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HE HITS IT OFF WITH RAIDERS : Strikebreaker Anderson Has a Head for the Game, Sticks After Regulars Return

November 19, 1987|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

You thought there wasn't one single, itty-bitty thing that's gone right for the Raiders this season?

Close, but not quite.

You think the strike was a total loss for all of them?

It was for most but meet the main exception, Eddie Anderson, also known as Hit Man, Hard Rock, RoboCop and Eddie the Animal, a replacement player with a real Raider future.

Anderson, 24, is a 6-foot 1-inch, 200-pound free safety with a penchant for memorable contact. In the first strike game, he knocked a Kansas City Chief's helmet off. In the second, he broke three ribs of Denver Bronco Steve Watson.

After that, his legend grew. Teammates noticed the ridge that runs laterally across the back of his skull. The result of a lifetime of hard hits, perchance?

"Some of the guys on the team kid me about that," said Anderson, a soft-spoken young man off the field, laughing. "They say that's where I get my strength and power from. I'm proud of it, though.

"I've had this reputation ever since 10th grade, when I happened to knock some guy's helmet off."

Does he try to live up to it?

"Every time I get a chance."

Chances were getting fewer and farther between, however, and red meat a little scarce. A sixth-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks from Fort Valley State in Georgia, Anderson lasted a season but was cut in his sophomore camp. He was only home a week, however, before the Raider strike team called.

"I had asked my agent to get in contact with (Raider backfield coach) Willie Brown," Anderson said. "I had always wanted to play for the Raiders, anyway.

"Willie and I had a pretty good relationship when he came down to work me out. He told me he thought I was a pretty good defensive back and with proper coaching, I probably could be an All-Pro some day. So I wanted to come here and give it a try."

Of course, when he got here, there were about 45 veterans picketing the facility who'd have liked to give him a try, too.

Anderson understood.

"Being a player last year, I knew how I'd have felt for someone to take my spot if I'd have had to sit out," he said. "But then, I had to look at it, if I was going to get another chance to play this year, I needed to let someone see me play.

"I knew I was good enough to play in the league. I had to do what I had to do. I thought if I could come in and show the veteran guys that I could help the team win games, not to take anyone's position, maybe they'd accept me as a player. Which all the guys have taken me as, just a player."

Well, they did once the strike ended and the final skirmishing was over.

When the regulars returned, the replacements were dispatched to a makeshift dressing room, all except Anderson, Vince Evans and Steve Wright, who continued dressing in the real Raider room.

"There were a lot of funny looks, but nothing was ever said to me," Anderson said.

"The only incident that I can recall, we had a team meeting. I was sitting in some guy's seat when he first got back. He asked me to get up, right?

"I said, 'No, I'm not getting up out of your seat. Your name's not on it.'

"He said he was just testing me, to see was I going to punk out and give him my seat. Well, I didn't. He said, 'You're all right, Man. I was just checking you out to see how tough your are.' "

Who was it?

"An offensive lineman, I don't know which one. He's a big guy. But I don't back down from anyone."

Anderson found work on the Raider kick teams. When Vann McElroy was knocked silly in San Diego, Anderson went in at free safety. On his third play, Dan Fouts floated a pass right to him, which Anderson intercepted and returned 58 yards, setting up the first Raider touchdown.

"At first, I was sort of shocked," Anderson said. "I was looking for a receiver to just shillelagh. Next thing I knew, I didn't see the ball. I said, 'Hey, he just gave me a gimme.' "

Well, nice things happen to nice people who are not averse to dismantling other nice people, and good breaks to those who seize them and won't let go.

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