C.J. Anderson, running back for the Denver Broncos, has had an unusual journey to the NFL. An undrafted signee by Denver back in 2013, he’s now front and center in the NFL’s championship weekend as the Broncos take on the New England Patriots. Denver will surely lean on him to spark its ground game offense.
The California-native had evident talent from a very young age. He had the hard road to a Division I-A college team, and then the hard road to the NFL. Throughout it all, Anderson had an extremely tight knit and supportive inner circle to help him through it all.
Learn everything you need to know about Anderson and his journey right here.
1. C.J. Anderson Grew Up and Played High School Football in California
C.J. Anderson, 24, grew up in the dangerous Country Club Crest neighborhood of Vallejo, California. He who grew up in his grandmother’s home, which was just down the street from the place where former Raiders linebacker Bobby Brooks grew up. During his playing days, Brooks would host a free NFL camp for the Vallejo kids each summer, with his Raiders teammates serving as counselors. Anderson attended the camp and impressed Brooks:
“At the camp, I was always amazed at how good his feet were,” Brooks said. “It wasn’t just me. It was Charles Woodson. It was Tyrone Wheatley. All of us were like, ‘Who is this kid?’ “
Anderson went on to star for Jesse M. Bethel High School. As a high school player, Anderson was a two-time Vallejo Times Herald MVP and first-team selection. He rushed for nearly 4,000 yards during his career and led his team to four consecutive playoff appearances. As a junior in 2007, he was named the Vallejo Times Herald Athlete of the Year.
2. He Was a First-Team All-American at Laney College and UC Berkeley
AT UC-Berkeley, Anderson wore the No. 9 in honor of high school Bethel friend and teammate of Mike Pennerman, who died as a result of injuries he suffered during one of their high school games. Before going to Cal, Anderson went to Laney College in Oakland, where he was second in the state of California and the NorCal Conference leader in rushing as a sophomore in 2010, in which he accumulated 1,644 yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground. In his freshman year, he rushed for 693 yards and three scores. In 2011, at Cal, Anderson had 72 carries for 345 yards and eight touchdowns. As a senior, in 2012, he had 126 carries for 790 yards and four touchdowns.
In 2012, Anderson finished sixth in the PAC-10 overall in rushing yeards per attempt, at 6.3 yards per carry. That season, the Cal Bears went 7-6, earning them a berth in the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl, where they fell to the Texas Longhorns, 21-10.
3. He Signed With the Broncos as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2013
Following his impressive college career, Anderson went undrafted in the 2013 NFL Draft. He ended up signing with the Broncos prior to that season, but was injured in preseason and did not have any legitimate NFL game opportunities. Then, midway through his second season with Denver in 2014, he got his chance.
It happened roughly 25 miles from his boyhood home, against the Raiders. Anderson took a dump pass from Peyton Manning and broke away from three tacklers, cutting from the far left sideline all the way across to the far right side of the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown run after the acatch. Anderson finished with 163 yards rushing and receiving against the Raiders that day.
4. His Touchdown in Overtime Against Patriots on Nov. 29 Gave New England Its First Loss
The New England Patriots were riding high at 10-0 heading into a Sunday Night Football tilt with the Broncos at Sports Authority Field. It was snowy and moist; field conditions were less than ideal. After four quarters, the two teams had trudged out to a 24-24 tie. Then, in overtime C.J. Anderson struck.
Anderson carried the ball 15 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns that night. The very last of those runs was a 48-yarder up the left sideline that ended the game on the second possession of overtime. Brock Osweiler, quarterbacking for Denver that game, allegedly changed the play at the line of scrimmage to the game-winning one.
5. His Girlfriend Raquel Torres, Was a Standout High School Basketball Player
Anderson’s supportive girlfriend Raquel Torres has been with him since his high school days. A standout herself, Torres was one of the best players on her high school basketball team, and was honored her senior year on the team. Torres has been one of the most supportive figures in Anderson’s life. She was by his side after his disappointment of not being drafted into the NFL, and offered him sage advice:
“He spent a lot оf timе thаt day with hiѕ brothers, whо hаvе аlwауѕ bееn thеrе fоr him,” Torres said. “I juѕt told him whаt I tеll him аll thе timе — thаt thеrе iѕ thе hаrd wау аnd аn easy way, аnd it’ѕ аlwауѕ bееn thе hаrd wау fоr him.
“Why ѕhоuld hе expect аnуthing diffеrеnt now?”
Now that Anderson and the Broncos are back having made a deep run in the playoffs, she’ll be by his side throughout. After Torres graduated from Bethel in 2012, she enrolled at City College of San Francisco and then transferred to Metropolitan State University of Denver, near Anderson, where she worked on getting her major in biology.