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Cal's Steussie, Utah's Anderson View Shrine Football Game as Career Day

January 15, 1994|DANA HADDAD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Todd Steussie and Jamal Anderson were embarking on their college football careers four years ago, they dreamed of becoming the best. And they wondered what life would be like if they reached that level.

They don't have to wonder anymore.

Steussie and Anderson will play today in a prestigious college all-star event--the 69th East-West Shrine game in Palo Alto. Surprisingly, both approach this game with guarded enthusiasm.

Sharing hotel space for one week with the nation's best Saturday players is cause for celebration, but Anderson and Steussie say they must temper their jubilation. There's tension in Palo Alto and the players feel it.

This might be nothing more than an exhibition game, but professional careers and hundreds of thousands of dollars could hang in the balance.

"You can't come in here looking to have a good time because there's too much pressure," said Steussie, a tackle at California who played at Agoura High. "Your livelihood and a considerable amount of money are at stake."

Steussie, a 6-foot-6, 300-pound four-year starter at Cal, was projected to be an All-American before the season. He justified the billing as a second-team pick on the Associated Press All-American team.

Anderson's path to Palo Alto was far different. The 6-0, 244-pound Utah fullback who played at El Camino Real High was one of four running backs the Utes planned to use at the start of the season. But his stock increased late in the season when Utah switched to a one-back offense and Anderson produced 158-, 145- and 146-yard rushing games.

"It's an honor being here," Anderson said. "You're with the top players in the nation. But it's like a tryout. There's a lot of coaches and general managers talking to us."

Green Bay, New Orleans and Kansas City appear to be the most interested in Anderson, who added luster to his portfolio by gaining 135 combined yards and scoring on a 35-yard run in Utah's 28-21 loss to USC in the Freedom Bowl. He also led all Ute receivers in the game with seven receptions for 61 yards.

Anderson wants to have a big game, if for no other reason than to erase the bitter aftertaste of the loss to USC, in which Utah spotted the Trojans a 28-0 lead. He still wants to prove something to three Trojans--Willie McGinest, Bradford Banta and Jason Sehorn--who will be his West teammates today.

"I want to play well, if for no other reason to shut their mouths," Anderson said. "Of course, none of them touched me in the Freedom Bowl.

"There's only two fullbacks here, so I'm sure I'll be playing a lot."

Anderson, who finished with 1,032 yards rushing, 244 receiving and 15 touchdowns, said he's not surprised to be closing out his career in an all-star game.

"I went to Utah for a reason--to have a lot of success," he said. "Not just to hang out. Things are building for me now. I've opened a lot of eyes."

Steussie, expected to be a high draft pick, didn't go to Cal with lofty expectations.

"I didn't get invited to the (North-South) Shrine game out of high school. I wasn't seen as a high-impact player," he said. "Plus, I wasn't one of the biggest guys in the world."

When Steussie entered Cal as a 6-foot-6, 240-pound freshman, bulkier, veteran linemen intimidated him, he said.

"It was a culture shock as a freshman, seeing a bunch of guys with goatees when I barely had two hairs on my chin," Steussie said. "But everything worked out nicely."

Steussie, who redshirted his first year, started training hard in the weight room and has since become a strongman of note. He bench-presses 465 pounds and squat lifts 600. He has 10% body fat and sports a goatee.

Steussie and Anderson have become impressive specimens for NFL scouts. Much of Anderson's bulk is in his legs, which tacklers have trouble wrapping up.

And now he's ready for the next step.

"I love pressure," Anderson said. "I'm not worried at all. I'm definitely excited. Everything is happening that I've planned in my head. I had success at El Camino Real and Moorpark (College). And now here."

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