SE safety turns out to be real Prince

Saturday, October 20, 2001

Prince Anderson acts somewhat modest when the subject of his knack for being around the football comes up.

"I guess I'm just at the right place at the right time," he said with a smile before a recent Southeast Missouri State University practice.

Southeast coach Tim Billings is a bit less modest when talking about his junior free safety.

"He's tough and he has a great nose for the ball," said Billings.

Whatever it is, Anderson is certainly having quite an impact during his rookie season with the Indians. The junior-college transfer and Oklahoma native is by far the Ohio Valley Conference's leading tackler -- he ranks fifth nationally in NCAA Division I-AA -- with 91 stops for an average of 13 per game.

"I just see the ball and go after it," said Anderson, when prodded a bit more about his penchant for bringing down the ball carrier no matter what the spot on the field. "I've always been that way."

Anderson, from Muskogee, Okla., was at one time thought to be headed for the big time. After his freshman year at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M Junior College, he was recruited by several Division I-A programs, including TCU and Tulsa.

"I really wanted to play at a big (I-A) school," he said.

But a knee injury suffered during his sophomore season in junior college caused him to miss several games and caused recruiters from the bigger programs to back off. Southeast, however, stayed persistent.

Asked how he wound up in Cape Girardeau, the good-natured Anderson laughed and said, "I came here because...I really don't know why. It was a last-minute thing. After I hurt my knee, some of the bigger schools backed off, so I came here. And I'm glad I did. It's worked out well."

Billings is also pleased that the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Anderson decided to play for the Indians after both their safeties -- leading tacklers Joe Williams and Isaac Powell -- completed their eligibility following last season.

"We were real excited about getting Prince," Billings said. "After his freshman year (in junior college) he was one of the most highly touted (juco players) in the country, but after he got hurt nobody wanted to take a chance on him. We did.

"After losing our two safeties last year, he's really been a big help to us."

In addition to making all those tackles -- which has him ahead of teammate Ricky Farmer, a linebacker who ranks second in the OVC with 73 stops -- Anderson has also broken up three passes, which is tied for second-most on the squad, and has added a fumble recovery.

Now, about that most unusual first name, which Anderson said is not a nickname.

"I'm named after my father, who is also Prince. I don't know how it all started in our family," he said. "But I like the name. It's different and I think it fits me."

Anderson, like everybody associated with the Southeast program, is somewhat frustrated that the Indians don't have a better record than 3-4, which includes a 1-2 mark in the OVC heading into today's homecoming game against Murray State. The Indians' first three losses were all decided in the closing seconds.

But Anderson still has high hopes for the rest of the season and also next year as a young Southeast squad continues to mature.

"We're young and we have a lot to learn, but we're learning more and more every day," he said. "We want to finish strong and then next year I think we can be really good."

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