DENVER — As he watched the terror unfold on television, Mike Anderson the U.S. Marine replaced Mike Anderson the Denver Broncos running back.
Instincts honed from Day 1 of basic training came rushing back. Shock and disbelief were quickly displaced by thoughts of revenge and retaliation.
"Like the saying goes: 'Once a Marine, always a Marine,' " Anderson, a former Ute star, said Monday. "We were taught and trained to defend the country. Once something like that happened, the first thing you want to do is go out and defend the country. When I saw that happen, I got really upset about that. That's just something you don't do."
Anderson, who joined the U.S. Marine Corps out of high school and spent four years as a communications specialist, said he would not hesitate to join America's fight against terrorism.
His full-time job in the NFL precludes him from returning to the service, but his thoughts over the past week have seldom strayed from the people killed in the attacks and his comrades in arms who are preparing for war.
"I know I don't have to go, but I would want to go and be part of that," Anderson said. "I know my brothers in the Corps, they're ready to go right now, if they haven't already left."
Before his rapid rise to NFL offensive rookie of the year, Anderson spent time on assignments in Somalia, Kenya and Singapore.
Somalia presented the most volatile atmosphere as the impoverished nation went through civil unrest. The experience gave Anderson a chance to see how world cultures vary and served as a reminder of what American soldiers face if they are deployed to the Middle East.
"You don't know if you're going to become a target or you're going to be locking in on a target," Anderson said. "You don't know what's about to take place.
"Once you leave home port, you don't know if you're coming back to home port. You have to prepare yourself for the mindset that this might be the last time that I see my family. But you've got to be ready to go, too, in a sense that, 'I'm doing something that's great for my country. I'm serving my country, and I'm doing a great deed.' "
Although he attended anti-terrorism classes while in the Marines, Anderson said none of the material prepared him for the orchestrated attack that crumbled the World Trade Center and destroyed part of the Pentagon.
The coordinated assault has left Anderson with a somber outlook for the months ahead.
"I don't think it's going to be quite as swift justice like most people would like to see," he said. "I'm preparing for the long haul. It's sad to say that there's going to be a lot of lives lost on both sides. When you say the word 'war,' that's what that means."
In the meantime, Anderson and the Broncos returned to practice Monday in preparation for Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Last week's games were postponed out of respect for those killed and injured in Tuesday's attacks, and the Broncos are hoping that the NFL's return will help provide a tonic for a grieving nation.
"I'm more upbeat than I was last week," Denver receiver Rod Smith said. "The guys are more focused on our jobs and on what we have to do. Pretty much Monday is the day the entire country needs to get back to work, to get back to the things we've always done. Everyone is trying to do that."