Dad Derek Anderson Gets His Second Start
The Panthers' playoff hopes rest on the arm of their backup quarterback, who has already beaten the Bucs this season.
When backup quarterback Derek Anderson started for the Panthers in their season-opening win against the Bucs, he had been a dad for just over a week.
Three months later, as Anderson gets ready to make his second start of the year, he has settled into fatherhood. But he could do without the whole having-to-change-diapers thing.
“It’s not fun," Anderson admitted. "I have a deal with her. I tell her, ‘There’s no crying when dad’s changing your diaper.’"
Does she keep up her end of the bargain?
"Sometimes. But most of the time, no."
Anderson will again face the Bucs when they visit Bank of America Stadium Sunday afternoon. And this time is a lot less hectic than the first meeting.
His wife Mallory delivered their daughter, Amelia, on Aug. 27. A day later, Anderson, on very little sleep, started the Panthers' final preseason game in Pittsburgh.
The next week, it was unclear if starter Cam Newton, who was recovering from cracked ribs, would be well enough to play. On the eve of the season opener, coach Ron Rivera decided he was not. Anderson then completed 24 of his 34 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns during his first start since 2010.
“It was just something I had to prove to myself. I knew I could do it. It wasn’t a matter of not knowing," Anderson said. "But having the opportunity to do it and go out there and play well. The way that everybody rallied around me, that was a lot of fun."
If Anderson leads the Panthers to a season sweep over Tampa Bay, it will likely just be another one-week fill in for Newton.
Carolina's star quarterback suffered two transverse fractures in his lower back during a car accident on Tuesday. He could try to play through the pain in the season's final two games if a playoff berth is still on the line, but it may not be if the Panthers lose this week.
When he came to Carolina in 2011, Anderson was well aware of his role. After a failed season with the Cardinals, he would back up Newton, who the Panthers made the No. 1 pick in that year's draft. Since then, the relationship between the two has been just what the Panthers had hoped. The 25-year-old Newton learning from a mentor six years his elder.
"I don’t want to say he’s a father figure to a lot of our guys, but he’s like a big brother to a lot of our guys and to our quarterback," Rivera said.
While Anderson may act like a big brother at work, at home, he is one of about 20 Panthers who are also dads. It is a juggling act Rivera is familiar with from his playing days.
His wife Stephanie delivered their first child, Christopher, four months after the Bears won the Super Bowl in 1986. Seven seasons later, just before Rivera was released, daughter Courtney was born.
"Her first six months, I spent every day with her, every morning. And I think that’s part of why Courtney and I have bonded so well, is because of that," Rivera said.
Amelia Anderson has been to every Panthers' home game since she was born, but Sunday will be her first time when her dad is the starting quarterback. If things go well, Carolina will remain in the playoff chase. If not, Anderson will at least have a fan waiting for him afterward.
“I get home, and she’s smiling now and I get to hold her, and all that stuff. To me, it just adds to this. If you had a bad day, it is important, but it kind of changes your perspective," Anderson said.
“It makes the stress of this; it changes. It changes not my outlook on how important this is, but it brings another facet of life into importance for me. That’s the balance I’ve had to figure out. Yes, this is very important to me, this is our livelihood, but also, my family is, too."