for some key events as he prepares for the 2019 NFL Draft.
“I feel like I’ll be in a pretty good position for the Combine and then Pro Day as well, so I’m not worried about anything like that as far as being able to participate,” Anderson said. “Right now I’m really just focused on my knee and making sure that it’s as strong as it can be so I can make a push at a career.”
As far as his Sooner career is concerned, who knows what the path might have included if not for the latest unfortunate injury. Maybe on the field for another Big 12 Championship. Maybe a Heisman Trophy. Maybe part of a National Championship run. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound back from Katy, Texas, prefers not to think about any of that.
“You know, I guess I could entertain thoughts like that, but it just is what it is,” Anderson said. “It wasn’t in the cards for me, so I guess that’s just the plan God had for me.”
So onward he goes with the memories he’s made, hoping his teammates can carry out the rest of their goals without No. 24 on the field.
“I think I’ll remember the most probably after I score, after one of my teammates scores, just being in the end zone with my teammates, celebrating, seeing the fans go wild for it,” Anderson said. “You know, that kind of thing, I’ll never be able to experience something like that again [in college], which is sad to think about. But I’m very blessed to say that I have those memories.”