TORONTO — Carlos Anderson is making the most of his long-awaited shot to play pro football.
The rookie running back returned a 93 yards for a touchdown as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers earned a 34-27 exhibition win over the Toronto Argonauts on Tuesday night. It was the former Northern Iowa standout’s first game in three years.
“I’m just trying to focus on making the team and putting forth my best effort,” Anderson said. “The more you can do the better off you are . . . with special teams, I have to take every carry I can get and just try to make a play.
“We called a certain return and I broke the one way and just tried to get back vertical up the middle. I saw it open and I’m sure when you look at the film my eyes got super wide. I just hit it and tried to hit the gas and take it to the crib.”
Anderson worked out for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs two weeks after his senior campaign and the following year with Winnipeg but never heard back from either club. Figuring his football career was over, the 24-year-old had started his own business providing speed and agility training for youngsters when the Bombers came calling again this off-season.
“I did (think football was done), I had hung my cleats up,” Anderson said. “I started my own business so I was somewhat in shape but then they gave me a shot and I said, ‘I’m 24 and might as well pursue it.”
Anderson, a former track athlete who had a 4.21-second 40-yard dash, said the longer, wide Canadian field suits his game.
“For a shorter, somewhat speedy guy like myself it’s tailor made,” he said. “With all that field room, even with an extra players I have to take advantage of that.”
Anderson is also competing for playing time at tailback and was Winnipeg’s second-leading rusher with 22 yards on just two carries. Quarterback Robert Marve ran for a game-high 41 yards and a TD on three carries.
“Good for him, good on him,” Bombers head coach Mike O’Shea said of Anderson. “We’ve talked about bringing quite a bit of competition to camp and he seems to raise his level.
“We like what we see and we’ll just keep plugging away and make good decisions as camp goes on.”
Marve was also a key figure for Winnipeg, completing 4-of-9 passes for 42 yards and a TD. His 21-yard scoring run at 7:39 of the third quarter put the Bombers ahead 20-7 before a sellout of approximately 5,000 spectators at Varsity Stadium in the exhibition opener for both teams.
Winnipeg starter Drew Willy and backups Brian Brohm and Josh Portis also took snaps.
Toronto pulled to within 20-14 on the first of Mitchell Gale’s two one-yard TD runs at 9:37 of the third but Anderson’s TD at 14:05 put Winnipeg’s ahead 27-14.
Toronto completes its exhibition schedule June 18 visiting the Montreal Alouettes. Winnipeg’s final pre-season contest goes the following night at home to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Winnipeg handed Toronto its first exhibition loss since 2010, snapping a streak of nine straight wins. But the Argos made it interesting in the fourth with Gale’s one-yard TD, then Gale’s 80-yard scoring strike to Tori Gurley with just over two minutes remaining.
Cameron Marshall and Lavasier Tuinei scored Winnipeg’s other TDs. Rookie Anthony Santella booted two field goals, three converts and a single for Winnipeg.
Curtis Steele had Toronto’s other touchdown while Andrew Muzljakovich kicked two converts and a single. But the Argos also committed five turnovers (two interceptions, two fumbles, once on downs).
Predictably, the contest was shoddy one as the two teams combine for 34 penalties for 235 yards as well as 17 punts.
Gale was the most productive of Toronto’s three quarterbacks, completing 13-of-20 passes for 242 yards and a TD. Trevor Harris (5-of-8 passing for 61 yards) started before giving way to Logan Kilgore (8-of-12 passing for 52 yards with two interceptions).
Gurley had seven catches for 188 yards — both game highs — and a TD.
Dan Ralph, The Canadian Press