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“He loved everyone:” Otis Anderson Jr.’s impact went beyond the football field

JACKSONVILLE, Florida – Always smiling. The first to speak up and help.

An exceptional representative of Christian University.

Just a naturally genuine person.

Otis Anderson Jr., or Juice, after his nickname OJ, was a local football star who achieved even greater success at the college level. He then made a dream come true by signing a free agent contract with the Los Angeles Rams last summer. Police say Anderson Jr. died Monday night in a double shootout at his parents’ home in the Northside. His father is now charged with murder in connection with the death of his son.

His death rocked the community and beyond, a reflection of Anderson Jr.’s impact as a player, but more importantly, as a person.

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Anderson Jr. high school coach David Penland III said the loss was difficult to describe due to the importance the 23-year-old was to the school and the region.

He was definitely one of the good guys, said Penland, a person who has continued to show up and give back to the area.

It was just Otis, he said.

While Anderson Jr. was a football star positioned for big things after high school, he was never too big to hang out with younger students. And after leaving UC, Penland said he will always come back to school and check on the current squad, even as late as this month before UC begins their quest for the playoffs of the year. ‘State.

“I had to move several times. You know, moving, and Otis was always, he always volunteered, “I’ll come help you, coach.” “And that’s exactly the kind of kid he was,” Penland said. “He loved everyone. Not only his teammates… but the little kids at school. The little kids loved him, just watch him. And some of those little kids are playing for me now. And you know, it was great to see, you know, the impact he had on their lives.

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To Ahjanae Ballance and others who grew up with him, Anderson Jr. was nicknamed Gumby.

“He was awkward. Funny. I always made sure everyone had a good time, ”Ballance said.

Tributes have been pouring in since news of Anderson Jr.’s death began to circulate early Tuesday morning.

“He was an athlete, he was the person who brought everyone together. Just selfless. … I just want to see other people succeed. Never a dull moment around. He was hilarious. Always making jokes, ”said Jordan Johnson, former UCF offensive lineman and Ed White High.

“We always used to make the joke that we look forward to being old chefs. We look forward to one day being old men sitting on the porch talking about nothing. Just sit around talking about nothing.

University church pastor Frank Ciresi said the news was devastating. Ciresi said Anderson Jr. was “one of my favorites.”

“They have, they need our prayers, first and foremost. They are devastated. It is not something that anyone could have seen coming. It’s not a family that is, it’s not a dysfunctional family. It’s not from a family that you would expect something like this, ”he said. “And so, you know, they have, they are suffering and they need our prayers, as you can imagine.”

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Ciresi said Anderson Jr. will be missed by the world not only because he was an all-star athlete, but because he was a good man.

“He encouraged other children. He was more worried about his teammates and the way the game went for them than himself, ”said Ciresi. “And he was just selfless, humble and really just a shining light in our community.”

Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey tweeted: “Rest in Heaven Otis, we have to do better on this smh earth. Big prayers up.

“The man is not my little brother isn’t heartbroken,” tweeted Carolina Panthers defensive end and former UC star Marquis Haynes tweeted.

Florida State and former UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton tweeted, “I’ll never forget that million dollar Juice..heartbroken smile is an understatement. I will see you again one day little brother.

At UC, Anderson Jr. was a versatile player who shone on both sides of football. He and Hussein Howe Jr. were a powerful 1-2 punch out of the backfield in consecutive state championship seasons in 2015-16. When Howe graduated after the 2015 season, Anderson Jr. became the main fullback and excelled. He was a Times-Union Super 24 selection in his senior season in 2016.

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But where it really took off was in college with the Knights. Anderson Jr. played like a true freshman with UCF and his production increased as the season went on. He had 3,708 all-purpose yards and 27 total touchdowns with the Knights in Scott Frost’s offense. Anderson Jr. played on the UCF 13-0 team in 2017. Anderson Jr. averaged 6.1 yards per carry at UCF, which ranks second in program history behind Greg McCrae (6.45).

After leaving UCF, Anderson Jr. briefly served with the Los Angels Rams this season. Anderson Jr. spent training camp with the Rams after being undrafted in the 2021 NFL Draft, but was taken off the practice squad in September, according to CBS Sports.

“The Rams are saddened by the tragic and sudden loss of Otis Anderson Jr. Our sincere condolences go out to his family during this very difficult time. Rest in peace, Otis,” the Rams tweeted.

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Penland said Anderson Jr. never forgot where he came from, showing up to UC games and practices when he could.

“Otis leaves behind a legacy of love and happiness, and there’s not a single thing I can honestly say wrong about Otis,” said Penland. “He’s fair, he was, he was a good boy.”

UC school principal Heath Nivens sent the following a message Tuesday:

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