July 24, 2012

Moffat: You think you know Dwight Anderson? Think again

Don’t worry Hamilton, Dwight Anderson knows you don’t hate him. He doesn’t hate you either.

“I wouldn’t say they hate me,” the CFL’s smiling thief of the secondary said about returning to his first CFL home last weekend. “They just dislike me because I’m not with their team anymore.”

When the DA speaks, Calgary fans listen too, and hurl trash-talk back.

Angel of Mine

Each of Anderson’s tattoos hold a significant meaning.

“Everybody feels like I talk a lot,” said the 31-year-old native of the Jamaican shanty town slum of Spanish Town.  “That alone makes people want to shut you up—not just the players but the fans too.  You have to have thick skin or the fans will eat you alive.”

As a two-time CFL All-Star, Anderson could let his play do the talking. That’s just so not him. What you may not know about the second-year Alouette is that his tattoos tell his story, too.

Take his left forearm, the one that could wrap you up, give you the smash, or flash by your facemask as the football is about to arrive.  

“Spanish Town.”  

The largest lettering of his more than 30 tattoos, most of them drawn by his wife Jesha, speaks of the big imprint growing up impoverished in Jamaica had on the vocal villain.  

“I wasn’t in trouble with the law, I was just always in trouble with silly stupid dumb kid stuff,” explained the dreadlocked DB with easy bursts of laughter.

“I saw my first death when I was nine.”

It took a village to raise a child in his hometown, and it took vigilante justice to avenge a child.  

“A little girl was raped and the mob caught the guy who did it…they whooped him.”  

Anderson then details the gruesome death that followed.

“I had to run past that dark spot so many times at night…I would speed there.”  His hands pump back and forth at his side as if Anderson is running past a ghost as he recounts the incident.

No wonder as an 11-year old his move to America with his mother and two brothers was anticipated like a new life.

“The Butterfly Tattoo.”

Hidden behind the long dreadlocks, Anderson reveals a butterfly. To him it signifies his fresh start.   From boyhood soccer in Jamaica to high school football in Connecticut was a caterpillar to butterfly transition, his new life.

Spanish Town

The largest lettering of his more than 30 tattoos, speaks of the big imprint growing up impoverished in Jamaica had on the vocal villain. 

Reality could not match the hopes or dreams. Classmates made fun of the Jamaican accent that still adds flavour to his speech.

“It was like comedy when I had to read in class, but they were making jokes about me. I had a short temper.”

New country, new father figure, Dwight was torn between two countries and two dads.  

“My mother tried to keep everything in tune. My father wasn’t around as much as my step-father, but it was my father, not my step-father that led me to football.”

“I hated my father for years and just got over that feeling about four or five years ago. That was part of my drive, my struggle, the fuel that made me burn.”

Anderson had played soccer his whole life but what few new buddies he had were playing football.  He wanted inside their world.

“I asked the high school coach if I could try out,” Anderson recalls. “Coach laughed at me.  He thought it was a joke and walked away. ‘Football? You play soccer, you don’t play football.’”

Anderson returned the next day demanding a tryout. No joke.

“They started me as a kicker, but then I had a big game as a receiver and DB for junior varsity.”

The butterfly wings carried Anderson to Arizona Western Junior College, followed by two seasons with the University of South Dakota and then to the NFL with the St. Louis Rams.

It was like he had a guardian

The left side of his neck: ‘Angel Wings’ honour his grandmother and his humble origins.

The left calf and shin: “Angel of Mine”. “She runs with me,” Dwight explains.

“My gift was my speed, my athleticism,” Anderson believes. “My sons have it too. They can pick up any sport. Three-year-old Kiyh and 11-year-old Kaleb both love basketball and baseball.

“I’ll show them the ropes…a better rope than I seen.”

The tattoos speak volumes, but that doesn’t stop Anderson’s acid tongue.

“Talking trash was getting people off their game.  If you’re weak enough to get off your game, you’re not strong enough to go against me.”

“One guy who just never said nothing back to me…was Ben (Cahoon). In Calgary we used to try to hit him SOOOO hard. He’d just go back to the huddle and catch another ball.”

“I finally told him ‘I respect you’. I think I’m pretty good at getting you off your game…I couldn’t get Ben off his game.”

If you can’t say anything nasty, say as little as possible.

He sloughs off allegations he spit at a Hamilton security guard last season.  He dismisses suggestions a sideline spat with teammate Jerald Brown (also on the injured list at the time) was anything more than two passionate players trying to help coach up a teammate.

“People think you’re dirty because of what you do to be successful.  I was a problem for Montreal, but now they love me.”

Some fans and media wondered if he’d be back this season after an interminable off-season of rehab.  

“Before I signed with the Alouettes and Coach Trestman, we talked and he wanted to get to know me outside of football. He was really welcoming and always makes sure new guys feel comfortable.”

That’s the way Anderson is now, trying to make newcomers like Michael Carter fit in the Alouette way.

“He’s teaching me a lot,” said the lanky Canadian DB. “He’s a great teammate, and a great man.  No one knows his life off the field.  DA’s teaching me a lot.”

“The locker room is alive,” Anderson raves of the 2012 Alouettes. “You can see guys spreading around, the unity. I like where it’s going.”

And if they need 100th Grey Cup victory tattoos, Dwight knows an experienced artist.