Andre Anthony hasn’t played in a football game that counted in almost 33 months, not since Edna Karr lost to Neville High in the Class 4A state championship game in December 2015.
Soon after that, the New Orleans native’s dream of playing for LSU went off course in the worst possible ways: Academic ineligibility cost him the 2016 season before a season-ending injury last August.
But Anthony hopes to finally put those obstacles in his rearview mirror when No. 25 LSU opens this season against No. 8 Miami on Sunday night in Arlington, Texas.
Judging by the high praise he’s received on more than one occasion from coach Ed Orgeron in preseason camp, Anthony, who is coming off a Lisfranc fracture in his left foot, figures to play a key role for a talented and deep front seven.
Anthony is battling junior college transfer Travez Moore for playing time in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s rotation behind K’Lavon Chaisson at the Buck linebacker position manned last season by Arden Key.
It doesn’t matter, however, if Anthony, who starred as a 205-pound defensive end at Miller-McCoy Academy before transferring to Karr, is starting or getting snaps in certain pass-rushing packages.
Just being healthy again is the most important thing at this point.
“Man, it’s like an unbelievable feeling. … I’m not going to lie,” Anthony said recently. “I can say I finally made it through camp with no injuries. I’ve stayed healthy, and I feel great. I’m just ready for the season.”
Ed Orgeron is well aware that LSU is entering this football season with an alarming depth issue at quarterback.
Anthony, a consensus four-star prospect, said he thought he was ready after playing in the Under Armour All-America game in January 2016 as the nation’s 15th-ranked defensive end in the nation by 247Sports.
But the NCAA ruled him ineligible because of issues with his high school coursework. He wasn’t allowed to practice with his teammates like most redshirts and was unable to be at the football ops building.
Still, Anthony was ready to go the following spring and summer before suffering the Lisfranc injury when he heard a pop during a one-on-one drill just days before the season opener with BYU.
He underwent surgery a little more than a month later to have a three-inch screw inserted into his foot to heal a fracture between his big toe and second toe — costing him another entire season.
“After coming off the situation with me not being able to play before and coming back and getting hurt, it was a saddening feeling,” he said. “Having to sit out another year, it was just like kind of a humbling and more like adversity.
“I had been through adversity in high school, so it was nothing new to me. It was just fighting through it … fighting through adversity.”
Even when he returned this spring, Anthony’s foot still wasn’t right just five months removed from surgery. It wasn’t until the summer, when he traveled to Houston and Dallas to work with an old training partner, did he feel better.
“I felt I lacked a little bit in the spring, but I kind of gained everything back during the offseason and camp,” Anthony said. “I feel like I’m back to my old self as far as pass rush, get-off speed. I’m back to myself, and I’m pretty happy about that. Nothing’s hurting, so I’m ready to show everybody what I can do.”
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Coming back weighing 240 pounds, the rangy 6-foot-4 Anthony was eager to get back to the form he displayed as a high school senior when he recorded 56 tackles and eight sacks despite missing four games after his transfer to Karr.
Orgeron, a former defensive line coach who’s been working with the pass-rushers in preseason camp, has seen it up close.
“He’s having a really good camp. He's battled through some injuries, but he kept on working,” Orgeron said last week. “He always came to work with a smile, and said, ‘Coach, I’m going to get it.’
“We’re going to use him in some pass-rush situations. I think he’s going to have a tremendous year.”
Anthony certainly feels it’s his time, especially after making the plays in practice that he routinely made in his high school games.
“Sacking the quarterback, pass-rush moves, getting back to my finesse,” he said while making sure to tell reporters of an interception he came up with early in camp. “I just felt great … I just felt real good.”
So proud was Anthony that he couldn’t wait to call his mother, Anna, and high school coach, Brice Brown, to tell them the good news.
“I called mom, and it was like, ‘I think I’m back,’ ” he said. “I called Brice and said, ‘Look, I’m back to the old Dre.’ It feels good to be back … it feels great.”