Offensive tackle Matthew Anderson honors late mother with birthday commitment to Nebraska

LINCOLN — Matthew Anderson is 6-foot-6, 255 pounds and the No. 1 singles tennis player at Leesville High in Louisiana. An Eagle Scout who plans to get all the badges before he graduates, Anderson is also captain — and founder — of the chess team. Undefeated among his peers, too.

“If there was an ESPN 300 for chess, I’d be in it,” Anderson joked Friday before he announced his verbal commitment to Nebraska.

As an offensive tackle prospect, he’s not in the ESPN 300 for football. A few months ago, he wasn’t on the radar of any recruiting site. The Huskers found him through a connection at a FCS school, invited him for an unofficial visit and secured his silent commitment then.

Anderson waited until Friday to announce it. One reason, he said, was so the college coaches who kept coming through to see him could evaluate his teammates, too. He liked the idea of that.

Another: June 22 is his first birthday without his mom, Denise, who died in February after a long battle against cancer.

And before he was a football player, chessmaster or Eagle Scout, Matthew said he was a mama’s boy, the son of a woman who would get her cancer treatments in Houston early in the day so she could get back for Matthew’s games.

Announcing his commitment Friday made a hard day a little better.

“It’s a little pick-me-up,” said Anderson, the 10th commit of the Huskers’ 2019 class.

He is rated as a three-star prospect by 247Sports but remains unrated by Rivals and ESPN, a classic late bloomer whose best offer, other than NU, was Louisiana Tech or Louisiana-Lafayette. Anderson played last season at 219 pounds. He didn’t play as a sophomore. The son of two Army veterans — his dad, Mark, is retired — Anderson spent several years in Germany and was never forced to play sports.

How did he end up a Husker?

Anderson credits Northwestern State offensive line coach J Pond, who instead of pretending Anderson would end up at the FCS level, tried to get the word out to Power Five conference teams. Pond had a connection at Nebraska : running backs coach Ryan Held. Nebraska offensive line coach Greg Austin got involved. Anderson made a visit to Lincoln in early June. He loved it.

“Nebraska is a perfect place for an offensive lineman with my skill set,” Anderson said. “I love the Midwestern values, and I also have that switch I can flip.”

Big guys can be tough guys on the football field, Anderson said.  Anderson remembers a teammate telling him, “Wow, you’re not a nice guy out here.”

He is still slight for the Big Ten and knows it. His dad bought him a weight set for home. He lifts to Husker highlights and hype videos on YouTube. The three-part series from this spring? Anderson has binged that multiple times.

“It’s kind of goofy,” Anderson said of his habits.

Nebraska fans probably won’t think so.

Other notable programs inquired after Nebraska leaned in. LSU, Arizona State, Baylor, Houston and Southern Mississippi were among them.

But the Huskers were the first big dog to get to his porch. Anderson didn’t forget it.

“I’m committed 120 percent,” Anderson said.

It will be bittersweet, he said. He will be leaving home. One of his sisters cried. Another close friend, who is headed to Louisiana Tech to be a cheerleader, wanted him there. A close teammate wanted to walk on wherever Anderson landed, but Nebraska might be a tough place for him to play.

So Anderson is taking a leap just as Nebraska takes a leap on him. He figures his mom had something to do with opening the door. NU didn’t start recruiting Anderson until after she had passed, and who could have predicted this path?

“When I was little, we had to write what we wanted to be, and I wanted to be a rock star so I could buy my mom a mansion,” Anderson said.

At least in Lincoln, offensive linemen are rock stars.

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