Reidel Anthony won a national championship at Florida as a big-play wide receiver in Steve Spurrier’s high-scoring offenses. He became a first-round NFL Draft pick in 1997 and had a 5-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now, Anthony is trying to develop players seeking those same goals.
He trained fellow wide receivers including Sammy Watkins, Nelson Agholor, Allen Robinson, Bruce Ellington and Jamison Crowder in advance of the NFL Scouting Combine in recent years. Anthony also worked with high school players including current Gators running back commit Malik Davis.
Anthony and former Bucs teammates Booger McFarland and Yo Murphy came together about 6 years ago to open their expansive training complex in Tampa, called ASPI Powered by The Compound. Anthony coached at Valdosta State in Georgia for a couple years and later as a high school coach in Florida before realizing that wasn’t necessarily his calling.
“One thing about coaching I realized, and I’ve never been one to try show up to someone’s program and try to take over, but every coach always, you know, they’re going to feel threatened,” Anthony said. “I have my ideas on how things work, and they’re going to have their ideas and I have to teach their way. But with me having my own facility and being able to teach what I want to teach I feel like I can give more that way.”
Anthony also gave plenty of his time this week to chat about Florida football, reflections from his career, his frustrations with his NFL experience, a Steve Spurrier story and more.
Q: What’s something that surprised you through your career that you wish someone had told you about or prepared you for?
Anthony: “The NFL is what it stands for — not for long and not much fun. It’s a business, and to go in there young and you’re used to hanging out with your friends, guys your age, now you go in the locker room with people that have families. They come there, they’ll be on the phone talking to their family, you try to find conversation with them. And when practice is over, they go home to their families, and if you’re a single guy, who do you go home to? And let’s keep it real, at that age none of them really can cook. So eating out by yourself gets old.
“It’s a culture shock. I told a guy today that those guys that leave to go home to the family, they’re really not on your side because why would they give you their blue print to take food off of their table? I wouldn’t be all extra and nice when I know they brought this player in to take my spot and I’ve got three kids and a dog at home. So you have to be prepared for a lot of adversity, and everybody who’s there for you ain’t really there for you.”
Reidel Anthony’s career NFL stats
Q: You had some nice seasons, though. How do you look back on your career at this point, college and pro?
Anthony: “College is always your fondest memories. The great thing about it, I view my career as like a roller coaster because I went from being in the shadow of Fred Taylor (in high school) and then his backup was James Jackson who went to the University of Miami. So I went from, all my accolades and stuff (in high school) came from punt return and interceptions. I really never caught a lot of passes. But then to get to Florida and catch a lot of passes and I didn’t really have to block a lot, that was refreshing.
“Then I go from there to the Bucs, now I’m back in high school where we throw the ball 15 times a game. And I tell people I ended up playing with no less than 5-6 different quarterbacks in a five-year span, but like I tell people, I make no excuses, no nothing, because I did something that a lot of people said I couldn’t do and I enjoyed my opportunity to make it to where I did.
“I definitely wanted more out of the professional experience than what I actually got out of it. I respect Coach (Tony) Dungy. I didn’t make any fuss. I just came, worked, did what I had to do and went on home, but would I have liked to touch the ball a lot more? Yeah. When I did, like I tell people, my stats spoke for theirselves. You have 52 catches in the NFL and 8 on touchdowns, I mean jeez, I would think you would like to try to get that person to touch the ball a little bit more. One year I had like 4 or 5 touchdowns and didn’t even break 30 catches. Like, um, do you not see when I touch the ball, I try to score? I don’t catch it and get down. I’m out here (trying to get into) the end zone so I can do a dance. But then also not being able to really get to know an offensive coordinator because I had three of those in five years, who could I talk to?
“It was a lot going on and then to get to the NFL at the age of 20 — a lot of people don’t know, I was only 20 years old and I didn’t turn 21 till the end of October — it was just a lot of variables. But I enjoyed my opportunity and I took advantage of the opportunities that were provided. I wish there were more there, but hey, now I’ve passed it on and hopefully my guys get an opportunity to go out and perform.”
Q: National Signing Day is less than a week away. You committed on NSD. What do you remember from that experience?
