Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff: 35 Days with Neal Anderson

Chicago Bears, Neal Anderson
Chicago Bears, Neal Anderson / Peter Brouillet-USA TODAY Sports
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Today marks exactly five weeks until the first Sunday of the NFL season when the Chicago Bears will play host to the Green Bay Packers. To celebrate the regular season rapidly approaching, today's installment of Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff brings us to the life and career of the best player in franchise history to don the number 35, running back Neal Anderson.

Neal Anderson's journey from Western Florida to the Chicago Bears

Hailing originally from the town of Graceville, Florida, Neal Anderson was a stellar two-sport athlete at Graceville High School. Playing for both the football and track and field teams, Anderson garnered attention from a number of collegiate programs after a senior campaign that included over 1,000 yards rushing in the fall and placing amongst the top of the state in track in the spring.

Anderson decided to attend the University of Florida, a school located just under 250 miles away from his hometown. As a Gator, Anderson waited no time to see the field and make an impact on the offense, and in a freshman campaign that saw carries in eight games, the back totaled 502 total yards and six touchdowns. Despite effectively serving as the team's third-string back behind James Jones and Lorenzo Hampton, Anderson's first season ended with him in the conference's top 10 in terms of yards per carries and rushing touchdowns.

The following year, Anderson was promoted to first string back after the departure of Jones. As early as his first year as the team's starting back, Anderson led his unit in rushing yards, yards from scrimmage, and total offensive touchdowns. His touchdown total was third-best in the SEC for the season.

His junior season carried a similar fate, and he finished the year with the fourth most rushing yards in his conference with 916. Heading into his senior season, Anderson was also recognized as one of college football's best offensive weapons, and he capped off a productive collegiate career with perhaps his best season.

In his final campaign as a Gator, Anderson racked up an impressive 1,383 total offensive yards, eclipsing his previous season high by over 400 yards. By the end of the year, Anderson ranked in the top five within the SEC in terms of rushing yards, yards per attempt, rushing touchdowns, yards from scrimmage, and total touchdowns. During his four seasons at Florida, Anderson helped the team post a cumulative 35-8-3 record, including three nine-win seasons in each of the three seasons that he was the team's lead back.