West Palm Beach, Florida native Ottis Jerome (O.J.) Anderson was a football and track star for Forest Hill High School in West Palm Beach in the mid-1970s.
Tony Reid- You played 14 years in the NFL and had a lot of success, but dob you remember the first time you were asked for your autograph?
Ottis Anderson-I was a Cardinal and it had to be after my last preseason game versus Atlanta my rookie year. The first time I touched the ball I went 80 yards. It got called back but I went 80 yards. The following week we opened up against the Dallas Cowboys. I think people started looking at me and asking for autographs at that point.
TR- Do you have a man cave where you have memorabilia displayed?
OA-I do have my little man cave. I have my two Super Bowl trophies. I have my Rookie of the Year Award. I have Cardinals and Giants memorabilia hanging on the walls. I got two Giants seats from the old stadium in my basement. Oh, yeah. I just wish I would have been doing this collectibles concept back when I was playing. I would have had some really good stuff that would have been worth a lot of money. That’s fine and dandy but I do have my Super Bowl jersey, pants, helmet, thigh pads, shoes and other items. I have that stuff that reminds me of the accomplishment.
TR–Your rookie card appeared in the 1980 Topps set. When you saw yourself on a trading card for the first time what were your thoughts?
OA-Coming from the projects of West Palm Beach, my hero back then was Gale Sayers. I didn’t see a lot of him because we didn’t get the station. When I came out in 1979 The Sporting News predicted me to be the Rookie of the Year. They had me on the cover. The veterans of the team were riding me. “Yo, they think he is going to be the Rookie of the Year. That little young pup. You haven’t done anything yet.” Listen, I don’t know where they come up with the stuff but I can tell you they were right. All I can tell you is they were right. It was exciting. I felt like I was a star but I wasn’t over the top to where I thought my stuff didn’t stink. I just knew somebody had made a prediction and I lived up to it and I was excited about that.
TR–You have such a great relationship with fans. How have you managed to keep that going for all these years?
OA-I do and it’s because of the relationship I have had with a lot of sports collectors and shows I went to. Being in the New York and New Jersey area, people just love the Giants. Working with SIGND has resurrected my fan base by having me be available to send video messages to fans and allow those fans not only to get video messages but to get a piece of memorabilia. It has resurrected a lot of our careers by being able to stay connected to our fans.
TR- You are really active in the sports community and such a big personality. What is your most memorable fan interaction?
OA-I will hit (Signd Founder and CEO) Howard (Margolies) with this. I have never had the opportunity to shave someone’s head for charity. That is when Howard and I first met. That is how we got our relationship going. It was an event and Howard was raising money by having his head shaved by some of the top barbers in New York City. Then there was me. I had no experience at all. He trusted me to shave his head. It started with Howard.
TR–How special is that fan interaction today and how special is the relationship with Signd to you?
OA-Is there anyone that you just completely love and wish you could have something from that individual? Now think about that. You said yes. Imagine somebody in your family surprises you with a video message from that person and that person said to you “Man, I heard you have been a fan of mine for a very long time. I have never met you but this video is going to bring us close. You will always have this video and I am going to give you a shout out but most of all I am going to give you a piece of memorabilia that will last for a lifetime. As long as you have your camera and that QR code on that ball, you can always hear me give you a personal shout out.” Now you tell me, as a fan, would that not just take you over the edge? That explains it. That is why we got involved. We wanted to give a fan an experience that they will remember forever.
TR–You mentioned being a huge fan of Gale Sayers. From being the kid and a fan to being able to do what you do today with Signd, how cool is it to go full circle and give back to fans now?
OA-It’s exciting for me. Yeah Gale Sayers was a childhood idol. Had he not passed away I’m quite sure he would be a part of this. I would have loved to have gotten a ball from him. I would have had him sign a ball for me. I would cherish it. It’s great to come full circle. Somebody is getting signed balls from me now. There are kids, fathers and mothers, wives are getting balls signed for their husbands. I am excited about it and yes it is a good feeling to come full circle because I am doing what I wished I had a chance to do when I met Gale Sayers.
TR–If you could go back to your playing days and jersey swap with any opponent who would you pick and why?
OA-It would have been Walter Payton, Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, Chuck Muncie, Calvin Hill and Franco Harris. They were all big icons when I played. In the Pro Bowl, we actually did swap jerseys. Me, Payton and Earl Campbell. I don’t know what I did with those jerseys. I was excited. I was young. That year I came in second to Walter Payton for the NFC rushing title. Early went for 1,800. Walter went for 1,600 and I went for 1,600. After the Pro Bowl, I got a jersey from each of those guys. I have no idea what happened to those jerseys. I was 22. That was over 40 years ago. If I haven’t found them yet there is no finding them.