"I wasn't necessarily a Stanford fan even though I'm from Palo Alto," said Anderson, a 2010 Palo Alto High graduate. "I knew how amazing the university was, though."
Anderson's parents, Peter and Anne, both received degrees from Cal. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound Anderson has an older brother, Michael, who played football at Yale. So, Anderson's story isn't a classic case of the hometown kid who dreamed of playing for his hometown university, but he's just as ecstatic he's on The Farm.
"I was lucky to develop into a player good enough to be here at Stanford," said Anderson, who is currently the backup to standout linebacker Trent Murphy. "Right now I'm just trying to earn as much playing time as I can. I'll judge (whether I'm having a successful season) by my effort. As long as I work as hard as I can, I don't care about the outcome (in terms of playing time)."
Ever since Anderson arrived at Stanford, he has displayed an indefatigable work ethic. Anderson redshirted his freshman season, using the time to get functionally stronger for football while learning new skills. He trained up to 6 1/2 hours a day, often attending optional weight-lifting workouts "because I wanted to tell myself that I did everything possible to be the best player I could be."
Just as important, Anderson received a lesson every day in practice that year, as he went up against then-teammate Jonathan Martin, who is the starting left tackle for the Miami Dolphins.
"He won most of those battles," said Anderson, before quickly correcting himself. "Actually, he won them all. I probably got 50 reps a day in practice against him, and it was great for my development. I got better as a football player, and just to go against him was awesome."
Anderson said he's happy with the progress he's made, but hardly satisfied. Cardinal outside linebackers coach Lance Anderson (no relation) sees a determined player who continues to improve.
"Kevin has put himself in a position to get some good playing time," Lance Anderson said. "He's a really good pass rusher; the natural ability is there. And he's getting better in pass coverage and playing in space. Those are things he didn't do before (in high school), but he's getting better and better at it all the time."
At Paly, Anderson was an absolute beast playing defensive end. Despite not having played organized football until his freshman year, Anderson progressed nicely. He got called up to the varsity squad late in his sophomore season, setting up monster years to follow. In his junior season, Anderson recorded 68 tackles — 18 of which went for losses — along with 6.5 sacks, earning him Santa Clara Valley Athletic League Defensive Lineman of the Year honors.
As a senior, Anderson finished with 113 tackles and 11.5 sacks, garnering first-team all-state accolades. More importantly, Anderson helped lead the Vikings to a 14-0 record, culminating in a 15-13 win over heavily favored Centennial-Corona in the CIF state championship Division I bowl game. Even though Anderson was known more for his baseball exploits growing up, football became his calling card and ticket to a world-renowned university.
"Stanford was the first school to offer me (to play football)," he said. "(Then-Cardinal) coach (Jim) Harbaugh gave me a call right before my senior year started, and I couldn't contain my excitement."
As a college sophomore last season, Anderson played in 14 games, recording two sacks. He also played on special teams, and is looking to make an even bigger impact on that unit this season. When Anderson first got to Stanford, his linebackers coach felt his body type might be better suited to play linebacker rather than defensive end.
"We just looked at his body type and knew it might be a better fit size-wise," Lance Anderson said.
At Paly, Anderson rarely dropped back into pass coverage. At Stanford as an outside linebacker, Anderson drops back into coverage much more often. But from the moment he stepped on campus, Anderson has learned from the best, counting Murphy and former teammates Alex Debniak and Chase Thomas as influential role models.
"I learned a lot from them, just gaining valuable experience in how to get things done the right way," he said. "I've put in the work, and now all that's left is to go out and perform."
That's why Anderson said he's not going to judge success on the amount of playing time he receives this season. Anderson has put in the work and fully immersed himself in the film room and playbook. Rest assured, he has done everything asked of him and then some. In Stanford's first week of fall practice, coach David Shaw commented on Anderson's high energy level.
Indeed, Anderson hasn't downshifted from fifth gear ever since arriving at Stanford.
NOTES: Holding its only open practice of the fall season, Stanford's defense entertained a capacity crowd during live scrimmage situations Saturday morning at the Elliott Football Practice Field. On a morning when ESPN College Gameday analysts Lee Corso and Desmond Howard picked Stanford to play in the national championship game, fans were buzzing about the Cardinal defense, and it lived up to the discussion. The defense held the Cardinal offensive units scoreless until the final play of the day while Stanford's first offensive unit found its way into the red zone on two occasions but came away empty against the second defense. The first-team defense, led by a host of All-America candidates, limited the second-team offense to 63 yards on 17 plays with Ben Gardner and A.J. Tarpley leading the way. Barry Browning also intercepted a deflected pass and returned it 39 yards to the 2-yard line . . . Stanford's season opens Sept. 7 with a home game against San Jose State, a team that won 11 games a year ago. The game will be televised nationally on Pac-12 Networks at 8 p.m.
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