ZAIRE "BAM" Anderson certainly has come a long way. From Harrison Street in East Frankford to Riverside (Calif.) Community College all the way to Lincoln, Neb.
Now, the 5-11, 220-pound senior outside linebacker has his eyes set on a starting spot this season for the Cornhuskers.
Not bad for a young man who didn't even start playing linebacker until his senior year at Frankford (2009). In fact, Anderson was a first-team All-Public League coaches' selection at running back that season.
But, now . . .
"My favorite part is just being able to hit and being able to react to the ball," Anderson said via phone after Friday's practice.
"There's no feeling [like it]. There isn't a way that I can explain it, especially when you're playing in front of 80,000 people at Memorial Stadium. It's a great feeling. There's nothing like it."
Of course, that feeling is enhanced when you've had to overcome obstacles.
Back in 2009, as a freshman at junior college, Anderson told the Daily News he was shot in the face, a result of hanging in the wrong circles. He said his jaw was wired shut for nearly 8 months. Then, in 2012, his first season with the Huskers after 2 years at Riverside, Anderson injured his anterior cruciate ligament three games into the season.
"I always had the mindset that I was going to come back stronger, faster and just being a better player," Anderson said.
After receiving a medical-hardship waiver, which granted another year of eligibility, Anderson returned as a junior and started in five of the last seven games, including a two-sack performance at Michigan. He finished fifth on the team with 52 tackles (35 in the last seven games), including 28 solo stops.
Having worked with the first team in the spring and fall, Anderson appears poised to capitalize on that progress, which also mirrors advancements he's made off the field.
As a senior at Frankford, he once said: "I can see what's possible for kids who do their work and stay away from bad things." He also added: "I'm trying to do good things in my life. Everyone's proud of me now."
Nearly 5 years later, that narrative likely hasn't changed.
In August, Anderson graduated with a degree in child, youth and family studies, following in the footsteps of his older brother Zimier McCloud, who starred at linebacker for George Washington in 2003 and again at Clark Atlanta University. Anderson also made the Nebraska scholar-athlete honor roll by earning at least a 3.0 GPA for the spring 2014 semester.
"It was just exciting to be the second child out of my family to graduate, so it was really major for me," Anderson said.
When his football days are over, Anderson wants to work with children, possibly as a social worker so he can give back to young people in need. To that end, a recent volunteer stint at a juvenile detention center in Lincoln got him started.
"I was helping with the kids that were in the system," he said. "Just encouraging them and being a role model to them. I just told them to keep their heads straight when they get out, and tried to motivate them because in Lincoln, football is a big deal, so we're big role models to everyone here.
"I just like to give back because I don't come from one of the best areas and I didn't have the best role models until I got older, but a lot of kids don't have role models like that, so that's why I like to give back."
So, if you don't see him making hits somewhere on NFL Sundays, kids likely will still feel Anderson's impact.
"If that's what God has planned for me, going to the league, that would be a bonus," he said. "But I just want to finish my season best I can, and if I get the opportunity to play in the NFL, that'd be great. But whatever God has planned for me, that's what I'm rolling with."