Sports

It's lights, camera, action for Stanford's Anderson, Kalambayi

 

Stanford linebackers Kevin Anderson and Peter Kalambayi have alter egos, according to their teammates as the Cardinal prepares to face Iowa in the 102nd annual Rose Bowl Game on Friday in Pasadena.

For Anderson, it's Gerry Bertier, defensive captain of the 1971 T.C. Williams High School team, whose racially integrated program won the Virginia state championship and inspired the film "Remember the Titans."

For Kalambayi, it's Julius Campbell ("Big Ju"), the standout defensive end for T.C. Williams and a friend of Bertier's.

In the eyes of their teammates, Anderson and Kalambayi mirror the two. They supply the "left side!" and "strong side!" to the Cardinal defense.

Anderson is a fifth-year senior out of Palo Alto High and a civil engineering graduate who, this spring, will earn his master's in sustainable design and construction.

Kalambayi is a junior communication major who aspires to be a foreign television correspondent for a major news organization. He lit up Northwestern in his first college start with 12 tackles in a breakout season-opening performance and has been vital to a defense that returned only two starters, but has been solid all season, putting the question marks that faced the defense to rest.

Mr. Left Side and Mr. Strong Side.

Mr. Left Side, truth be told, grew up an Oregon fan. His father, Peter Anderson, played on the Ducks' golf team. Each year, he would take his three boys up to Eugene and meet some old college buddies and attend an Oregon football game.

Kevin's favorite player growing up was Ducks' quarterback Joey Harrington, he of the Times Square billboard in one of the most famous Heisman stunts of all-time. But when it came time to choose a college, Stanford had him all the way.

Playing at a high school only a long Conrad Ukropina field goal away from Stanford Stadium, may have helped his cause. Anderson joined receiver Davante Adams, now with the Green Bay Packers, and quarterback Christoph Bono, now a starting outfielder at UCLA, on a Palo Alto team that went 14-0 and won the California state Division I bowl championship in a 15-13 upset over Southern California champ Centennial of Corona.

Anderson plays with a controlled fire.

"I just try to give it my all every play," he said. "There's the saying, You don't need 70 great plays, you need one great play 70 times. I just think of it as giving my all on this play and go from there once it's over."

Stanford was the first to offer Anderson and scholarship and, though he had some conversations with Oregon, he was quick to accept.

Anderson perhaps is best known for his interception of Michigan State's Connor Cook and 40-yard touchdown return in the 2012 Rose Bowl. But Anderson also dropped a potential interception in the eventual 24-20 loss.

"That's the play I remember," Anderson said.

"Going to the Rose Bowl was such a fun experience, but finishing it out with a loss ruins the whole trip, and almost the season," Anderson said. "Everyone still remembers that."

Mr. Strong Side was a four- or five-star recruit, depending on the scouting service, out of Butler (N.C.) High. In his first season, a redshirt year in 2013, he paid special attention to teammate Trent Murphy, a current pro with the Washington Redskins.

"I would take mental notes," Kalambayi said. "We would always talk about things. He let me borrow his car on weekends."

Heading into this season, the Stanford inner circle knew about Kalambayi, a first-year starter, but the rest of the college football world didn't until Kalambayi was unleashed against Northwestern.

"Pete is a freak athlete," Anderson said. "He'll make really hard things look easy. He'll be going against a great offensive tackle and just beat him, and make it look really easy. All of us will take a step back and be like, 'What the heck did he just do?'"

The defense seemed suspect heading into the season. Then, injuries to the defensive line stretched that unit thin, and affected the responsibilities of Anderson and Kalambayi.

Anderson suffered an injury in Game Three, a 41-31 victory over USC on Sept. 19, and did not return until the Washington State game on Oct. 31. For both players, they've been asked to play a lot more defensive end and take on much larger offensive linemen to help solidify the line.

"I rely on speed, leverage, and good technique," Kalambayi said.

"I define myself this way," he added, "I'm a sound linebacker, who's going to do his job."

Anderson's return allowed Stanford the manpower to rotate its outside linebackers, allowing them to stay fresh against the spread up-tempo offenses prevalent in the Pac-12.

"Me being out, it's almost a blessing in disguise," Anderson said. "I'm coming back with fresh legs and my body's fresh, so I can really help out and bring a lot of energy. At the same time, we got (freshman) Joey Alfieri) and (junior) Mike Tyler a lot of experience. So, down the stretch we can platoon guys and those guys can come in and have the confidence that they've played well before. It wasn't fun, missing a month of football, but it might help us in the long run.

"Everyone knew within the defensive meeting room that we could be good, because the young guys showed in practice that they could play. It was just a matter of converting that success in practice to games."

Add Kalambayi: "The defense is just looking to be a complete defense. I feel like we're close, and we're getting closer."

Thanks Gerry. Thanks Julius.

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