Former Heisman candidate lugs the rock

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:04 AM ET

The job is Damien Anderson's to lose.

And they'll have to rip it from his hands in order to take it away.

The five-foot-11, 218-pound running back is currently tops on the Eskimos depth chart.

But not far behind is talented CFL rookie AJ Harris, free agent Sherman Bracey and veteran Ron McClendon. McClendon, who started out last season as the team's featured back, has missed the last two practices with a quad injury.

"Damien Anderson is having a pretty good camp, so is AJ Harris and Bracey," said Eskimos head coach Danny Maciocia. "They are three backs that can run with power and can run with speed.

"It's a real race right now, the competition is really tight, they are working hard, pushing one another. It's been all business around here since we took the field and it's a position we're all keeping a close eye on."

Anderson, 28, signed with the Eskimos in September last season and went on to play in five games, gaining 225 yards on 43 carries.

The product of Northwestern University started the last two games of the season. He also caught seven passes for 62 yards and returned 14 kickoffs for 213 yards.

"I feel good out there," Anderson said. "We have a couple of other backs and we're going through rotation. But when I get my shot, when I get my opportunity, I want to make the most of it.

"But I feel good, I got my legs, I got my strength, I feel real good."

Anderson was a former Heisman Trophy candidate at Northwestern, finishing fifth in the balloting in 2000. That season he set a school record with 2,063 rushing yards which included 23 touchdowns.

He was signed as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals in 2002 and played 35 games over four seasons.

"I'm not coming in here as though anything has been given to me," he said. "I know I'm going to have to come in here and earn it. I have to do that by leading by example. I consider myself proven, but I still have to come out here and do it in practice."

Having played towards the end of the year gives Anderson an advantage over some of the other competitors at the running back position.

It also showed the coaching staff what he was able to do in game situations.

"From a running back's standpoint there isn't that big of an adjustment (to the CFL)," Anderson said. "Probably just understanding the rules is the biggest thing, with the three downs and the forward motion.

"But I think it's a lot more fun, because more so than when I was in the NFL, I'm a focal point of the offence."


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