• Scott Spaulding

Ottis Anderson Ushers in the 80s

St. Louis Cardinals rookie running back Ottis Anderson had a phenomenal 1979 campaign, earning himself many accolades including:

The Sporting News NFC Player of the Year & Rookie of the Year

The UPI Player of the Year

The AP Offensive Rookie of the Year

The NEA Rookie of the Year

The Football Digest Offensive Rookie of the Year

...pretty much any NFL Rookie of the Year award that year had Ottis Anderson's name on it.

He also earned the distinction of having the first Topps football card of the 1980s.

1982 Topps Ottis Anderson In Action #464

Which, looking back now, was quite fitting since the 80s was such a great decade for NFL running backs. 1984 was especially big with Walter Payton passing Jim Brown for the all-time rushing record in week 6, and Eric Dickerson setting the single season rushing mark with 2,105 yards. Also that same year, James Wilder set the record for single season rush attempts with 407.

1983 saw John Riggins set a new single season mark for rushing TDs with 24. While 4 years later Walter Payton would break another one of Jim Brown's records, this time for career rushing TDs with 110.

Super Bowl rushing records would fall as well, often more than once! John Riggins' record of 166 yards in Super Bowl XVII would be broken the following year by Marcus Allen's 191 effort in Super Bowl XVIII, which would AGAIN be broken 4 years later by Timmy Smith's 204 yard game in Super Bowl XXII! All three of those marks still rank 1-2-3 today. Riggin's and Allen set two other records in those Super Bowls with a 74 yard TD run by Marcus and 38 rushing attempts by John.

Even Anderson's own rookie rushing record wasn't safe from 80s running backs. Barely into the decade, Saints rookie RB George Rogers ran for 1,674 yards, breaking Ottis' record by 69 yards. Continuing the trend, Rogers' reign as rookie running back king didn't fair much better than Anderson's once a guy named Eric Dickerson showed up. Dickerson would explode onto the scene with 1,808 yards in 1983, a record that is still standing strong today.

But unlike many bands and musicians from that era, Ottis was definitely not a one-hit-wonder. In fact, five out of his first six seasons, Anderson rushed for over 1,000 yards. And if not for the players' strike in 1982, he may have gone six for six, having 587 yards in 8 games. At that time, only Walter Payton (8,386), Earl Campbell (8,296), and Jim Brown (7,459) were more productive on the ground in their first 6 seasons than Anderson (7,364).

As Ottis neared the dreaded age 30, injuries began to pile up and he was shipped to the Giants in 1986 for a pair of draft picks. But that's not where the story ends.

1989 Pro Set Ottis Anderson #554

At age 32, Ottis rushed for 1,023 yards and 14 TDs earning himself the 1989 Comeback Player of the Year award. The following year, he would add a second Super Bowl ring to his collection along with MVP honors for his 102 yard and 1 TD performance in Super Bowl XXV!

Following the 1992 season, Ottis Anderson retired at the age of 35 with 10,273 rushing yards, 86 total TDs and 13,335 yards from scrimmage. He also retired holding a unique distinction that none of his contemporaries, nor anyone since, can claim: Ottis rushed for 900+ yards in three different decades! Hall of Famer Joe Perry (1948-63) is the only other player in NFL history to do that.

So, is Ottis Anderson a Hall of Famer? At the time of his retirement, Anderson was only the 8th player in NFL history to rush for 10,000+ yards. His 81 rushing TDs was 7th most ever while his yard from scrimmage total ranked 9th best, between OJ Simpson and Steve Largent. With those stats, he definitely deserves serious consideration and a closer look at from the Veteran's Committee.

But there is one fact that cannot be disputed: he was a worthy pick for the very first football card of the 1980s.

Anderson's 1980s Football Cards