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Football: How C.J. Anderson beat the odds

The 2013 NFL draft had just ended, and the names of 23 running backs had been called. None of them was Cal’s C.J. Anderson.

But a few hours later, the Denver Broncos reached out, offering Anderson a free-agent contract, which he accepted.

The decision, however, made no sense to Anderson’s junior college coach.

“Why would you sign with Denver?” Laney’s John Beam recalled thinking. “You’re never going to get the ball. They’ve got Peyton Manning (at quarterback), and they’re going to throw the ball every time.”

Twenty months later, the Broncos and Anderson couldn’t be happier. Of those 23 running backs drafted in 2013, Anderson has rushed for more yards than all but Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers.

Click here to rest the rest of this story.

Click here to read about the philosophy teacher who helped alter Anderson’s academic path.

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Ex-Bears in Beast Mode

It’s been quite an NFL season for four ex-Cal running backs, who have combined for 4,862 yards rushing and receiving and 36 touchdowns:

• C.J. ANDERSON, Broncos: A surprise during the second half of the season after carrying the ball just 17 times in Denver’s first eight games, Anderson is 18th in the NFL with 762 rushing yards and five touchdowns and has caught 32 passes for 304 yards and two more TDs.

• JUSTIN FORSETT, Ravens: In his first year with Baltimore, Forsett is enjoying his best NFL season. The 29-year-old is sixth in the league with 1,147 rushing yards and eight touchdowns and has caught 42 passes for 246 yards more.

• MARSHAWN LYNCH, Seahawks: In his ninth NFL season, Lynch has topped 1,000 yards for the sixth time, including the past four seasons with the reigning Super Bowl champions. His 2014 numbers: Third in the NFL with 1,246 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 34 receptions for 334 yards and four TDs.

• SHANE VEREEN, Patriots: The 25-year-old is having his most productive season with New England. Vereen has rushed for 390 yards and two TDs and caught a career-best 49 passes for 433 yards and three scores.

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Football: C.J. Anderson ready for Raiders

Courtesy of Jerry McDonald, our Raiders beat writer, here is a transcript of a teleconference call today involving Broncos coach John Fox and former Cal running back C.J. Anderson in advance of Sunday’s NFL regular-season finale against the Raiders:

Broncos Coach John Fox

Q: What has C.J. Anderson brought to you guys since he has come in? Has he been a surprise to you at all?
Coach Fox: “When these guys sit in those seats in the first team meeting, they don’t get one of those seats without having some talent, and C.J. was no different. I think the fact that he came in as a college free agent, he has had to fight and earn everything he’s got. It says a lot about his football character, his personal character. He got the opportunity. He flashed a year ago and then this year, due to injuries, he got a better look and he’s taking full advantage of it.”

Broncos RB C.J. Anderson

Q: Were you a Raiders fan as a kid?
Anderson: “Yes, I was.”

Q: Who was your favorite player?
Anderson: “Tim Brown.”

Q: Did you want to be a receiver or were you always a running back growing up?
Anderson: “Tim Brown was who I really liked and if I had to choose a running back in their time that I got to see play, it would be Tyrone Wheatley and Charlie Garner. I thought that combination was really fun to watch when I was young.”

Q: With the Cal connection with Justin Forsett and Marshawn Lynch, do you guys talk a lot or compare notes at all?
Anderson: “No, not really. We talk. We give each other congratulations over the years and things of that nature. We just sit and chat, but we don’t share notes or exchange notes. We all are our style when it comes to our running style and we just all try to do the best we can when we’re out there.”

Q: How would you describe your style and their styles of running?
Anderson: “I think Marshawn is himself, ‘Beast Mode.’ He’s just hard to tackle and accelerates into contact and that’s what makes him break a lot of tackles. I thin Justin is very patient and is very quick. He is very fast. He is kind of small, so it’s kind of hard to see him behind them. He breaks a lot of tackles with his speed. I just think that I’m more in the slow, quick game. I’m not the fastest guy on the field, but I have some shiftiness to me and I just try to run nasty and just try to, I guess you can say, put two styles into one. Marshawn is super quick and he can get moving and he breaks a lot of tackles. Justin is fast and quick and that’s what helps him out and I think I have a combination of both.”

