Mitch Anderson might be college football's most traveled player.
The 22-year old placekicker will embark on his fifth football season at his fourth different school next week when FAU kicks off against Miami.
Anderson, who didn't start kicking until halfway through his senior year of high school, started his collegiate career as a shortstop at Jacksonville State in rural Jacksonville, Ala., but he will finish it as FAU's starting kicker and with a graduate degree.
The journey from Trinity Christian High School in Orange City, Fla. to Florida Atlantic is a long one, but each stop has a tale. Recruited solely for baseball out of high school after winning a state championship, Anderson arrived at Jacksonville State with the idea of walking onto the football team. He did just that, but a quadricep injury kept him from playing his first year.
"I was there for baseball, but I wanted to try football. After the fall semester and my injury, I decided that I really didn't like that school that much," Anderson said.
Anderson wanted to be closer to home and found an option at UCF. He planned to walk on, but UCF decided to abruptly cancel spring try-outs.
Having already earned a handful of college credits, Anderson transferred to Austin College in Sherman, Texas to play football and baseball. There, he graduated with a bachelors degree in just two years, while also becoming be a two-sport standout at the Division III level.
Anderson flirted with the idea of pursuing a graduate program at Texas A&M, but ultimately he wanted to continue kicking, and that's when he reached out to FAU.
"I told them that I wanted to tryout for the football team, and the coaches saw me kick just once before saying I would take reps with the first team," Anderson said.
Because of an NCAA rule that allows student athletes who are seeking a graduate degree to transfer without sitting out a year, Anderson competed for the staring job immediately as a redshirt junior.
He kicked his first extra point on the road against top-ranked Alabama, but wasn't given an opportunity to attempt a field goal until week seven at South Alabama. Anderson converted a 23-yard kick right before halftime, but had three attempts blocked in the second half, including an effort in double overtime that resulted in a loss.
"I pretty much had to refocus," Anderson explained. "We changed our scheme a little bit, but I knew I could kick and that's why I came here. I had to prove myself."
Anderson would rebound to connect on five of his next seven field goal attempts, including makes from 47 and 53 yards.
Distance has never really been an issue for Anderson, but the specialist spent the past offseason altering the mechanics of his approach. Similar to when a golfer reworks a swing, Anderson decided to reevaluate his craft in hopes of producing a better product.
Instead of taking his usual three steps to the ball, he shortened his approach to just two steps – and the results have been positive.
"I don't think we'll have a single kick blocked this year," Anderson said. "The change has really helped me. A lot of people when they switch from a two-step to a three-step, they lose distance, but it's given me control and made me faster."
FAU coach Carl Pelini said he has noticed a difference in Anderson, and despite a poor performance in the team's preseason scrimmage, he has stood by the redshirt senior.
"We have been charting him the whole camp, and we feel like we're in good position. He's gotten exceptionally better than were he was a year ago, and we're considering that one of the strength's of our team," Pelini said.
Anderson has designated himself as the "captain" of the special teams and has also taken a seat on the team's senior council. The graduate student is on track to complete a master's in finance, and will be taking a full course load this fall – which means when he's not kicking, he's in the classroom.
"I'm just ready for the season to get here. I think special teams can be a big part of the team this year, and we're going to be especially in the red zone area," Anderson said.