Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Duckett vs. Anderson

September 27, 2001
Former MSU senior defensive back Aric Morris (9) tackles Northwestern running back Damien Anderson during a 1999 game at Ryan Field in Evanston, Ill. Anderson is a Heisman Trophy candidate. —

If MSU’s T.J. Duckett is considered the Midwest’s “freak of nature,” then Northwestern’s Damien Anderson comes in a close second.

Both Heisman Trophy candidate running backs are known for their uncanny speed and strength, despite the fact they differ in size.

Duckett, at 6-foot-1 and 249 pounds, bruised his way to 1,353 yards in 2000, while Anderson, at 5-foot-11 and 207 pounds, scampered for 2,063 - the most in the Big Ten.

Anderson - who met Duckett this summer at the Playboy Magazine All-American weekend photo shoot in Phoenix - said both draw comparisons to NFL players.

“I consider T.J. similar to (the Tennessee Titans) Eddie George since he’s big and can bring people down,” Anderson said. “I consider myself more like (Tampa Bay Buccaneer) Warrick Dunn since I’m smaller.”

Duckett said Anderson’s flashy style can cause problems for opposing defenses.

“He’s more of a scat back,” Duckett said. “I’m more of a power runner and he’s quick and fast. He can get outside and make you miss him. Myself, I prefer contact more.”

Anderson is small compared with Duckett, but there’s no question he can hold his own on the field and the weight room.

“He’s such a hard worker and goes hard every practice,” Wildcat quarterback Zak Kustok said. “In the weight room he’s one of the strongest on the team.”

Anderson, who has rushed for 302 yards in two games, can bench press 430 pounds.

The players said they are eager for a rematch Saturday, when No. 23 MSU travels to No. 16 Northwestern.

But don’t expect any sideline trash talk. Duckett said the game will be enjoyable, because it will be against a friend.

“It’s fun,” Duckett said. “You enjoy it more, especially when you have more in common. Rather than just reading about a person, we actually keep in touch with each other.”

Northwestern thumped MSU 37-17 last year, behind 219 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Anderson.

Kustok, who has played with Anderson for three seasons after transferring from Notre Dame, said his teammate is the “best in the country.”

He ranks Duckett as one of the top backs in the nation as well.

“The thing that’s special about Damien is the fact that he can just flat out make plays whenever he’s on the field,” Kustok said. “He has been really working on his receiving skills this summer and has almost 100 yards receiving on the year already. Don’t get me wrong though, Duckett is one of the toughest in the country too. He’s a warrior.”

But both players said they don’t feel any pressure to perform better than the other.

“He’s a great back, loves the game and has made a name for himself,” Anderson said. “We have a mutual respect for each other and will both go hard come Saturday. ”

Duckett agrees.

“I don’t feel direct competition anywhere,” Duckett said. “It’s a team sport and we have to go out against Northwestern and play a good game. Numbers or records don’t matter. It’s wins that I care about.”

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