Anthony: “It was exciting, from what I remember. Shoot, what’s this, 2017? You’re trying to really make me feel bad about myself. You’re talking 23 years ago. Like I tell people every time, every award I get, I always start off by thanking my parents, especially my grandmother, because that’s who pretty much raised me. She taught me so much, and when I sit back and think on how I conduct myself or how I go about things, I revert to a lot of things she made me do growing up. So just to see the big smile on her face, that means more than anything. …
“(The recruiting process went) right down to the end. That was a tight little race. I was down to Florida, Georgia and like Michigan State. I looked at the pros and the cons, just like I did before I decided to leave college early. I sat down with my dad and all of them. I always had a (process). Get a piece of paper, write down pros and cons of every situation and if your pros outweigh your cons go with it. And the cons outweigh your pros and you’re sure you went over that thing 3-5 times, it’s right there in black and white. You ain’t lying to yourself once you put pen to paper. (Florida) was throwing it around for one, Coach Spurrier had them rolling, they were coming in preseason No. 1, 2 or 3 my true freshman year. I felt anywhere I went I would play early because I had that type of drive in me. People call me cocky, that’s fine. I’d rather be called that then lazy and don’t care.”
Reidel Anthony’s career stats at Florida
Q: What are your thoughts on what NSD has become now?
Anthony: “It is a show for no reason. They do way too much and they give these kids like a false sense of security, I feel, because they put all this pressure on these kids — 4-star, 5-star. But like I tell my guys, how many of those guys really make it? Not many. They get caught up in the hoopla and they forget about working. And you build a program … I feel like Clemson does a great job. Dabo (Swinney) does a great job because he’s just a players’ coach, but you build a program with guys that got chips on their shoulders. I would give you 20 5-stars, you give me 10 3-stars and two 4-stars and I would beat you eight out of 10 times. I’m going to keep telling that 3-star, ‘Man, look at that dude. Come on, look at him. You know you’re better than him.’ ”
Q: I have to imagine you have a favorite Steve Spurrier story?
Anthony: “Man, he had so many. Coach Spurrier, he had so much energy and stuff to say that it was crazy. I really loved every Thursday (at practice), he would always have one or two plays that were touchdowns. Once you’re inside the 25, 20-yard line, he had one or two plays that always worked. I promise you. They always worked. So we would have to line up as an individual or whatever and everybody would have to run that route, and whoever ran the route the best and caught the ball they got that play that week. I mean, you could be the ninth receiver on the depth chart, and if you ran that thing to his liking, when we got there down there, the perfect timing, he called that play and you pretty much scored unless you just fell down.”
Q: What are your thoughts on Florida’s offensive struggles the past few years and how do you see the program at this point?
Anthony: “I get this question all the time, especially working in a gym every day with sports fanatics, and I’ve made it so comfortable for them that they feel like they can talk to me about anything and say anything, but they have one legitimate question. How in the hell (is it that) the University of Florida can’t get a star quarterback? I mean, that’s it right there. Tell me how you’re in the state of Florida, sunshine, beautiful campus, beautiful stadium, great fans, Steve Spurrier played there, Danny Wuerffel, fun and gun. I mean, everybody remembers the days of Florida putting up 50 points. Now we can’t get anybody to complete 15 passes in the game. So that’s the (root) of the problem.
“You go from a scoring and flamboyant offense to defense to DBU or whatever they call it. So then if you don’t get the quarterback, how can you get a receiver? The receivers are all pretty much possession receivers from what I take from it. Now, (Antonio) Callaway is a running back out there playing receiver. He’s strong after the catch so he’s not just going to just run away from anybody. … Working in the gym with all these sports fanatics, that’s all I hear about.”
Q: Have you gotten to know Jim McElwain at all during his tenure?
Anthony: “I met him briefly when he first got the job down here for a golf tournament. It was very short so I don’t know him. I heard he’s a good coach, but I haven’t talked to him long enough to really just have an opinion and pass any kind of judgment.”
Q: Lastly, I have to ask, where do you keep your national championship ring?
Anthony: “My dad put it away. I haven’t seen it in, I’ll say 17-18 years. I don’t know where it is.”
Q: I would think you’d have it on display in your facility?
Anthony: “Oh no, not how people steal nowadays. Man, that thing would be gone. You are crazy. No, my dad has it put away somewhere back home in West Palm Beach. Honestly, I’ve never been a person who kept up with that stuff because I know I’ll lose it.”