HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — As a UCLA Bruin and then later as a Los Angeles Ram, Willie Lee "Flipper" Anderson could fly.
As a Bruin, he was Troy Aikman’s main target. In 10 years in the NFL, he set single-game records for the most receiving yards and the most receiving yards from scrimmage. Flipper averaged 26 yards per catch.
There’s another Anderson averaging a lot of yards per catch. Riverside native Dres Anderson is doing things on the football field at Utah a lot like his dad did.
"If you go on YouTube you can pull up a game that he had against Nebraska in like ’87, I think it was, and I just see him doing the same things as me," Anderson said. "He’s a deep threat and that’s been my game. Every time I catch it, I’m deep, I’m somewhere loose.
"I feel like us being deep threats, that’s the main thing we have in common."
It’s the same speed and skill that his head coach, Kyle Whittingham, saw years ago when he would attend games with his father, former Rams’ assistant Fred Whittingham.
"He’s a chip off the old block," Whittingham said. "He’s following in his dad’s footsteps pretty good."
His uncle, Paco Craig, was another former UCLA wide receiver that played in the NFL. He might have deviated from the Bruin way but his family doesn’t care. The J.W. North alum welcomes the comparisons but says he’s never felt any pressure to live up to their expectations. Skills are the same, but Dres has an identity all his own.
Marcus Mariota about more than just football READ MORE
"My dad has always told me, ‘Don’t think about what I did, just do what you do and do it well. Just be Dres Anderson. That’s the only thing you need to do,’" he said.
The Utes will need Anderson to catch a lot of those deep balls this season as they attempt to make it to just their second bowl game as members of the Pac-12 Conference.
The once-celebrated BCS busters out of the Mountain West Conference have struggled with the transition into the Pac-12. Picked to finish fifth out of six teams in the Pac-12 South Division, another southland product, San Clemente quarterback Travis Wilson, is cleared to play but it remains a mystery just what he can do after he was diagnosed with a head injury that nearly ended his career. But Anderson doesn’t see the doom and gloom that the voters in the preseason poll predicted.
One of the happiest guys in the room Wednesday at Paramount Studios, he was earnest in his assessment of the team in its fourth year of Pac-12 play. Utah, after all, did beat Stanford last season, eliminating the Cardinal from title contention, but small mistakes have added up to big ones and the Utes have not been as consistent as they need to be in a tougher conference.
"Utah, we can play with anybody — if we come to play," he said. "If we come to play every week, then we can play with the big dogs … We have to show it. We can’t just say it and beat one team and then expect to beat others. Other teams don’t care who you beat, when you’re playing them, they’re like, ‘You’re not about to beat us today.’"
Just like his dad and his uncle, Anderson is ready to help his team some big Pac-12 victories.
"Just us being successful on my last go-around, that would be perfect," Anderson said. "That would be a storybook ending for me."