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Anderson Makes All the Right Cuts

by Brad Muller

Mario Anderson has earned a reputation as a physical runner, but he may also eventually be known for great cuts. South Carolina’s fifth-year senior transfer running back has big goals on the gridiron, but whenever football is done for him, he wants to open up his own barber shop, and he’s getting reps with that as well.

“I really want to be a barber,” said Anderson, who is studying service management and is in his first year with the Gamecocks after earning First Team Division II All-American honors at Newberry last season. “I want to have my own barber shop. I used to cut a lot of people’s hair on the team and some of the coaches.

“I started doing that my freshman year at Newberry. My mom was a single parent and raised four boys. We didn’t get as much of a stipend for things in a Division II program, so I didn’t want to ask my mom for money, or at least try to decrease the amount of money I asked for. I decided to learn how to cut hair. It was hard at first. I had to mess up a few times, on myself, mainly! I had to go bald a couple of times.”

Anderson, or “Rio” as he is called by his teammates and coaches, was pleased to find out when he transferred to South Carolina that there is a barber shop in the Gamecocks’ Football Operations Center for student-athletes to relax, hang out, and of course style their own hair.

“They told me that as long as I cleaned up after myself and was responsible, then I could use it,” Anderson said with a smile. “I was cutting hair for about 20 to 25 guys on the team.”

“I drive by the stadium every day and think, I’m very thankful, and I’m very blessed.”
Mario Anderson  . 

Barbering skills notwithstanding, Gamecock fans are probably more interested in seeing him cut and run on the field. Anderson rushed for 1,560 yards last year with 19 touchdowns while averaging 7.4 yards per carry, making him a finalist for the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is the NCAA Division II equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. He knows there is a big difference between Division II and the SEC.

“I’m just trying to learn the ropes of being in an SEC program,” said Anderson, who grew up in Summerville. “Coming from Division II, people think it’s a really big change, but at the end of the day, it’s college football. I’m doing my best to prepare. No matter where I’ve been, I always play with a chip on my shoulder. I’ve always been like that.

“I grew up wanting to play football at the highest level. Where is it better than the University of South Carolina? I wanted to come here because this is my home state, and I want my mom to be able to come see me. There wasn’t any other place I had in mind to transfer. I love everything about it here.”

Listed at five-feet, nine inches tall and 208 pounds, he has shown he can generate power as a downhill runner and is confident he can make an impact for the Gamecocks.

“I’m very violent with the way I run,” Anderson said. “That’s my biggest strength. People that I’ve played with before have reached out and given me a lot of support. I feel blessed that people still want to know what’s going on with me.”

He is also enjoying learning from other backs in South Carolina’s running back room, including junior Juju McDowell and sixth year Dakereon Joyner.

“They’re definitely great leaders,” Anderson said. “The biggest thing I’ve learned from them is how to work in the SEC, how to be a good teammate, and how to have relentless effort in everything I do. Guys like Juju and DK, they have a lot of fight in them.”

Anderson is proud to be wearing the Garnet and Black and isn’t taking his opportunity to live out his dreams for granted.

“I wake up every day, and there are so many things I appreciate every time I come to our facility,” Anderson said. “I drive by the stadium every day and think, I’m very thankful, and I’m very blessed.”