Spencer Anderson: Quick moves on the field and the chessboard

If you saw Spencer Anderson’s 6-foot-5, 270-pound frame, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn he’s an offensive tackle and defensive lineman. Yet you might be shocked to discover that he’s also a chess master.

The 16-year-old is a key player on his high school’s chess team. He began playing when he was only in third grade at the Lake Arbor Community Center summer camp in Mitchellville, Maryland. It wasn’t long before he started playing against 18- and 19-year-old kids.

The recreational activity developed into a passion for Anderson, and he became increasingly more skillful.

“I don’t think anybody could beat me,” Anderson said. “It’s a hidden talent.”

Many of Anderson’s peers don’t believe him when he says he’s a member of the chess team, but they’re always proven wrong after seeing his picture first-hand in the Bishop McNamara High School yearbook. But even though he has a passion for bishops and rooks, Anderson stays committed to the X’s and O’s.

It may be challenging at times, but he has played football his whole life and knows the hard work that goes into it. He believes his quick feet help him on the field. If he’s off his game or makes a mistake, he relies on his size and strength to make up for it.

“You need good hands and good feet, to stay low and to have a little bit of ‘dog’ in you, like a mean side,” he said.

His grasp of the sport not only benefits himself, but it also allows him to successfully help his teammates.

The Bishop McNamara team supports one another, whether it’s in the weight room, the classroom or on the field. Anderson said he plays the special role of a “big brother” for his teammates, since they look to him to make plays. He presents himself as a “team-first” kind of player.

“He cares about family a lot and emphasizes loyalty in his friendships,” Anderson’s best friend Cameron Carter said.

The team has shared a lot of special memories together, including one of their most exciting moments: the Bishop Sullivan game.

During a game against one of the top-ranked football teams in the country, Bishop McNamara was down by 19 points in the fourth quarter when McNamara’s Ian Lynch blocked a punt and recovered it in the end zone. That gave them the lead to come back and win.

Anderson’s number one role model—his grandmother—was there to see it. You would think a football player’s role model would be someone who pushes him to the ground and yells at him to do fifty more, but the chess lover is no ordinary football player. His grandmother takes peaceful strolls with him through the cherry blossoms on the Potomac River or  visits the many museums in Washington, D.C.

I think she’s a good-luck charm,” Anderson said. “She’s really pushing me to become better than what I think I can be. She’s always there.”

She’s definitely pushing him in the right direction. The high school junior has received several school offers so far, including Kentucky, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest.

Anderson remembered the feeling he had after receiving his first offer during halftime at a Good Counsel away game.

“It kind of made me turn the volume up a little bit,” Anderson said. “I went hard doing some things, kind of showed off. Well, I wouldn’t say show off, but [I would] pancake the guy every play.”

Anderson plans to reach his commitment decision by the end of his next football season. Until then, he’ll be visiting some more schools, working out and preparing for what’s to come.

“College is whole other animal,” Anderson said. “I feel like I’m prepared but I’m not all the way there. There’s still some work that has to be done.”