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Basketball: Ex-Cal star Christopher signs with Jazz

Patrick Christopher, a key player on the first Cal team in 50 years to win a conference championship, was signed as a free agent Wednesday by the Utah Jazz after a strong start to the season with the NBA D-League’s Iowa Energy.

Christopher, 26, averaged 12.7 points for his Cal career, including 15.6 as a senior in 2009-10 when the Bears went 24-11 and won their first conference title since 1960.

He was averaging 15.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists this season for the Energy. A 6-foot-5 wing, Christopher had had three 20-point games this season.

He also played for the Energy last season, averaging 13.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists, and earning second-team all-defensive team.

Previously, he spent the 2012-13 season playing professionally in Turkey and the 2011-12 campaign in France.

Christopher becomes the fourth former Cal player on an NBA roster this season, joining Ryan Anderson of the Pelicans, Jorge Gutierrez of the Nets and Allen Crabbe of the Trail Blazers.

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Basketball: Ryan Anderson Q&A

Here is more from my Wednesday night interview with former Cal star and New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson at Haas Pavilion:

What’s it like to be back at Haas?

“It’s the first time I’ve been to a game here. Man, just sitting with Omar Wilkes, we were just talking about how much we miss that community, being around so many great friends and being able to play the game, walk home together, grab a bite to eat, talk about the game. I miss that community a lot. It’s all business now.

“What’s hard is this is my seventh year gone. They’ve gone by so fast and so much has happened. It gives me that sentimental feeling walking through here, old memories. I get that sentimental feeling like, `Man, I wish I could just teleport and go back to college.’ ”

How are you playing right now?

“The important thing is just being consistent and confident. Consistent doesn’t always mean the ball is going in the hoop every night. I just want to play confidently.  I always feel like I can play better, but I think I’m finding my way.”

How big was the Pelicans’ win over Oklahoma City on Tuesday night?

“Showed us the way we need to play. When we’ve won big games like that, it’s because we’ve played with that energy and moved the ball the way we have. We started the season off really well as a group, then had a shaky time. We’re still coming together as a new team. For me, I’m trying to feel my role out. I think everyone else is, too.”

How good can Anthony Davis become?

“I have no idea. How can he be much better than he is? He’s barely scratched the surface. It’s exciting watching him play every night. He’s incredible and he’s 21.He’s a humble guy and he works his butt off.”

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Basketball: Ryan Anderson finds a purpose in tragedy

Ryan Anderson wants you to know he is OK.

And he wants you to talk about a subject that will make you uncomfortable: suicide.

“This needs to be talked about,” Anderson said. “This is something that happens. And it’s taboo in this country we live in.”

It happened to Anderson, the 26-year-old former Cal basketball star and forward for the New Orleans Pelicans. Sixteen months ago, his girlfriend, Gia Allemand, took her life.

At Haas Pavilion on Wednesday night, on the eve of facing the Warriors, Anderson watched Cal play for the first time since entering the NBA in 2008. He was smiling, laughing, embracing old friends.

“It’s been a pretty crazy rollercoaster of a time,” he said during an interview in the building where he blossomed into a first-round draft pick after just two college seasons. “Coming back here, it’s kind of that innocent-to-the-world ride. Like, how the heck did I get here?”

Anderson he is a different man now than when he left the Bay Area. His game is coming back to him after last season was cut short by a freakish spinal injury that required neck surgery.

Anderson also has had to grapple with a tragedy that he hopes people never experience, but one that kills more Americans each year than car accidents.

Anderson and Allemand met in the Bahamas during the 2011-12 NBA All-Star break. She was a model and a popular contestant on the TV reality show, “The Bachelor.” Their relation grew serious.

But Anderson didn’t know Gia suffered from depression, perhaps triggered partly by a condition called premenstrual disphoric disorder (PMDD), which can lead to severe mood swings.

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Football alums: Aaron Rodgers has another huge day

Former Cal star Aaron Rodgers continued his red-hot play Sunday, throwing for 341 yards and three touchdowns in the Packers’ 53-20 rout of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Including last week’s 55-14 win over Chicago, Rodgers has gone 40 for 63 for 656 yards with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions in two weeks.

