SA boytjie in the US

2000-10-25 21:42

Washington. - A Free Stater, who excelled in soccer and rugby at home, has found fame on the artificial surfaces of American gridiron football pitches.

Gary Anderson, the Minnesota VikingsÆ place kicker rewrote history on Sunday when he kicked the winning goal against the Buffalo Bills in the dying moments of the game.

The goal ensured a career record of 2004 points to the 41-year-old Anderson, the most points ever scored in the history of the National Football League (NFL).

His achievement was the highlight of a 19-year career with the NFL, a career far removed from his home town Parys on the banks of the Vaal River or the soccer fields of Brentwood High School in Durban.

He inherited his ball skills from his father, the Reverend Douglas Anderson, who played professional soccer in England before moving to South Africa.

"As a child I spent thousands of hours kicking a ball. Little did I realise at the time, that I was developing talents for a sport I had never even seen before," he said.

The Anderson family moved to the US in 1977 where the 18-year-old Gary registered as a student at the Syracuse University. In his first year he was the top goal kicker for the universityÆs soccer side and he also played rugby.

But his life changed after a football coach "discovered" him at the universityÆs training camp.

Apart from kicking goals, Anderson also had a special ability to accurately place kick just about every ball given to him. He graduated in 1982 with a degree in business management and accounting, the same year he was offered a contract with the Buffalo Bills.

It turned out to be the same team against whom he would rewrite history 19 years later. "It could not have happened in a more special way," Anderson said.