As Glendale High football Coach Alan Eberhart sees it, senior two-way starter Linden Anderson is an example of what he wants all his football players to be, plain and simple.
"He's the perfect example of what I want my football players to be," Eberhart confirms.
It's quite a compliment to say the least.
Yet, Anderson hasn't set any school records, he hasn't led the Nitros to Pacific League stardom and he's yet to garner All-CIF accolades. He certainly has palpable potential to become a star for the Nitros, but Eberhart's example of what he wants his players to be is clearly removed from headlines and statistical superiority.
With Anderson, he boasts a student-athlete who does well in the classroom and does well in juggling both basketball and football. What he has is a boy scout — literally. In fact, Anderson is working on becoming an Eagle Scout.
Anderson admits it gets hectic, but he's hardly slowed down as the 2010 football season approaches kickoff for the Nitros and the 6-foot-2, 160-pound senior is poised to break out as a receiver and free safety.
"He has a big role on our team," senior defensive back and tight end Alex Maravilla says. "He's our go-to guy."
But for Eberhart, Anderson's go-to status is likely less about production as it is setting the tone for building the program.
In his second season at Glendale, Eberhart realizes many of last year's lows can be attributed to many of the incumbents' refusal to buy into the new coach's system and, perhaps, a lack of effort and aggression.
With Anderson, and subsequently many of this season's Nitros, that's simply not the case.
"The mental game was weak last year, the [amount of] experience was weak last year, that combination of the two led us to our record," says Anderson, a three-year varsity player. "Last year, Coach Eb said that nobody bought in. The bottom line was last year, the seniors, they didn't buy in.
"We're trying to be a lot different. I feel like we should be different."
Anderson, a second-team All-Pacific League selection as a safety last season after tallying 27 tackles and four interceptions, has started by making himself different.
In particular, he has become a more aggressive presence on the field, whether it's by being physical or simply attacking the ball when it's in the air.
"Once you put the helmet on, you have to do what you have to do," Anderson says. "I've become more aggressive, I've become a more physical receiver and safety."
It's a change that certainly hasn't gone unnoticed.
"He's learning to be more competitive," Eberhart says. "Linden just gets better and better."
His improvement's even a bit more impressive when considering his summer was spent going back and forth from football to basketball, passing leagues to summer leagues, the football field to the hardwood.
For the most part, aside from sapping a bit of his energy, Anderson says it went off without a hitch, thanks in large part to Eberhart and Glendale basketball Coach Steve Snodgress' support of the situation.
"They were both really understanding, they were both really helpful," Anderson says. "It does take a lot out of you, but you just have to focus."
Currently, Anderson's focus is on being a receiver and a safety for a struggling football program looking to climb back up.
And it's clear, at least within his words, that his senior season is of the utmost importance to the 17-year-old.
"This is everything to me," he says. "It seems like I've been preparing for this season since my freshman year.
"It means the world to me. We're gonna leave it all on the field and have no regrets."
And within his words, Anderson has become symbolic of what his coach and Glendale hope the Nitros will become, steadfastly improving, showing up and playing hard. It's simple, but significant.
"He just gives it his all every play," Maravilla says. "He doesn't take a play off."
And so it goes that Anderson has become a playmaker, he's become a leader and, at least in his coach's eyes, an example of what he wants his Nitros to be.
"The one thing I love about Linden is that he's probably one of the most dependable athletes I've ever been around. He might miss football, but it's because he's at basketball," Eberhart says. "He's a good student, nice, unassuming. He just does all the things you should."