When Devon Anderson was first recruited by Utah State’s football program while a freshman at Dodge City (Kansas) Community College, he admitted he essentially knew nothing about the state of Utah, let alone the Logan-based university.
“When they offered me a scholarship, I was grateful, but I didn’t really know about the place, so it was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s cool I got the offer,’” Anderson said. “I wasn’t planning on going on a visit here, so that’s crazy. But I came on a visit and I just feel in love. Originally, I was committed to Eastern Michigan University. ... But I ended up coming out here and the feeling was different. It just felt like I could be myself, relaxed, calm. It was quiet, beautiful scenery.”
Indeed, the native of Baltimore quickly felt at home in Cache Valley, and he has definitely endeared himself to Aggie fans, coaches and players alike. Like teammate Gerold Bright, another Aggie who is a long way from home, Anderson has an infectious personality that enriches the lives of those around him.
“It’s great for our (defensive line) room,” USU graduate assistant coach Al Lapuaho said. “He kind of brightens up our room and he’s not shy. A lot of the kids that we have on the D-line are kind of shy, especially when they get here initially. But he’s the kind of guy that breaks barriers quickly. (He’s a) lovable guy. We will miss him a lot, I will tell you that. ... He’s a great kid.”
In addition to providing an affable, fun-loving presence in the locker room and off the field, Anderson has also been a valuable performer in his two-plus seasons with the Aggies. No. 91 has played in every game but one since the 2017 campaign and has been in the starting lineup 17 times, including three this year.
Anderson was a defensive end his first two seasons with the Aggies, but he made a pretty seamless switch to defensive tackle in 2019. The son of Charles Turner and Chandra Dawn Anderson currently leads all USU D-tackles with 14 tackles. Anderson, who tallied four tackles against Wake Forest and Colorado State, has also chipped in with one tackle for loss and three quarterback hurries this fall.
“He is very explosive,” Lapuaho said. “If you watch the LSU game, once he got comfortable and got his confidence, he was doing what he did against all of the other teams we played — hitting gaps, knocking O-linemen back. Those were big O-linemen he was knocking back. He’s very explosive. He’s strong, he’s quick, he provides a pass rush from the D-tackle room, and he has a great motor, which is something we are trying to get more of in this program.”
Not only is Anderson a legitimate threat to rush the opposing QB, he has been instrumental in helping USU make significant strides in defending the run. In the senior’s first season in Logan, the Aggies allowed 4.5 yards per carry. That number dipped to 3.5 ypc a year ago and has improved to 3.2 ypc in ’19, which currently ranks third in the Mountain West.
This is something Anderson takes a lot of satisfaction in.
“To me, honestly, stopping the run is something I take a lot of pride in,” Anderson said. “If you don’t take that as disrespectful as another man can blow you off the ball and do anything they want to, then you’re not playing the right position.”
The 6-foot-1, 295-pounder has enjoyed the move to defensive tackle, even though it can be a thankless job.
“I feel like being a defensive lineman, especially a defensive tackle, you kind of get overlooked because you’re taking up so many blocks and everybody else is flowing to the ball,” he said. “You know, we actually have the hard job and it’s takes a lot of guts and pride, and your body is getting banged up every day, but hey, it’s all about winning a Mountain West championship at the end of the day.”
Helping the Aggies capture their first-ever MW title is Anderson’s primary objective, although he has a personal goal of garnering first-team all-conference honors. Two of Anderson’s other top priorities this season are “being a better teammate” and “making sure my legacy gets remembered here.”
“You know, I’m a kind, respectful kid that comes to work every day, and I just want people to remember me for the kid I am on the field and off,” said Anderson, who interacts with children very well.
No. 91 has certainly made an impact ever since he arrived at USU. As a sophomore, Anderson started five games and finished with 32 tackles, 19 of the solo variety, 3.5 TFL and 1.0 sacks. He had a memorable game on the road against New Mexico as he forced two fumbles and recovered one of them.
Anderson started nine games as a junior and contributed with 34 tackles, including 3.5 for a loss, and 1.5 sacks. He recovered a fumble against Michigan State.
The former Overlea High School star was able to make his presence felt immediately despite admittedly not having the best understanding of the playbook.
“My first year here, I was ... I would say not familiar with the playbook, so I couldn’t actually play the way I wanted to play, so it took me some time to actually become the athlete and the defensive tackle that I am now,” Anderson said. “So, as my second year came around, I kind of got familiar with the (playbook), so I started making more plays, but as far as now, everything just comes easy to me. You know, I can diagnose things very quickly now.”
Lapuaho, for one, has been pleased with the strides Anderson has made from his junior to senior seasons.
“The biggest thing I would say is his mental strength from last year to this year,” said Lapuaho, who is in his second year as a grad assistant. “His has tools, obviously, but this year he has kind of taken that leadership role and he leads the room. ... But the biggest thing he’s improved on is how he reacts to tough situations.”
Anderson was a standout two-sport athlete at Overlea High, where he earned all-state accolades in football and wrestling. As a prep senior, Anderson racked up 77 tackles, including 24 for a loss, 12.0 sacks and forced a pair of fumbles. As a junior, he amassed 104 tackles, 30 TFL and 10.0 sacks, and forced a trio of fumbles. Anderson placed fifth at the state tournament in the 220-pound weight class as a senior wrestler.
Additionally, Anderson competed a little bit for the Falcons’ track & field team as a senior as he tried his hand in the 200-meter dash. It did not go well for the defensive tackle.
“As soon is we hit the straightaway, it was game over,” Anderson said while chuckling. “I realized real quick that was not the sport for me.”
Following his prep career, Anderson was geared up to play football at Temple University, but shortly before national signing day he found out he wasn’t academically eligible to play immediately at the Division I level. Anderson remembers it being a couple of days before national signing day “and I’m just sitting at home and I’m sad, and I’m like, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do.’”
Fortunately for Anderson, Dodge City Community College called and offered him a full-ride scholarship. Like USU, Dodge City was a program Anderson wasn’t initially familiar with, but it didn’t matter.
“I didn’t hesitate,” Anderson said. “I just took the offer and just went there because football means a lot to me and I knew it could bring a lot to my life.”
Anderson redshirted his first season with the Conquistadors and was selected as the team’s Defensive Scout Player of the Year, in addition to earning a spot on the Dean’s List. As a redshirt freshman, Anderson recorded 27 tackles, 13.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble.
The running backs coach at Dodge City is a friend of former USU offensive line coach Steve Farmer, and that connection is how Anderson was first introduced to the Aggies.
Fast forward to two-plus years later and Anderson is on track to graduate this December with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, with a focus in social work and business, plus a minor in entrepreneurship. Those are skillsets Anderson plans on using the rest of his life.
“After college football, I want to go to the NFL,” he said. “I would love to play for my hometown Baltimore Ravens, but wherever life takes me I’m fine with that. Besides football, I actually want to go into business. I want to own a couple of townhomes and do things of that sort, so I can give my mom one of my properties and let her manage that, and then (I want to) branch off and become a social worker.”
Regardless of what the future holds, Anderson will always cherish his three years in northern Utah.
“I love Utah State a lot,” said Anderson, who enjoys playing video games and hiking in his free time. “I love Logan. I think about my last day here and ... I don’t want to prepare myself for that, but I know it’s something that has to come. But to all the fans and little kids out there, I just want to say thank you guys. It’s meant a lot to me, these past three years.”