FRISCO, Texas — Dres Anderson always sees the proverbial glass as half-full.
And, considering that Dallas is the sixth different NFL team the former Ute receiver has been with since his days at Utah, optimistic is the only way to feel about his future in the league.
“Yeah, you just got to take advantage of every opportunity you get. Just take the positive side of things,” said Anderson, 26, who signed with the Cowboys Aug. 15, after a recent practice. “I’ve been on a lot of teams, but I’m getting picked up, so somebody’s seeing something. Hopefully, one day it can come together and I can be displaying my talents out there.”
Anderson has only been a Cowboy for about 10 days but feels he’s progressing nicely in learning Scott Linehan’s offense and the organizational culture in Dallas.
“Things have been great. Just trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get, learning the offense, the terminology up here and just how they do things, just adapting and getting right,” he said.
“I was excited to be here. It’s a great opportunity. We got a lot of great guys to learn from, guys that have a lot of experience in this league. Just taking pointers from them and picking their brains.”
The son of former standout NFL pass catcher Willie “Flipper” Anderson, Dres was at Utah between 2010 and 2014. Despite ending his collegiate career with a truncated senior campaign due to a season-ending knee injury, his memories of those days remain overwhelmingly positive.
“That was a great time in my life. I had a great experience in Utah,” Anderson said. “They showed me so much love. I grew as a man there. I’ll never be able to take that for granted. I appreciate all those coaches for what they did for me. They really shaped me into being the person that I am today, just mentally tough. I can use that in the real world as well. They did good for me there.”
Those Utah roots are reinforced by the former teammates and coaches he remains in contact with.
“All those guys are my brothers. I talk to Reggie Dunn every day,” Anderson said. “Darren Carrington is up here (in Dallas). We didn’t even go to Utah together, but we got that Utah love. I’m just trying to take him under my wing, him being a rookie and all. Yeah, there’s always love in Utah, always.”
Anderson said during the season that he keeps up with the Utes every week, which works out well because Saturday is usually a light day for most NFL teams with only a walk-through and a few meetings, leaving him ample time to watch his alma mater play.
Thus far, he’s been on the practice squad for four teams, most recently with Indianapolis last fall. But, like most players who have spent time on what is also called “the taxi squad,” the experience isn’t terribly different than for players on the full 53-man active roster — well, except for one aspect.
“Yeah, it’s really not that different other than the pay. You want to be active so you can get that check-check, but you’re just doing whatever you can for the team,” Anderson said. “You’re never going into practice thinking, 'Oh, I’m a practice squad player.' You just want to keep on perfecting your craft because your time could be called at any time. You just got to mentally be ready if you got to take that step.”
With last season’s top receiver, Dez Bryant, no longer in Dallas, and with the Cowboys’ No. 2 receiver in 2017, Terrance Williams, involved in a notable off-field incident earlier this year, there are clearly roster spots to be won in the receiving corps for America’s Team.
That opportunity is one reason Anderson landed in Dallas. But another reason he became a Cowboy was to reunite with Sanjay Lal, Dallas’s new receivers coach who coached him last season with the Colts.
“Sanjay’s going to coach everybody the same way. No matter whether you’re the star receiver or the last receiver on the depth chart, he’s going to coach you hard,” Anderson said. “He’s going to make sure you know what you’re doing, all the details of every play, every route.
"It’s hard to find a guy that tries to do that for every single person. Usually, they might tell this guy that (and think) hopefully the other guys hear it. Sanjay’s going to be on everybody about it. He really holds you accountable and I like that. It’s great being coached by him.”
And the consistency he receives from Lal is a welcome change for this ex-Ute.
“You know what you’re getting out of him. He’s never going to lie to you,” Anderson said. “If he feels like you need to pick it up, he’ll let you know. He’s not going to just leave you in the dark and have you guessing. He’s going to let you know the deal. That’s good for you mentally.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.