Dres Anderson grew up dreaming of becoming a UCLA football player. He would sit in the stands in the Rose Bowl, looking down on the field while imagining the feeling of pulling on the same Bruins jersey that his dad and uncle wore as UCLA wide receivers in the 1980s.
His uncle is Paco Craig, who caught 61 passes in his four years in Westwood. His father is Willie "Flipper" Anderson, who played 10 NFL seasons after his UCLA career and still holds the record for most receiving yards in an NFL game, 336.
When Dres was growing up, he wanted to be a Bruin — but it didn't work out that way.
The wide receiver is finishing up his senior season at Utah, but Anderson now says he couldn't be happier. He caught a 54-yard touchdown pass against UCLA last season, and he has 13 catches for 252 yards and three touchdowns this season. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder is projected as a mid-round NFL draft pick, and earlier this week, Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham said that Anderson is his offense's biggest weapon.
He might have grown up a Bruin, but make no mistake — Flipper's kid is going to come to play when UCLA takes on Utah on Saturday in the Rose Bowl.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Flipper said. "I wish he was playing there, but I'm happy that he chose his own path to do what he wanted to do. Utah, and what he's done there, has been great. I'm proud of him for it. The only hard part is that I think UCLA really has a chance to make it to the playoff, and I feel bad that my son is about to wreck it for them."
Flipper played at UCLA with Rick Neuheisel, the coach of the Bruins when Dres was at Riverside J.W. North High, but the elder Anderson says Dres was never really on the Bruins' radar. They had a glut of wide receivers. Dres looked elsewhere. Flipper never pressured him one way or another, and his son found a home in Salt Lake City.
"I always imagined myself going to UCLA, just because all I really knew growing up was UCLA football," Dres said. "But as I became my own person and started thinking for myself, I just really wanted to go somewhere that fit me best. I came up here to Utah and I felt like it was a great fit."
Not only did Flipper stay out of the way during Dres' recruiting process, he also stayed out of the way when his son was trying to figure out what position to play.
Flipper always assumed that his son was going to be a defensive back, from the way Dres hit people and the ball-hawk instincts he showed on the field. It wasn't until his junior year in high school that Dres fully committed to wide receiver. In between working out and running routes together, he would ask his father questions about separation, formations and eye contact.
Flipper was a quarterback in high school and didn't catch a collegiate pass until his sophomore year at UCLA. He started playing wide receiver even later than Dres did, so Flipper did everything he could to make the transition easier.
"I never thought he would be a receiver, but for him to go that route, I love when I get to talk to him about being a receiver," Flipper said. "He knows I understand that fully, and that's a good relationship that we've built."
Flipper goes to Utah home games and sees his son on billboards, programs and commercials. He was never worried about Dres being overshadowed by his own accomplishments at UCLA, but now, the week that his kid takes on the Bruins again, there are no doubts.