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Bobblehead or bust.
“I still,’’ confesses Kelvin Anderson, “have two or three of those bobbleheads hanging around my house. My daughter has one in her room, I know.
“And there’s one in the basement.
“I gave a lot of ’em away, though. I wish now I had some more.
“They were cool ’cause I’m pretty sure they were the first bobbleheads in the CFL.
“They were a big deal for me. From McDonald’s. There was a commercial and everything.
“Pretty big for me.”
For those of a certain generation, the Kelvin Anderson bobblehead – issued gratis to the first 10,000 fans through the McMahon Stadium turnstiles at a 2002 home game – has become a hot-ticket collector’s item among CFL memorabilia devotees.
Pretty fair likeness, too: Calgary Stampeders home red, No. 32, toting the rock, tucked in his left arm.
Right down to the signature gold tooth.
You can still find a few for sale on eBay, starting at $39.99 (or Best Offer).
And now, all these years later, Kelvin Anderson gets a bust to go along with the bobblehead.
Indicative of admission into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
“I was happy,’’ says Anderson, from his home in Sikeston, Mo. “Happy to hear it. Happy that hard work paid off.
“I remember getting started in Calgary, a rookie. Being in the huddle with that talented group” – Jeff Garcia, Allen Pitts, Dave Sapunjis, Travis Moore, et al – “there was pressure. A lot of pressure. And being able to go out and perform with those guys, help the team, then winning Rookie of the Year, that was important for me.”
Before Messam and Corndog and Joffrey were the Pony Express mail-luggers over at McMahon (“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night …” etc., etc.), there was Kelvin.
A truly remarkable eight consecutive seasons of 1,000 yards or better, seven of those as a Stampeder.
“I enjoyed every day,” he says. “I still stay in touch with Fred (Childress). That was my guy from Day One. Eddie Davis. Marvin Pope.
“I had no idea (about the CFL) before I joined the Stampeders. When (assistant GM Roy) Shivers called me, I’d had a brief tryout down in Birmingham, when the league had the teams in States.
“I got no playing time there. Just practising. So I ended up leaving.
“So this was all new to me.”
Anderson proved a lightning-quick study. In ’96, he ran for 1,068 yards and 10 TDs, beginning his eye-popping run.
“As I said, I enjoyed all my time in Calgary. But if I had to pick a year, one, I’d probably say ’98. Three seasons into my career. By then, I felt comfortable – understood the rules and my opponents.
“I got the 1,000, of course (1,325 to be exact). And then we won the Grey Cup.”
While largely overlooked on the outside, the durability, dependability and availability was lost on no one.
“What he did is you pencilled him in for 18 games,’’ says quarterback Dave Dickenson. “You knew you were going to get great effort, great production for 18 games.
“That’s not always the case. Look at Jon (Cornish). Look at me. Injuries happen.
“He was tough, played thorough pain, produced in big games. I don’t know if he was the fastest, the quickest or the strongest but he had a nice combination of everything.
“When he came up here, he was a diamond in the rough. Nobody knew much about him. Then he had eight straight (at 1,000) and then he retired. No fanfare. Just . . . gone.
“In that era you had (Mike) Pringle and Charles Roberts. Pringle had the eye-popping numbers. Charles Roberts had the eye-popping plays.
“Pringle was the muscle and Charles was a quick as anybody I’ve ever seen. Then there was Kelvin in between.
“Kelvin took seven here, eight there. Just kept taking the yards that were there and getting two more.”
During those years, Anderson and his offensive front complemented each other.
“Yes, he was fun to block for because he ran hard,’’ recalls 13-year Stampeder o-lineman Jamie Crysdale. “First contact wasn’t going to bring him down, he was so good at breaking tackles.
“Calgary’s always been a pass-first kind of a team, the run game always seemed secondary but even that being the case, he was still a 1,000-yard rusher for eight seasons. So no matter how much we passed the ball, with every touch, he was making yards.
“He was such an effective back, he made the O-line look good.”
In an air-it-out era, Anderson provided welcome balance to a Stamps attack that had, in order, Garcia, Dickenson and Marcus Crandell at the tiller.
“He was such a strong runner with surprising speed,’’ says Sapjunis. “He handled the ball well, didn’t fumble a lot. A quiet guy that didn’t care about limelight or being praised.
“He was just one of those guys who went out, did his job, and did it extremely well.
“There was a lot going on in the league at the time, too. A lot of profile players. It was also a time where we started to throw the ball even more, adding a fifth or sixth receiver and the air game became so important that very few runners could get to 1,000.
“So they were overshadowed a bit. But Kelvin always managed to hit that number. Impressive.”
Since retiring in 2004, after a 1,000-yard campaign in his lone year out west at BC, Anderson has worked as an engineer at the ACI Associated Electric Power Plant in Sikeston.
“What do I miss about the game?” he says. “The camaraderie, being the locker room, laughing with the guys.
“As far as anything about the physical game itself, I don’t miss any of that. It took my body two years to heal. So I don’t miss any of the contact.
“I always thought I could be better. Every year. I just wanted more touches.”
He did well enough, regardless, compling 8,292 yards over the seven seasons with McMahon as his home base. He was a CFL all-star in 1998, 1999 and 2001 and received the Jeff Nicklin Trophy as the West’s MOP rep in 1998 and 2001.
One aspect of his career, however, still provides the greatest satisfaction.
“I’d have to say the eight straight years of 1,000,’’ replies Anderson. “That’s hard to do. Haven’t seen too many people do it.
“It was important to me, taking the burden off the coach, knowing he could depend on me, knowing that every week he could say ‘I know I’ve got my running back. He’s playing.’
“That reliability factor. Being counted on. Being accountable.
“I take a lot of pride in that.”
Fifteen years after McDonald’s handed out the 10,000 head-knockers, Kelvin Anderson gets a bust to go with the bobblehead.
No word yet, though, on whether the Hall of Fame artisans will be able to slip a little strip of gold paint on their likeness’s smile.