If you look in the UIFL record book, you will see Easter Kentucky's Maurice Douse listed as the most prolific runner in the league. In seven games last season, Douse ran for a total of 191 yards. Which is all well and good, until you consider the Lakeland Raiders Travis Anderson and his 296 rushing yards. Anderson's total rushing yards eclipsed the next closest Running Back by over 100 yards. His 13 rushing touchdowns were second in the league and his 74 rushing yards per game was absolutely off the charts. But because Anderson suffered a serious injury that cost him more than half the season, he did not play the requisite six games and is ineligible for the UIFL record book.
a league known for passing, Anderson managed the nearly impossible, in
large part because Lakeland Raiders Head Coach Mike Mink's philosophy
strays from the norm.
like running the ball in Indoor (football). My backs typically are
among the league leaders on my teams." In 2012, Anderson's ground
performance was so far above the "league leaders" that he practically
deserved his own category.
grew up in nearby Avon Park. He tried his hand at peewee football but
his career lasted just one game before his parents pulled him out in
order to keep young Travis focused on his schoolwork. It wouldn't be
until his Sophomore year in High School until Anderson had another
chance to play organized football. As a rookie, Anderson was forced to
sit behind older Running Backs on his team until an injury opened up an
opportunity, an opportunity that Anderson did not let go to waste. He
scored the game winning touchdown in his first action at RB and became
the starter from that day onward.
issues following multiple transfers limited the amount of action that
Anderson saw in college. When he did get to play, the coach shifted him
to Fullback from his more natural Running Back position. "The Fullback
has to take on a lot of pass blocking, lead blocking responsibility,"
Anderson explains. "In high school I didn't have to block much. The
Fullback blocks more than he runs."
whether he feared being put in a similar block-first, run-occasionally
position on the Lakeland Raiders, Anderson expressed confidence in his
coach's play calling and his own ability.
time Coach Mink gave me an opportunity I was going to make the most of
it and give it my best," he says. "I felt that there's always room for
talent. Your talent is going to speak out for you. There is room for a
Running Back in the arena."
a month after achieving his goal of playing professional football,
Travis went down during a routine practice, sidelining him for five
weeks. "We lost Travis the night before a critical game against the
Tarpons during walk through," recalls Coach Mink. "It was a freak
accident but was major set back."
spent the down time working feverishly to return in time for the
playoffs. "I got up at 3 or 4 AM and I got to work on the treadmill,"
Travis says of his rehab time. "I was almost in tears because of the
pain but I had to suck it up. I returned to the field at about 85%. I
had to be a man, not a mouse, and take one for the team." Coach Mink
remembers Travis' work ethic as he rehabbed from injury. "Travis is a
solid young man who works hard as anyone in the gym. He is a fierce
eight months removed from injury, Anderson says he is "100% and ready
to go." Like everyone you talk to around the Raiders office at the
Lakeland Center, Travis has high expectations for the team in 2013. "I
want a championship. We signed (QB) BJ (Hall). I think our chemistry is
going to be awesome. We're already working as a team. Everyone is
dedicated and hungry for a championship."
personal goals are no less lofty than his hopes for the team overall.
"I am ready to carry the load at Running Back," he says. "I want to have
a breakout year, to open the eyes of some scouts. I'm trying to make a
statement to the NFL. I am ready to go to the next level after this
for the team's nemesis, the Florida Tarpons, Anderson thinks they may
be surprised when come to town in 2013. "The Tarpons are a great team
but this year it will be a whole lot more challenging for them. All the
recruits we picked up - the QB, the DBs - we've got the talent this
fans can expect great things from Anderson and the Raiders in 2013.
"We're going to make Lakeland proud, make the fans happy," Anderson
says. Foremost among the many Travis Anderson fans in the community are
his wife, Sherlonda, and the couple's three young children. "I'm
dedicating this year to the fans and to my family and supporters."
the offseason, Anderson is a Paraeducator for Ridge Community High
School where he also serves as a trainer and mentor for the school's
athletes. "I'm like a role model for those guys," he says of the Ridge
Community football team. "They look at me and think "˜I do have a
chance'". His advice to aspiring athletes? "Stay humble. Good will come
to the person who stays humble."
between a full-time job, a family that includes a newborn baby at home,
keeping in shape, and playing professional football, Anderson finds
time for what he calls his "second passion" (football being first, of
course) - playing drums. It is an art Travis has been honing since he
was seven years old. Currently, he plays on the praise team at Trinity
Worship Center in Haines City where his brother, Clinton Anderson,
serves as Minister of Music.