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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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More than a Quarterback

Chazz Anderson is finding his way in Buffalo

On Buffalo's first home football game of the season, a virtual unknown stepped in under center. The squad's new quarterback – the back of his jersey read "Anderson" – took the first snap and bombed a 57-yard touchdown pass.

No. 7 pumped his fists. But still, fans were left with one question: Who is the new man under center?

That man is Chazz Anderson. Onlookers only needed that one play to recognize that he can play quarterback, but to truly understand Anderson, there are a few things you need to know.

He wants to be a pastor. He's only 22 years old, but he's engaged to marry the love of his life. His family means the world to him. And his whole life has prepared him to be the leader the Bulls desperately needed.

Faith and Football

On Saturdays in the fall, you'll find Anderson on the football field.

But on Sunday, regardless of how the game turned out the day before, Anderson leads his teammates in a different arena – his church.

Last year, the Bulls struggled to find leadership at the quarterback position. It's only taken Anderson two months to unite his team.

On his first night in town, he met with senior safety Josh Copeland. The two bonded over dinner.

"It was weird," Copeland said. "I don't know how, but we just clicked. The first day he got here, you could just tell he was a leader. He had that aura and charisma about him that guys cling to."

There's a reason Anderson is so effervescent, and it's not because he's a standout athlete or a college grad.

Anderson plans on becoming a pastor when he graduates from college. Though he has a bachelor's degree in communications from Cincinnati, he plans on going to seminary to achieve a master's of theology and a master's of divinity. At UB, Anderson is working on a master's of education, because he also wants to teach at a Christian school some day.

"My life is dictated by my love for Christ and my love for others," Anderson said. "I'm a firm believer in enjoying every moment, loving the people you're with, and honoring God."

Anderson's mother, Rochelle, said she saw his future unfolding when he was just a kid.

"I knew that he always loved church and loved the Lord as a child," Rochelle said. "Looking back, I see it now. When he would go to the neighborhood bible study next door when he was in the third grade, he'd come back and be super excited about what the lady talked about – besides her waffles that he really liked."

The Making of a Quarterback

A five-year-old boy stands in his backyard in Pickering, Ohio. His hand protects his heart as his mom sings the national anthem. He requests that she sings it every time he goes outside to play. His eyes are closed. The grass is taped with yard lines. Ten, five, end zone. His feet are right where they belong – on the football field.

It's been evident that Anderson is different from most athletes ever since he stepped foot on campus in July.

"Even though he's the rough and tough football player that you see on the field, he really has a caring and sensitive side," Rochelle said. "You always see an exterior and you think of a certain stereotype of how football players are supposed to be – and he is, when he's on the football field – but off the field, he has a big heart."

The priorities in that heart are clear: Faith, Family, Football. In that order.

Next to his relationship with God, Anderson's family is most important to him. He's extremely close with his mother, father, and younger brother.

Anderson's brother, Kane, is a freshman receiver at Kentucky Christian. Kane says Anderson is his role model. They always call each other after their games.

As kids, Anderson forced Kane to play catch.

"Even when I got to the phase when I just wanted to sit around and play video games all day, he would come into my room and make me go outside and throw the football with him," Kane said. "He would throw it at me and I'd have to run and get it, because he threw too hard for me to catch."

Outside of Anderson's mother, there's only one woman who knows nearly everything about him – his fiancée, Chelsea Rickenbacker. Now that Anderson is in Buffalo, he generally doesn't see Rickenbacker for weeks on end. They've been dating since Anderson was a sophomore in high school.

"Every time I leave him, I just cry the whole next day," Rickenbacker said. "I'm miserable. I'm not myself. He's my other half and my better half. The long distance is extremely hard."

Though Anderson struggles with the distance, he told his family and his fiancée that he knew he needed to move to Buffalo because he needed to have a shot to start at quarterback.

Sitting in Cincinnati

Chazz's father, Tim, gave his love for football to Chazz, who passed it on to Kane.

"I used to take Anderson with me to two-a-days when he was three or four years old," Tim said. "He would sit there and watch me coach and go home and try to do what I did to the kids in the neighborhood. Football's been a part of his life since he's been able to walk."

Anderson has excelled on the field for as long as his father can remember. Tim was the head coach of Anderson's six-year-old football team. Other teams complained and asked Tim to sit Anderson on the bench, because Anderson generally scored six or seven touchdowns before halftime.

Anderson gained his skills by playing football with the neighborhood kids every day.

"He was the head coach, the quarterback, and the official," Tim said. "It was mind-boggling. He'd have the parents out there sitting on chairs, pretending they were bleachers. He took speakers out onto our deck and played music on the field. He's always been a leader."

However, Chazz's football career hasn't always gone as planned. In 2010, he expected to be the starting quarterback at Cincinnati. He was groomed to be the starter after Tony Pike graduated, but Zach Collaros was named the starter following spring camp.

So Chazz sat on the bench.

"It was a great opportunity for me to experience humility," Chazz said. "I wouldn't trade that experience for the world."

The memory is painful for Chazz, but he said it taught him to be a better teammate. That experience has come with him to Buffalo.

Following a heartbreaking week one loss to Pittsburgh, Chazz proved his leadership. He delivered one simple, fundamental message to his teammates:

"I love each and every one of you guys in this room and I firmly believe that we can win the MAC championship."

Though his demeanor in the locker room was positive, he was still devastated.

"I was frustrated after the loss and I was sitting with my family," Chazz said. "A woman came over and she said, ‘I just want to tell you that True Blue is behind you, win or lose.' That meant the world to me. Those are the type of people I've been around in Buffalo."

The Man Today

When Tim and Rochelle watch from the bleachers (one travels to every game, while the other goes to Kane's game), they still see that 5-year-old boy who loved football, bible club, and waffles.

The scene is different when Chazz hears the national anthem before games nowadays, but that young, devoted spirit lives in him to this day. And that spirit will remain with Chazz after his final snap.

He's more than No. 7.

He's a prospective minster, a leader, son, brother, fiancée, and a role model.

That's Chazz Anderson – your starting quarterback.




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