Bellevue athletes look East to chase college football dreams
By Joel Willits
Reece Anderson should have died eight months ago.
After a trip to Pullman in December for the graduation of a friend’s sister, the driver of the car in which Anderson was riding fell asleep at the wheel. The car flipped eight times as a result.
“The doctors told me that I should be dead,” Anderson said.
Instead, Anderson walked away with only a separated shoulder, a broken nose, cuts on his hands and a new lease on life.
Now eight months after the crash that should have claimed his life, Anderson is taking another road, this one the road less traveled, in order to chase a dream that he won’t let die.
Go East young man
Anderson’s road is heading East for now, but he hopes it ends back at Montlake. That’s because Anderson, a Newport grad, hopes to play football on scholarship for the University of Washington next season.
But after a solid senior season that ended with honorable mention All-KingCo honors, Anderson, a tight end and linebacker with the Knights, had no solid Division I suitors.
So Anderson took the first step. He met with Huskies head coach Tyrone Willingham and showed his game tape. Willingham liked Anderson’s aggressiveness and his play on special teams.
He had concerns about Anderson’s tackling, size and strength. There wouldn’t be a scholarship this year.
“He told me I could come out and walk-on, but I didn’t really want to do that,” Anderson said. “So I asked him what he recommended and he told me about this prep school back in Connecticut.”
It didn’t take much from there. A few phone calls to Cheshire Academy head football coach Dan O’Dea was all Anderson needed to know. He’ll leave for Cheshire Academy on the 29th without ever having stepped on campus.
“A Tremendous opportunity”
Cheshire Academy is a 388-student academy with grades six through PG, or post-graduate; the post-graduate program is a one-year study following high school graduation. It’s a chance for students to get one more year under their belts before heading off to college without burning a year of eligibility. In Anderson’s case, it’s a chance to spend a semester concentrating on improving his game and earning a scholarship at the UW.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to grow and mature emotionally, physically and academically,” O’Dea said in a phone interview from Cheshire. “You’d be amazed at what happens when a 17 or 18-year-old boy invests in another year before college.”
The post-graduates play the season with the varsity football team, which O’Dea estimates to play at a skill level between high school and that of Division III college ball. Last year, he sent five post-graduates on to Division I or Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) colleges.
“It’s a great opportunity and kids on the West Coast don’t even know about it,” O’Dea said.
Anderson, who plans on playing safety at Cheshire, agrees with O’Dea’s assessment, calling it an exciting opportunity.
“My coach at Newport, Mike Miller, told me he’d never even heard of anyone doing it,” Anderson said. “I’ll just be living in a dorm, going to classes and playing football. I’m looking forward to it.”
Willingham suggested Cheshire to Anderson because he has a relationship with him, O’Dea said. UW’s back-up fullback, Austin Sylvester, played for O’Dea at the coach’s last school, the Hun School in New Jersey.
“We’ve had kids offered at USC, UCLA, Cal, Stanford, UW – the big Pac-10 schools,” O’Dea said. “I had a kid who came to school who wasn’t big enough, fast enough or good enough and five months later he ends up being a 6-3, 300 pound lineman signed by the University of Miami. Those kinds of things happen over and over again.”
“Reece is giving himself the opportunity to have those kinds of great situations happen to him.”
The road less traveled
Anderson isn’t the only Eastside football player to look East. Eastside Catholic’s Bobby Kubacki also will head that way; the 6-5 300-pound lineman will suit up next season for the Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.
“Not a whole lot happened for me this year in terms of recruiting,” Kubacki said, despite amassing First-Team All-Metro League Mountain Division honors on offense and defense, as well as being named the Mountain Division’s Co-Lineman of the Year. “I sent film out to everyone and heard from a couple schools. My whole goal has been to play D-I and I didn’t want to walk on to UW or WSU.”
Unlike Anderson, Kubacki visited Phillips during Eastside Catholic’s basketball season. He’ll play offensive line this season, he said, and may even play basketball as well. Also unlike Anderson, who plans on transferring to the University of Washington after the fall semester, Kubacki plans on staying the entire year at Phillips before transferring to Division I school.
“I think it really will be the best thing for me,” Kubacki said. “Not losing a year of eligibility is key.”
Coincidentally, Anderson and Kubacki met this summer and became friends after learning from a mutual friend of each others plans.
“What are the odds?,” Anderson said. “Two guys living 10 minutes away from each other doing the same odd thing.”
“Who knows,” Kubacki said, “Maybe we’ll end up at UW together?”
A second chance
Both Anderson and Kubacki know how important this year will be for their futures; both say they’ve been training all summer in preparation for the season.
“It’s been a huge motivational factor,” said Anderson, who has added 20 pounds and now weighs in at 195. “I’m here working all summer to achieve my goal. And that will make it more satisfying in the end.”
But the biggest motivation, he said, is realizing the one shot at life he has following December’s accident that should have ended his.
“That’s my motivation for all of this,” Anderson said. “I’m not going to waste any time or let any opportunity get past me. That car accident gave me a second chance on life.”
Joel Willits can be reached at 425-453-5045 or at email@example.com.