Damien beat odds

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

Damien Anderson's intriguing journey through life has touched down in Edmonton.

The import running back has signed a deal with the Green and Gold, hoping to unseat starter Tyler Ebell at some point this season.

If Ebell stays healthy and productive, the odds don't look good.

Averaging 6.1-yards per carry and 8.1-yards per catch, Ebell is having an impressive rookie year.

But beating odds is what Anderson's story is all about.

The former NFLer survived a horrific car accident in January 2004 in Arizona.

"I don't remember anything in terms of the car wreck," said Anderson yesterday, after his first practice with the Green and Gold.

"I just woke up 17 days later (from) an induced coma. I had to learn to walk, talk - all that stuff, all over again.

"It was definitely a blessing from God. It worked out. I was able to play two more years of football in the NFL.

"I didn't break any bones (in the accident). I was just badly bruised ... and I lost a lot of blood."

An apparent victim of a hit-and-run accident, Anderson needed his spleen removed but also had very bad internal bleeding with a collapsed lung and broken ribs.

However, the Illinois native somehow recovered in time for the Arizona Cardinals' mini-camp in June of that same year.

Anderson has 35 NFL games to his credit with the Cardinals over four seasons. But after being released last year and attending workouts for almost 15 NFL teams since, the 28-year-old import finally decided to come north.

"He is cut from the same cloth as Mike Pringle," said Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia.

"He will run through you. He will run by you. He is an extremely physical football player. He is a big-time back."

At five-foot-11 and 218 pounds, Anderson is definitely a bigger, more imposing looking player than Ebell.

Neither man practised yesterday, though.

Ebell is resting a nagging shoulder injury - although the Esks hope he can play Sunday in Montreal.

Anderson is learning the offence by watching.

But given his college statistics - more so than his NFL numbers - he will be one to watch in practice soon.

While he only rushed the ball 45 times for 142 yards in the NFL, he produced stunning numbers at Northwestern University.

Fifth in Heisman voting in 2000, Anderson finished second in U.S. college football that year in rushing yards to LaDainian Tomlinson.

When he left Northwestern, Anderson was sixth all-time in Big Ten rushing with 4,485 yards. A shoulder injury in his senior year (2001) likely cost him any hope of being drafted.

Still, four years in the NFL is nothing to sneeze at.

Given his estimated $600,000 US NFL salary if he was to play this year, Anderson believes he is now a cap casualty south of the border.

But the desire to keep playing has brought him here.

"I am in the prime of my life in terms of my conditioning and it's an opportunity to make money for my kids," said Anderson."I didn't come up here to sit around. I came here to compete. I consider myself a great athlete."


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