BUTTE — For all the success that Butte native Colt Anderson has enjoyed in the NFL, there was a significantly greater amount of perseverance that went into making it happen.
That was part of the message that the current assistant special teams coach of the Cincinnati Bengals delivered to the West Team on Thursday afternoon at Naranche Stadium, on the same field that kick-started Anderson's journey from Butte, to the University of Montana, to a nine-year career with four different NFL teams. The West Team has been in Butte all week in preparation for the Montana East-West Shrine Game, which will kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday in Billings.
"It took me a couple years, it wasn't easy," Anderson told the West Team players about the challenges he faced during his first few seasons as a walk-on with the Grizzlies. "There was times I was going to quit, come back, get a degree, go be a teacher. That would have been great too, but deep down I knew I could play at the next level."
Anderson played for the West Team in the 2004 Shrine Game and said it was a "special treat" to be able to speak to the team before it heads to Billings in advance of Saturday's 74th annual Montana East-West Shrine Game.
"I can't believe it's already been 17 years since I played in this game," Anderson said after speaking to the West Team.
Like the players he addressed on Thursday, Anderson can still recall the elation of learning he had been selected to the Shrine Game.
For Anderson, that special day was Dec. 25, 2003.
"It was a day I looked forward to," Anderson said. "When I woke up that morning, I went and grabbed the paper and I was fortunate to see my name on the front page along with several other guys from Butte and the local areas. It's really a day I'll cherish forever."
From the Shrine Game, Anderson joined the Griz as a walk-on and eventually emerged to become one of the most dominant safeties in the FCS. From there he played in the NFL for nearly a decade with the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts and finally the Buffalo Bills.
As his playing days began winding down, he knew that he wanted to continue his career in the NFL as a coach.
After a two-year break from football, he joined the Bengals for the 2020 season and said the transition has been great.
"It's something I started thinking of when I was playing," Anderson said. "Made some great connections there with the coaches. I was real fortunate to get an opportunity to coach with the Cincinnati Bengals and am really looking forward to this next season."
The NFL has taken Anderson and his family a long way from Montana, but he said that Butte will always be home to him.
"I love the fresh air, the mountains," Anderson said. "It's something I definitely took for granted growing up here. It's a great place to live. We were fortunate enough to raise our kids here for a couple years. But maybe we'll be back."