Dres Flipper Anderson was born July 20, 1992 in Riverside, Calif. The son of a 10-year NFL veteran and Super Bowl champion, Dres (pronounced drezz), has more in common with his father than football. Dres' middle name is the nickname of his father, Willie Anderson, who battled the San Francisco 49ers on a yearly basis way before his son signed with his bitter rivals as an undrafted rookie this offseason.
Willie "Flipper" Anderson was a key cog in a high-powered Los Angeles Rams offense in the late 1980s and early 90s. Flipper was a vertical threat and a rangy receiver who was known to be a thorn in the side of the entire NFC West, even the star-studded 49ers. As a youngster, Willie's babysitter gave him the "Flipper" moniker because he used to cry like a dolphin.
But Flipper is coming around on San Francisco's football team these days. He's proudly following his sons every move on the 49ers mobile app, and they FaceTime almost daily. In those conversations, Flipper shares advice for how his son can make the most of his opportunities in his first shot in the NFL.
"He's such a good kid," Flipper says in a phone interview from his home in Suwanee, Ga. "I have the utmost confidence in Dres; in his ability and his personality, and the way he behaves. He's just a good kid. It's not fake. That's who he is. He's a good guy."
The mentoring father-son relationship is nothing new for the Anderson family. Flipper has been helping Dres follow in his footsteps throughout his son's time in football pads.
"Me and my dad talk probably every two days," Dres says. "I give him an update on how things are going, and he gives me tips about NFL life in general; how to conduct myself; what things to do."
There was probably only one player at John W. North High School who was mentored by two NFL wide receivers during his prep career – that would be the 22-year-old wideout who wears No. 6 for the 49ers.
Dres was fortunate to learn route-running techniques, strength and conditioning tips as well as nutrition advice from his father, plus his uncle, Paco Craig, who played one season in the league for the Detroit Lions in 1988. A field by the Anderson's Riverside home was the place where Dres began fine-tuning his precise routes and strong-handed receptions under the guidance of his father and mother's brother.
The attention to detail paid off for Dres, who was a three-star recruit by Rivals.com and earned a scholarship to play wide receiver at Utah. Nearly a decade later from those high-school workouts, Dres' position coaches with the 49ers notice the advantages that came along with being the son of an NFL player.
"You can tell he's been working with somebody," said Ronald Curry, the 49ers assistant wide receivers coach and NFL veteran of seven seasons with the Oakland Raiders. "He doesn't have the whole player's son-type vibe to him. He's just one of the guys, but you can tell he's polished in his route-running and he understands the game. You can tell he's been around it."
THE 336 CLUB
Flipper did something that Jerry Rice – or any NFL receiver for that matter – ever accomplished on the football field. On Nov. 26, 1989, Flipper caught 15 passes for a single-game league record of 336 yards.
"That's how I'm always remembered, for that one game," says Flipper, who totaled 267 receptions for 5,357 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns for four different NFL franchises.
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Flipper's 25-year-old record in a 20-17 overtime road win over the New Orleans Saints is older than his son. But that hasn't stopped Dres from appreciating the record's magnitude.
"He never really talked to me that much about it," says the 49ers rookie, "but I always saw posters and stuff about it. Anytime somebody talks to me about my dad, they bring up that game. I knew about it. He didn't really have to talk to me that much about it."
Flipper's career-defining game (which lives on in YouTube infamy) actually occured by happenstance. Rams veteran wideout Henry Ellard missed the game due to a leg injury, which opened the door for Flipper to give the Saints fits all game long, routinely beating defenders on crossing routes and deep sideline patterns.
"That night was a special night. I always tell people that I felt like Michael Jordan – I couldn't miss," Flipper says. "Everything that was thrown to me, I was catching. It wasn't like they were trying to feed me or anything, it just happened within the flow of the game. I think I had four or five catches of over 50 yards and by the end of the game, they were telling me I broke the NFL record and it was very exciting."
Flipper's record was nearly broken in 2013 when Lions receiver Calvin "Megatron" Johnson put up 329 receiving yards against the Dallas Cowboys. Other than that, Flipper's record hasn't been threatened often, even in today's pass-friendly NFL game. But if anyone were to break his ridiculous mark, Flipper has one name in mind.
"Once (Dres) got picked up by the 49ers, I'm like, 'OK, the record is out there for you to break,'" Flipper says. "I'm glad it's lasted this long. I think it was slated as one of the top five records in sports to never be broken, but if anyone were to break it, I'd love for Dres to break it. That would be a joy for me to see."
VIVA LAS VEGAS
Dres arrived on Utah's campus with the hype of being the son of a former NFL player. A year later, he began his ascent as a redshirt freshman in 2011. From there on, Dres, a team captain in 2014, seemingly added his name to every important wide-receiver-category in Utah's record books. His 2,077 career receiving yards are fifth-most in school history. His seven, 100-yard receiving games are fourth-most and his 17 touchdown catches are tied for sixth-best.
In the Pac-12, Dres did what his father did to NFC West teams two decades prior. He became a play-making matchup nightmare. But before Dres ever became a featured player for a nationally-ranked football program, Flipper recalls that the most impressive moment of Dres' collegiate career took place in a game in which he never even played.
The 2011 MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas, saw Boise State best Utah, 26-3. The Utes only mustered 200 yards in a one-sided contest, but Flipper couldn't have cared less. Why? