Anderson overcomes childhood without family

BY foxsports • September 16, 2010

Some might think Kadarron Anderson's biggest challenge might come this weekend when his Furman Paladins of the FCS take on No. 13 South Carolina. For Anderson, nothing in athletics comes close to his journey simply to reach the football field.

Anderson, Furman's all-Southern Conference linebacker, was taken from his family in Rock Hill at age 8, along with older brother Demarco, and placed in the Connie Maxwell Children's Home in Greenwood 90 miles away. He had no contact with his three sisters for five years or his troubled mother, Shelia, for eight years.

And while some young boys might've felt resentment at relocation and abandonment, Anderson learned to focus on what he had, not what he didn't.

''That's always the way he's always been,'' said Mike Clowney, Anderson's football coach at Emerald High and currently defensive coordinator for Carson-Newman.

Anderson remembers the day he moved to Connie Maxwell, but little else about that time. His mother and grandmother didn't have the means to properly care for him and his four siblings. His father was not a viable option, Anderson said. He quickly discovered the group home was the right place for him. ''Without it,'' he said. ''I wouldn't be where I am today.''

Anderson found a loving environment among the Connie Maxwell caregivers and volunteers. The home, which says it's a Baptist ministry for children and families in South Carolina, provides meals, clothing and education for residents. ''I didn't want for anything,'' Anderson said.

Still, Anderson had to adjust to life without his family.

For the times when Anderson doubted his direction and place at Connie Maxwell, Demarco would keep him straight as his lone blood connection.

''You'd go to school and see everybody else with their families,'' Kadarron Anderson said. ''And it'd just be us. It was really hard at the younger ages. As I got older, I just got used to it. It was my way of life.''

Anderson was not easily accepted at public schools, ridiculed at times as an orphan, and stayed away from clubs and teams. ''I had an anger problem,'' he acknowledged. ''I had a lot of suppressed feelings.''

Teachers and counselors at his middle school thought Anderson would benefit from sports, perhaps channeling his anger into controlled competition. He played football and basketball at Emerald High, growing into a standout on both clubs. Clowney remembers wanting to use the solidly-built Anderson at middle linebacker, but needed him at quarterback and safety.

Things mellowed for Anderson at the end of 10th grade when he was permitted contact with his mother. ''Seeing that my mom was OK, it kind of lifted my heart,'' he said. ''Seeing everything that we'd been through, that it was OK.''

Anderson drew recruiting interest from Clemson and South Carolina through his high school years. Furman came in after the bigger schools lost interest and, much like Anderson's life at Connie Maxwell, proved the right fit for him. ''I wouldn't have it any other way,'' he said.

Neither would the Paladins. Anderson, 6-foot-1, 236 pounds, was the team's top tackler as a sophomore last season. He was voted a captain this year, a rarity for a junior, according to coach Bobby Lamb. ''I honestly believe his maturity level is where it's at because of what he went through,'' said Lamb, who has spent 29 years with the Paladins as a quarterback, assistant and head coach.

Former Furman assistant Clay Hendrix brought Anderson to Lamb's attention, promising that the player had no baggage about his background. Lamb instantly found that to be true and signed off on Anderson's scholarship offer.

''Everyone we talked to at Connie Maxwell said the same thing, 'You will not go wrong taking''' Anderson, Lamb recalled.

Anderson's ready to show off his skill and maturity against the ranked Gamecocks. Diehard Furman fans regularly talk to Anderson about the Paladins' 28-23 upset win at Williams-Brice Stadium in 1982, the last time the teams met, and urge him to fashion another such moment Saturday.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has warned his players not to slack off this week and come out on the wrong end of the FBS-FCS matchup like Ole Miss and Virginia Tech this year. ''It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the fight in the dog when it comes to football,'' he said. ''Certainly that's how upsets can happen.''

These days, most Paladins games are Anderson family reunions. His mother visits regularly as do sisters Nakeisha, Sabrina and Christa. ''Every game, I'm meeting someone, 'I'm Kadarron's cousin,' or 'I'm Kadarron's uncle,''' Lamb jokes.

Anderson returns to Connie Maxwell when he can to visit and speak with other young residents confused about their futures. He shares his story and urges them to hold on to hope that life will improve.

Anderson long ago made peace with his lost years and is pointed toward a future with his family. ''I had lived a really hard life, there'd probably be some resentment there,'' he said. ''But I'm all right.''

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