There’s all kinds of flim-flammery on Senior Days, all kinds of empty words and saccharine sentiments, and much of it will be forgotten quickly. Much of it will be stripped away and left behind, as it should be.
And here’s what will remain, when all is said and done — the camaraderie. Maybe the competition to some extent, too, since nothing in life can quite replace the rush that results from that, but more the kinship, the people. That’s what will survive the test of time, the loss of hair and the expansion of waistlines.
William & Mary running back Kendell Anderson, who with his fellow seniors will play his final collegiate game when the Tribe hosts No. 7 Richmond Saturday on ASN, already has a firm grasp of that. He has already examined this milepost from all sides, and understands that it will loom large whenever he decides to look back in the years ahead.
“There’s guys here, they’ll forever be my brothers,” he said. “You make lifelong friends playing this game, and that’s something you’ll never not miss.”
The Tribe, coming off a 2015 season in which it shared the Colonial Athletic Association championship and appeared in the FCS playoffs, has struggled this fall, going 4-6 to date. Anderson has also had his frustrations, battling through shoulder and ankle injuries early in the season before hitting his stride; his 858 rushing yards are third-most in the conference.
But none of that will matter in the long run, either. Everything will, in time, be boiled down to its essence. In Anderson’s case, he will cling to the friendships he has with classmates like quarterback Steve Cluley, cornerback Trey Reed, guard Dom Martinelli and defensive tackle Chris Donald.
Also the one with junior tight end Andrew Caskin, who Anderson called “probably one of my favorite people.”
“He’s such a goofball,” Anderson added. “He’s a completely different person off the field than he is on the field. … On the field he’s like the most aggressive (person). He just goes the hardest of anyone on the field, every play. He at least tries to. It’s really funny to see that (transformation).”
There will be times when they get together down the road, times when they laugh and hug and begin sentences with the phrase, “You remember the time …” Their spouses and girlfriends will smile indulgently or roll their eyes, and off the ex-players will go, suddenly 20 again, suddenly carefree and invincible.
“It will be like where we left off,” Anderson said. “We’ll talk about things that we did, or how we played, or stuff that happened at parties, different things like that. We’ll just go back to how we were when we were younger.”
He can only guess, however, at how he (or anyone else) will be able to redirect the aggression that’s needed to play each Saturday.
“Football is like a gladiator sport, kind of,” he said. “We’re not gladiators where we’re fighting to the death, but it’s a game where you have to go against your instincts and just run into somebody, over and over and over. I don’t think anything will replace that.”
He finally concluded that perhaps he will be able funnel his energies through his children someday — that he can immerse himself in whatever their passions might be, and glean satisfaction from that.
He can only guess at what else the future might hold for him. The 5-9, 203-pound Anderson hopes to play as long as possible, and certainly the CAA has proven to be a pipeline to the NFL for dozens of the players over the years. Beyond that he hopes to go to medical school, and become an orthopedic surgeon; he is a kinesiology major with a concentration in health sciences, and is on course to graduate next spring.
He hails from Centreville, Va. His dad, Tommy, is a retired Air Force captain who now works as a defense contractor. His mom, Veronique, attended William & Mary law school and is now a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, specializing in medical law.
Kendell, who turns 23 on Dec. 22, also has an older brother, Jordan, who was a running back at James Madison. He told Kendell how quickly the time would pass, how high school would speed by but college is little more than an eyeblink.
“It’s one of those things — you don’t know they’re telling the truth until it happens to you, or until it hits you,” Kendell said.
He redshirted in 2012, spent two years as a reserve and then became the regular last year, after an injury to Mikal Abdur-Saboor opened the door. Anderson wound up running for 1,418 yards, 12 shy of the school single-season record, and was an all-CAA choice.
And just like that, it’s almost over.
“You take it all in — like, all the years that you’ve been playing and all the years I’ve been playing with these guys and my senior class,” he said. “You just take it all in and I’d just say this is my last one, my last hurrah, so I want to give it all I’ve got. Why not try to get everything I can out of my players and my boys?
“This is our last time together on the field, and this is my last time on this field, so why not make it a good time?”