April 23, 2008
Role reversal: Anderson now UT role model
Most every spring for five straight years, Anthony Anderson boarded a bus in east Knoxville and anticipated the chance to interact with Tennessee athletes.
Some 10 years later and preparing for his second season as a Vols athlete, Anderson did the same thing for area youths Wednesday on campus.
"Ever since from about 4 to 9 years old, I came over here and did activities with football players and different people that had come to UT," said the redshirt freshman from Austin-East. "I'm just happy that I can be a part of it now.
"I met Leonard Little and Al Wilson when I was little. Peerless Price and Cedrick Wilson. That was around the time that they came over here and did this. Now I feel like one of those special people that they are."
Several Vols and Lady Vols participated with as many as 500 kids from area Boys and Girls Clubs Wednesday inside the HYPER building on the University of Tennessee campus.
Xavier Mitchell, who's preparing for this weekend's NFL Draft, played basketball and other activities with the youths before offering advice on being a true student-athlete.
"It's the student that comes first in student-athlete," Mitchell and Lady Vols volleyball player Kylie Marshall told the kids, "and you can't get into a place like the University of Tennessee without academics."
Growing up in Mississippi, Mitchell never had a chance for that type of opportunity, but he was eager to once again give back.
"It's fun just because we were all at this point at one time, and I definitely appreciate everything that I've had growing up and want to give back and let everyone know that we appreciate everything we have," said the former defensive end. "We just want to let the kids have fun with us and hope that we're their role models and everything.
"Just to be able to be where I am right now and be that role model that I didn't have, it means a lot to me."
Among the last Vols athletes to leave the muggy gym, Anderson reflected on the interaction with the kids.
"It's a good opportunity to see how little kids look up to you and spend time giving back," said Anderson, who was among UT's most improved players in spring drills. "When I was little, I did the same thing and used to want them to sign stuff for me. So me just coming back and being able to do the same thing I used to want them to do is an honor for me.
"We realize that we can't make any mistakes, and they look up to us and they know almost everything we know about ourselves. Just setting a good example for them is all that really matters."
As Anderson illustrates, those examples can last a lifetime.
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