He has thrown 29 touchdown passes since his most recent interception in a home game, dating back to the 2012 season.

Elsewhere . . .

– Marshawn Lynch rushed 24 times for 124 yards in Seattle’s 24-20 loss at Kansas City.

– C.J. Anderson had eight catches for 86 yards and nine rushes for 29 yards in Denver’s loss to the Rams. Over the past two weeks, Anderson has totaled 278 yards rushing and receiving.

– Keenan Allen caught eight passes for 63 yards in San Diego’s win over Oakland.

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Football: Ex-Cal star Mebane out for NFL season

Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane will miss the rest of the season for the Seattle Seahawks after being placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a hamstring injury.

The move was expected after coach Pete Carroll said Monday that the injury suffered in Seattle’s 38-17 win over the Giants was “legit.” The team had been waiting for additional results.

Fox Sports first reported that Mebane suffered a torn hamstring. The loss of the Cal product is a blow to Seattle’s run defense, which ranks fourth in the league at 79.8 yards per game. Mebane has also been in on the most snaps of any of Seattle’s defensive tackles.

Mebane appeared to have been hurt early in the second quarter while chasing down a wide receiver screen. Eli Manning completed a short pass for Reuben Randle and Mebane appeared to grab at the back of his right leg while running after him.

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Football: Pretty good NFL day for ex-Bears

Ex-Cal stars Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch stole the NFL headlines Sunday.

C.J. Anderson and Justin Forsett had pretty nice days, too.

Rodgers set one NFL record and tied another in Green Bay’s 55-14 rout of the Chicago Bears, and Lynch scored a career-best four touchdowns in Seattle’s 38-17 win over the New York Giants.

Rodgers set an NFL record with hjs 16th touchdown pass of 70 yards or more — a 73-yarder to Jordy Nelson.

That was just the tip of the iceberg. He threw six first-half TD passes, tying an NFL mark set way back in 1969 by the Raiders’ “Mad Bomber,” Daryle Lamonica.

Rodgers finished 18 of 28 for 315 yards, without an interception or sack. He has thrown 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions the past three games, 10 of those TDs in two games against the Bears.

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Lynch ran for a season-best 140 yards and scored on runs of 1, 2, 3 and 16 yards.

“Like I said before, Marshawn Lynch is our engine,” Seattle’s Doug Baldwin said. “Everything runs through him.”

“You could see the impact Russell’s running was having. . . . That impact mixing with what Marshawn was doing, it just got to where they couldn’t find us,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.

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Anderson had the game of his life in the Denver Broncos’ 41-17 win at Oakland. The running back rushed 13 times for 90 yards and caught four passes for 73 yards, including a 51-yard touchdown from Peyton Manning that gave the Broncos the lead for good.

“I love playing at home,” Anderson said afterward. “It’s like I got my ice cream and my cake at the same time. I’m trying to soak all this in.”

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Forsett, who became the starting running back for the Baltimore after Ray Rice was indefinitely suspended, ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens’ 21-7 win over Tennessee. Forsett, in his eighth season, has reached career highs for yardage (721) and touchdowns (five).

“It’s been a dream come true, just to get the opportunity to come out here and play and show what I can do,” Forsett said.

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Basketball: Ryan Anderson scores 22 in Pelicans’ opener

Former Cal star Ryan Anderson, who didn’t play after Jan. 3 last season because of a neck injury, scored 22 points in the New Orleans Pelicans’ 101-84 season-opening win over the Orlando Magic.

Anderson, 26, also grabbed nine rebounds in his 22-minute stint off the bench.

Now beginning his sixth NBA season,  Anderson played 22 games last season before the injury that led to surgery for a herniated cervical disk. He averaged 19.8 points a year ago.

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Football: Rodgers throws game-winner with 3 secs left

Former Cal star Aaron Rodgers, in his 100th NFL start, engineered his 11th fourth-quarter comeback win, throwing a 4-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless with a 3 seconds left as the Green Bay Packers beat the host Miami Dolphins 27-24.

Rodgers threw for 264 yards and three TDs and has thrown 10 touchdown passes during the Packers’ three-game win streak.