New strength coach Anderson knows where he wants IU to go #iubb

There were always NFL dreams, visions of sticking around and making a mark on the league. Lyonel Anderson was good enough to reach football’s highest level as an undrafted free agent, bouncing from one temporary situation to another.

But even the best football careers are fleeting.

The former Kansas tight end floated from NFL practice squads to the arena league and, eventually, to an ongoing search for purpose. He found it back at Kansas nearly a decade ago, when he pursued his degree while sleeping on a former teammate’s couch, laying between a fortress of chairs erected to keep a pesky dog from licking his face at night.

He’d wake each day at 4 a.m., slide over to the campus gym an hour later and stay for 12 hours before completing his classwork late into the night. The football staff rewarded him with a position in their graduate assistant program and set Anderson on a path toward today.

It’s a journey that brought him to Bloomington as IU basketball’s newest strength and conditioning coach, to a corner office inside the team’s weight room in Cook Hall where Anderson can already visualize the Hoosiers’ future.

One week into his job, not long after leaving the University of Houston’s football staff to run his own strength program, Anderson knows where he wants this Indiana team to go.

“My vision is to be hard as nails, to win a bunch of games and to go back to Houston,” he said, referring to the site of this year’s Final Four. “I’m not talking about working with the Cougars. Hoosier Nation needs that, they want that and I understand that.”

IU was a familiar landing spot for Anderson, who worked two seasons (2012-13) as an assistant strength coach on the Hoosiers’ football side before taking an expanded position at Houston in January 2014. In one week on IU coach Tom Crean’s staff, he’s already made himself at home.

He’s introduced himself to the IU players who have already trickled back onto campus by jumping into the same workouts he leads. He’s making his own mark on the athletics campus in the form of a large sand pit for players to use for workouts, and he’s already begun to take ownership of a program that has asked much from its strength coaches in the past.

Anderson’s predecessor, Je’Ney Jackson, put the Hoosiers to work in the weight room in between games and seasons. He was active on the bench during contests and was a factor in recruiting. When Indiana would bring high school prospects onto campus for visits, it did so with Jackson clearly in the picture. IU coach Tom Crean wanted to sell his program as a department that builds kids into Big Ten-ready bodies. For that, Jackson — who left IU in January to accept a position as Kansas’ director of football strength and conditioning — had a plan.

“Coach Jackson is a great guy, a mentor of mine, a friend of mine,” Anderson said. “He coached me at the University of Kansas. A lot of people don’t know that, but he did. He taught me a lot then and he teaches me now.”

His time with Jackson came in the mid-to-late aughts, beginning when Anderson caught 43 passes for 485 yards and three touchdowns in 21 career games for the Jayhawks between 2003-04. He parlayed that success into a free agent contract with the Cincinnati Bengals and future assignments on the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants practice squads.

Jackson first joined Kansas’ staff as the strength and conditioning coach at the end of Anderson’s career and was there as the Jayhawks’ cornerbacks coach when Anderson returned to complete his degree in 2008. From there, he earned an internship with the Denver Broncos, and later took an assistant strength coach position at Youngstown State in 2009. Two years at Rice followed before Anderson began his first stint at Indiana in 2012.

“I just found fun in training people and getting people to accomplish their dreams,” Anderson said.

To get there, IU players will take a path designed by Anderson. They’ll work in the yet-to-be-completed sandpit located in between Assembly Hall and Gladstein Fieldhouse, and they’ll be put to the test through hot yoga sessions. They’ll jump hurdles, too.

Anything to get Indiana where Anderson it wants to go.

“I don’t care too much about how much a guy can bench,” Anderson said. “I care about what’s in his heart, what’s in his mind, what are his goals and aspirations and how we can get this team where it needs to be, which is in Houston.”

One comment

  1. Welcome back Coach Anderson! Jackson was such a big part of the program, and I think the rare strength coach that actually factored in to recruits decision-making process. Psyched to hear we have his protege now in the fold.

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