It was with mixed emotions that Terry Donahue watched the Flipper Anderson show on television Sunday night, and it certainly was a show for the ages.
"It was just something else. He is such a great player, and I was so happy for him," said Donahue, who coached Anderson at UCLA from 1983 through '87, and saw him set an NFL record for receiving yardage in a single game with his 336 yards in 15 receptions in the Rams' 20-17 win over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.
"Also, I sure wished I had him back."
Both emotions were understandable for Donahue, who has enjoyed so much success with players such as Anderson starring in the Bruin football program, but who suffered through a stunning fall this season, when his team went 3-7-1.
"I was just really proud of him tonight," Donahue said. "I was working on some other things, but my wife kept updating me on what he was doing, and I finally had to sit down and watch the end of it.
"The thing about Flipper is that he always had such great speed, and the ability to make the big play. Not all receivers have that.
"And he's also such a fine young man. I still see him around school once in a while, and he still works at our summer football camp in Irvine."
Anderson's career at UCLA was certainly a preview of the kind of great things to come that took place Sunday night.
He had 105 catches for 2,023 yards and 14 touchdowns in just three seasons of regular play with the Bruins. He was a red-shirt his first season and played enough to get a letter his second season, but had no receptions.
"The thing a lot of people still don't know about him was that he had to make a big position change coming to UCLA," Donahue said. "He was a quarterback his senior year (in high school). That's why he started a little slowly at UCLA."
As a junior at Paulsboro (N.J.) High School, he caught 51 passes.
But as a senior, he was switched to quarterback. He carried the ball 121 times for 1,345 yards, an 11.0 yards per carry average, and completed 58 of 105 passes for 788 yards and nine touchdowns. And, for good measure, he intercepted seven passes as a defensive back.
But once he got to UCLA, he was slotted as a wide receiver and still holds the school record for reception yardage in a season, with 903 yards on 48 catches his senior season of 1987.
His biggest single game as a Bruin? It was seven catches for 154 yards against Oregon State in 1987, second best in UCLA history behind Kurt Altenberg's 166 yards in 1963.
But compared to Sunday night's 15 catches for 336 yards, that day in 1987 was just an ordinary day at the office.