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Long road leads NDSU's Anderson to the NFL

Former North Dakota State running back Bruce Anderson was a four-year football standout for the Bison. David Samson / The Forum1 / 3
Former North Dakota State running back Bruce Anderson has been destined to be a football player from a young age. David Samson / The Forum2 / 3
Former North Dakota State running back Bruce Anderson is shown here participating in North Dakota State Pro Day. David Samson / The Forum3 / 3

FARGO — Bruce Anderson was born in Germany and also lived in New Mexico, Japan and northern California during his childhood.

The former North Dakota State running back finished his high school football career at Newsome High School in Lithia, Florida, before he came to Fargo where he had a standout football career.

“It’s been a long path for him, I can tell you that,” said Norman Anderson, Bruce’s father.

The Andersons moved frequently as Norman was a civil engineer for the Air Force. He retired as a master sergeant after more than 20 years of service.

The next destination for Bruce was decided Saturday, April 27. He signed an NFL free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bruce’s first Christmas present from his parents was a football. From the time he was a toddler, Lesley Anderson, Bruce’s mom, knew her son was destined to be a football player.

“I want to be Spiderman, Superman and I want to play football,” Lesley said, recalling what Bruce said as a youngster.

"He slept with that ball that first month after he had it," Norman added. "He carried it everywhere he went."

Anderson had super-hero-like moments during his career at NDSU. He rushed for 2,896 yards and 24 touchdowns on 486 attempts, in his four seasons with the Bison.

As a true freshman, he had two kickoff returns for a touchdown in the 2015 Division I FCS playoffs.

As a senior, Bruce had a video-game-like stiff arm in the FCS semifinals on a touchdown run that was called back via penalty.

Bruce helped NDSU win three national titles.

“Those championship years, I think that was a big part of him maturing as a man,” Norman said.

Norman said former NFL running back greats Barry Sanders and Eric Dickerson were among his son’s favorite players growing up. When Norman was stationed in Germany and Japan, he was able to watch pro football games with Bruce on the American Forces Network.

Bruce started playing flag football when his dad was based in Japan when he around 6 or 7 years old, Norman said. Lesley remembers her son not liking the flag game.

“I don’t want to play that,” Lesley said, recalling her son’s words. “That’s not real football.”

Norman added: “He wanted to play football with some contact.”

Bruce started playing contact youth football once the family moved to California. Norman said when the family first arrived in California it was late in the youth football season so his son got placed on an older team.

“He was like the smallest kid on the team,” Norman said.

However, that didn’t prevent Bruce from excelling.

“When he started playing, everyone wanted him on their team,” Lesley said. “He always played the whole game. He never wanted to come out of the game.”

Bruce played his first two seasons at River Valley High School in Yuba City, Calif., before he played two seasons at Newsome. He was also a standout in track and field, specializing in the sprints as well as the long jump.

During his recruitment, Bruce visited Fargo for NDSU’s 27-24 victory against South Dakota State in the second round of the 2014 FCS playoffs at the Fargodome. Norman said that helped cement his son’s decision.

“He said he felt like he was at home in Fargo,” Norman said. “At that point, that was it. I knew that was the place for him.”

Norman and Lesley moved to Fargo during Bruce's final three seasons at NDSU so they could watch their son play more often. In the lead up to the NFL Draft, Bruce trained in Florida at D1 Tampa, a training facility designed for athletes.

“I’ve always known that Bruce was going to be good at football,” Lesley said. “I always knew he was going to be good at it because he always put in the time.”

Norman added: "His dream is finally coming true."

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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