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Golden Return

With the Support of His Olympic-Medal Winning Sister Andrea, Marques Anderson Has Turned Around His UCLA Career

December 26, 2000|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

She left UCLA as a patriot. He left UCLA as a scoundrel.

Andrea Anderson's story is a warm and fuzzy one.

She dreamed of wearing the red, white and blue. She withdrew from UCLA, leaving family and friends behind to train in Florida and Missouri. She won a spot on the U.S. Olympic track team, on the 1,600-meter relay squad, and won a gold medal in Sydney.

Marques Anderson's story is a cold and hard one, at least at first glance.

He got kicked out of UCLA, branded a cheat with an attitude and a discipline problem.

When Andrea returned to UCLA, everyone had questions for her: What does it feel like to win a gold medal? How much fun did you have in Australia? Hey, can I see your medal?

When Marques returned to UCLA, everyone had questions for him: What does it feel like to get booted from school? Can you stay out of trouble this time? Are you willing to develop your God-given ability, not just coast on it?

He answered the last two questions resoundingly in the affirmative. Since involuntarily missing the 1999 season, Marques Anderson, a junior safety, has emerged as perhaps the best pro prospect on the Bruin football team.

Andrea Anderson won gold, but her brother's performance--on and off the field--is the one that impressed her most this year.

"I have seen him become a man in front of my eyes," said Andrea, a senior. "Every day, I want to make him proud, because he makes me proud."

*

It sounds corny, really. The cell phone rings, the football hero answers. Who could be calling this big man on campus? A teammate, wanting to get a pizza? A woman, hoping for a date?

No, just his big sister, checking in to say hello, making sure all is well. She calls him, or he calls her, at least once a day.

"If anything happens, he's the first person to tell me," Andrea said.

Well, almost anything. In the summer of 1999, when the dean of students dismissed Marques from UCLA, he did not call his sister.

"He doesn't like to tell me disappointing stuff," Andrea said. "I have to hear it through the grapevine."

At the same time, Andrea was competing at the world track and field championships in Spain, Marques was getting kicked out of school. Andrea had brought honor and glory to the family name; Marques had brought shame.

In Long Beach, where his father is a prominent real estate broker, news of Anderson's dismissal was splashed across the front page of the hometown Press-Telegram.

"Right next to the railroad killer," Marques said.

"That doesn't just reflect on me. That reflects on my family and my sister and everybody that's important to me. I felt like I let my family down, totally."

Marques was one of 11 players suspended for two games for acquiring and abusing handicapped-parking permits. He was the only one summoned to the dean's office.

Marques had been in trouble during his freshman year too, for a "childish mistake" he declines to identify. The dean had put him on notice.

So when Marques got caught in the parking scandal, the dean noticed. The other players would stay in school, serve their suspensions and rejoin the team. On the first day of practice, not long after Marques had finished unpacking his clothes and moving into his dorm room, the dean told him to pack up and get out.

The fall quarter, and the football season, would go on without him.

*

The Bruins had games to play. The coaches had players to worry about. Marques was not one of them.

"He needed to be accountable on his own," defensive coordinator Bob Field said. "He didn't need somebody to tell him what he needed to do every day."

He knew. He moved back in with his parents. He enrolled at Compton College, earning enough credits to account for two quarters at UCLA. He ran. He lifted weights. He attended Bruin home games, sitting in the stands next to injured teammate Jason Bell.

"He had this fire in his eyes," Bell said. "He was ready to explode. Every game. He had that fire every game."

Marques didn't need somebody to tell him what to do, but he did need somebody to listen.

He called Andrea, of course.

"Every day," she said. "He was very determined. He said, 'I'm going to come back. I'm going to show them that I can do it, that I can work hard, that I have what it takes.'

"Every day. I never stopped hearing it."

The dean, not the coaches, had kicked Marques out of school. The dean approved his return for the winter quarter, and Marques made the honor roll.

But that did not obligate the coaches to take him back, or to play him. He, for once, pushed himself for the coaches.

In his first season, he had been a freshman All-American. As a sophomore, Coach Bob Toledo said, he drifted into complacency.

Said Marques, "I never had to go through the hell that a lot of players had to go through to really appreciate the game.

"I never had to redshirt. When you come in and you start and you're an All-American, who can tell you anything?

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