Football journey: Mark Anderson

Fernando Medina/US Presswire

Mark Anderson has provided the Patriots with a pass-rush spark.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Mark Anderson occupies Tully Banta-Cain’s old locker and jersey number (95), and he’s also taken over his old role.

Anderson is the Patriots’ nickel rusher, primarily coming onto the field on third down and obvious passing situations. He’s played in all eight games this season, totaling 157 of a possible 564 snaps (including penalties). He is tied for the team lead with 4.5 sacks, three of which have come at the end of games when the Patriots had the outcome in hand.

In sharing his “football journey” with ESPNBoston.com this week, Anderson noted how a 12-sack rookie season with the Bears created a higher level of expectation that was an additional “opponent” to tackle.

When he first started playing football: “In the third grade. I played flag football for three years. I wanted to play tackle, all my friends were, but my dad wouldn’t let me. I didn’t start playing tackle football until middle school.”

Why he started playing football: “I loved basketball. That was my No. 1, and football was more something to do in the offseason.”

Role models in his career: “My family – my brother, my dad. Also, different players around the league, like Adewale Ogunleye, I still talk to him. Osi [Umenyiora], I work out with him all the time.”

What he loves about football: “I just love everything about it. I just like being in the locker room, around different guys, different personalities, just having fun.”

Top football memories at Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa: “There was one game where I had 19 tackles. Another game I had blocked two punts. I have a lot of good memories. My last year, we lost in the semis and I got kicked out of the game for fighting [laughing]. My friends back home still blame me for not winning [the championship].”

Why he decided to attend University of Alabama: “Coach [Dennis] Franchione, his staff, they were recruiting me pretty hard. I liked their whole staff. I thought about going to TCU, because that’s where they were at the time, and when they got the job at Alabama, I was like, ‘That’s a major powerhouse.’ I thought it would help me to get to this level. I also liked that it was far away [from home]. It was a new start.”

Top memories of Alabama: “I remember the Florida game my last year. The whole last year, we had a great defense – DeMeco Ryans, Roman Harper, Charlie Peprah, Anthony Madison, Freddie Roach -- and all our hard work paid off that last year. Florida was ranked high and it was a good game for us. The crowd was crazy, I had a sack and a couple pressures. That was great.”

AP Photo/Ed Reinke

Anderson with the Chicago Bears.Fifth-round pick of the Bears in 2006; summing up his Chicago tenure: “It was bittersweet. It started out well and after that, it was a learning experience, especially from the media. It was mainly good -- going to a Super Bowl your first year, you can’t beat that -- but I was always trying to get back to that 12-sack performance [as a rookie].”

The weight of expectations of a 12-sack season as a rookie: “It was a blessing but it does bring along a lot of different … having that type of impact a lot of stuff comes with that. [Media] was on me because the bar was set so high. Maybe if I came in, as a rookie, and had four sacks and gradually increased each year … when you start off so high, you’re trying to beat that each time.”

Cut by the Bears in October of 2010 and landing with the Texans the next day: “That was another good experience for me. I was in a new position; that’s when I started standing up, coming off the edge, doing different stuff as a linebacker-type guy. I loved that team, a lot of hungry, young guys who wanted to win. We just couldn’t click and gel at the time, but now, it looks like they’re doing real well.”

Life as a Patriot after signing a one-year deal in August of 2011: “I feel like it’s business now. I had been through a lot of ups and downs and now my whole mentality is to enjoy every moment you get to play, just try to make the best of it, even if it’s just 10 snaps. I’ll do whatever I can to help the team. That’s my whole mentality being in New England. The tradition here is crazy and to be a part of it in any way, I’m just doing my job.”