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Special teams ticket still paying off for Butte's Colt Anderson in new opportunity with Tennessee Titans

Colt Anderson
Posted at 6:12 PM, Mar 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-05 11:03:42-05

MISSOULA — Junior Bergen took Montana’s special teams to a new level last football season.

Bergen returned a kickoff and two punts for touchdowns in the FCS playoffs, cementing his status in Griz football lore as Montana reached the FCS national championship.

But the Grizzlies’ "Special Teams U" moniker pre-dates Bergen’s heroics by almost two decades. Colt Anderson was among the first to make his hay on special teams for coach Bobby Hauck back in 2006.

“I was so blessed to be a part of the University of Montana football team,” Anderson said from Nashville during a recent conversation with MTN Sports. “I was a walk-on and I just had to find a way to get on the field, and I knew my ticket was going to be special teams. Bobby being such a great coach, special teams coach, head coach, he was able to teach us really the fundamentals and the importance of that play or the phase of the game.”

Anderson was an All-Big Sky Conference special teams player in 2006 and then went on to become a two-time All-American at safety for the Griz, but he’s turned that special teams ticket into a career in the NFL. He played in the league for nine seasons and spent the past four as the assistant special teams coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, coaching in Super Bowl LVI.

In February, he was named the special teams coordinator for the Tennessee Titans. It’s a promotion for Anderson, but that doesn’t mean leaving Ohio was easy.

“Over the course of those four years I learned a lot — as a person, as an individual, I learned a lot of ball,” he said. “I was fortunate to work with a lot of great guys in Cincinnati, and Cincinnati became home. We loved it there. … It’s really the longest we’ve ever lived in one place, being a player or coach.”

“It was a great place to call home for four years,” he added, “but very excited to make the move here to Nashville and get my family down here and establish roots here.”

On the field, the transition will take a lot of work. Anderson is currently logging 15-hour days — “Just trying to get caught up and then get ahead,” he said — as he gets to know his players and starts to implement his system. He’s already hired an assistant special teams coach, Anthony Levine, who played 12 seasons with the Baltimore Ravens.

“I’m going to be positive, going to coach with contagious energy, which hopefully rubs off on the players and they do the same to me,” Anderson said. “I’m going to be accountable, going to have an open door policy for our players coming in here. We’re in this together.”

Off the field, the transition to Tennessee will be eased by having a local resource to rely on. Marc Mariani, a Havre native, Montana Grizzly hall of famer and former NFL Pro Bowler, calls Nashville home.

Mariani, whose UM record for career punt return touchdowns was broken by Bergen last season, was college teammates with Anderson.

“Marc’s my boy,” Anderson said with a laugh. “We take pride in the fact that we were both walk-ons at Montana, so we share that special bond, something that’s unique. The two of us, you could say we did it the hard way, but he’s been in my corner, I’ve been in his corner since Day 1. And he’s the first guy I called when I got the job.”

Before this pending, in-progress move to Nashville, Anderson and his wife, Keelie — the family added four boys along the way — have moved plenty. Since joining the NFL in 2009, the Andersons have lived in Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Buffalo, Butte and Cincinnati, that penultimate location being the most important to the couple.

“My love for Montana starts with my love for my hometown, Butte, Montana,” he said. “Growing up, we took pride in it. It seemed to be that most people like to pick on us a little bit, so we kind of circled the wagons to say it’s us versus the world.

“Especially being a guy who was born and raised in Butte, Montana, I take pride in the fact that I’m a true Montana guy, you know, blue-collar, lunch-pail type guy that I’m going to put in the work. I value myself on being a high-character guy, and that’s who I am. That’s hopefully who I’ll always be.”