Jamal Anderson is back on his home turf this week and his arrival has not gone unnoticed. In the USC film room, they're going blurry eyed, watching and re-watching Anderson's runs and re-runs as the University of Utah's chief offensive weapon. In Jamal's old neighborhood in Woodland Hills, his family, friends and former coaches are piling up as many Freedom Bowl tickets as budgets and comp lists will allow. And the media, local as well as national, are seizing on a story that's more than one man can tackle.

Does this one sound Hollywood or what? The son of a bodyguard to the stars grows up around some of the biggest names of his generation, uses their examples to fuel his drive for success, tops out at six feet and 245 pounds, enrolls as a running back at a school in Utah to get away from the lights and to become his own man, and, finally, for the really big finish, returns to L.A. for the last game of his college career."It's like a dream come true," says Jamal himself.

"He always said he was going to do this," says Jamal's father, James Anderson, the former New Jersey cop who, while working crowd control at a heavyweight fight 20 years ago, attracted the attention of Muhammad Ali, who hired him as a bodyguard.

One star led to another for James, who moved his family, including young Jamal, to Los Angeles. You name them, James has probably kept them from getting mauled. Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson got in line behind Ali. Entertainers like Luther Van Dross, Donna Summer, The Jacksons, Richard Pryor and Marvin Gaye have been clients. Currently James is protecting the pop group Boyz II Men.

A likeable - as well as a big - man, James has developed something of a world-class Christmas card list. Among his close friends are Jim Brown and Eric Dickerson, both of whom have not been above giving young Jamal a pointer or two during his development. When Dickerson played for the Los Angeles Rams, James and Jamal used to go to Anaheim Stadium, site of Thursday's Freedom Bowl, for home games and walk the sidelines with the Rams.

Dickerson should be there Thursday night, reversing the roles. So should Brown and Ray Leonard, although Tyson will not be able to make it.

"Our crowd should be anywhere from 35 to 50 people," says James. "Don't forget, there are 10 of us alone in our family. Jamal has seven brothers and sisters."

For his part, Jamal is looking forward to playing in front of so much "family." Growing up with the famous and accomplished, he isn't nervous when a Jim Brown or an Eric Dickerson watch him run. On the contrary. "Being around the greatest has made me want to be that too," he says. "You know what I'm saying? I don't want to just be a fullback. I want to be THE fullback. I watched Jerome Bettis last year at Notre Dame. He was THE fullback. That's what I want to be this year."

Certainly there are few fullbacks in America with stock rising any faster than Anderson's. Ever since midseason, when the Utes stopped fooling around with multiple offensive looks and went to their one-back offense, they've been practically unbeatable and their one back - that would be Jamal - has been practically unstoppable.

He has carried tackles, ends, linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties - often all at the same time - on his back to hundreds of yards in the past half-dozen games. No one tackler has yet brought him down one-on-one. Not straight up, anyway. "I've been cut block and tripped up," says Jamal. "But I've never been manhandled by one tackler and taken to the ground. I won't let that happen. When it does that will my cue to get out of football."

He says this with a grin that borders between sinister and playful. He says he likes what he does. "I have fun doing this," he says, explaining that his strategy is all about wearing the other guy down.

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"After you give a guy that shot with your shoulder for about a quarter and a half, that's when he starts questioning if he wants to keep hitting you hard," says Anderson. "You can tell it in a defender's eyes when he really doesn't want to deal with you any more."

Anderson knows that it's all come rather fast, rather late. He spent his first two college years in the anonymity of junior college football and then last season, his first at Utah, he was used only sparingly. The start of this season was more of the same.

"We knew and he knew that they didn't know what they really had at Utah," says James, sounding like a dad, it's true, but like a dad who's been proven right. "Nobody said anything. That's not our way, to say `give our boy the ball.' We're just happy they finally decided to take a look at him."

"It all came together about halfway through the season," says Jamal, "and now, not only are we in a bowl game, but we're playing in Los Angeles against SC. It's like somebody upstairs is looking out for us."

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