He is number one.
On his team’s roster and on the football field, and on many Michigan Class of 2021 recruiting lists for the past year or so.
Andrel Anthony Jr., senior-to-be and standout wide receiver at East Lansing High School, is the East Lansing Info “Trojan of the Week” for a number of reasons, one of which is the number he wears on the football field.
Not every player gets that opportunity.
“The single digits are a prized possession at our school, but that’s the case at many schools,” Trojan assistant football coach Gianni Feraco said earlier this week. “They’re a hot commodity. It’s not that we have a rule that says you have to be a star player to wear (No. 1), but the person who does knows what shoes they have to fill. That’s what makes them special: they’re high-character guys.”
For the past two varsity football and basketball seasons, Anthony has been a leader on the field and court, and in the classroom. He has accumulated a bevy of postseason accolades for his athletic and academic successes – including Associated Press All-State and Capital Area Activities Conference All-Academic – while maintaining a level-headedness and addiction to improvement that has endeared him to teammates and coaches at ELHS and beyond.
Efe Scott-Emuakpor played three years of varsity football for the Trojans (2009-11) and also wore No. 1. In his senior season the Trojans won district and conference championships, and he set school records for receptions (64) and receiving yards (774) his junior year. Now an assistant coach at ELHS, Scott-Emuakpor has witnessed firsthand why Anthony is regarded as potentially one of the top football players to have ever worn the Trojan blue and white.
“When I think of Andrel, and I tell a lot of people this, his work ethic and his desire to improve is like at a different level,” Scott-Emuakpor said. “When I was sixteen, seventeen years old I was always tall, I was always pretty fast. I really didn’t need to do a whole lot of work. I was able to roll out of bed and go out there and do pretty well.”
Between the two, that’s where some of the similarities end.
“Andrel can do the same thing; he has a lot of natural ability and God-given gifts,” Scott-Emuakpor continued, “but he works almost to an obsessed level where if I tell him he did one thing a little off, he’s going to try and get better at the one little thing. It can be the smallest thing ever, and it might not make a huge difference, but he just wants to be great … and he’s pretty humble about it.”
Feraco recalled a practice session last season when Anthony asked to stay an extra 20 minutes to work on one pass route.
“It’s not like he had a bad practice or anything, but twenty straight minutes of just one route. He wanted to get it right. He felt happy with himself and called it a day,” Feraco said.
Anthony has done a lot of things the right way these past two football seasons. In nine games in 2019 he caught 54 passes for a total of 954 yards (an average of 17.7 yards per catch) and scored nine touchdowns. His longest touchdown catch went for 74 yards in the first game of the season against St. Johns. As a sophomore in 2018, he caught 33 passes for a team-leading 543 yards (an average of 16.5 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns, including an 80-yard score at Portage Northern.
Bright future ahead of him
This past season the Trojans shared the CAAC Blue championship with DeWitt and Holt. It had been eight years since East Lansing had won a league title in football.
“For someone like him, it’s hard to not want to bask in the glory. Be out there a lot,” Scott-Emuakpor said. “He has fun with the whole process but he puts other people before himself. He’s a great teammate. I see that on the basketball court. He likes to score and all but he wants to see his teammates do well.”
Anthony first gained the attention of college coaches a year ago after having performed very well at a skills camp where his speed, quickness and leaping ability were measurables that moved him ahead of others at his position. Since then he has received more than two dozen scholarship offers for football and has narrowed his choice to 10 schools (not in this order of preference): Michigan State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Penn State, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Arkansas and West Virginia.
“The jump that he made, and the effort and time that he put in between his sophomore and junior season is really what caught everyone’s eyes,” Feraco said. “His work ethic and his trust in his ability, knowing that he could be really good at this football thing, his constant hard work and his addiction to working – all have made a big difference.”
Bethune-Cookman, a private university in Daytona Beach, Fla., has offered Anthony a dual athletic scholarship in football and basketball, an option that Anthony – who led the Trojan basketball team in scoring this past season – finds appealing. If given the choice, “yes, I would love to play both sports,” in college, he said.
For now, Anthony will concentrate on what he likes to do best.
“During my sophomore year, (Scott-Emuakpor) kind of jokingly told me that I asked him too many questions,” Anthony said. “Because I wanted to know: How do I do this? How can I get open against this type of coverage? It’s always been in my nature to want to be the best – I hate losing. Whether it’s a physical standpoint or a technical standpoint, I just want to be the best.”
Feraco and many others on the Trojan coaching staff believe that Anthony’s performance over the past two seasons has positioned him to join the likes of Randy Kinder, Steve Maidlow, Charles Gordon, Dave Radelet, Antoine Bagwell and Brad Jones as one of the top players in Trojan football history.
“I ask a lot of questions but I also work pretty hard,” Anthony said. “I’ve always wanted to be (and wear) No. 1.”
And that’s a number few can dispute.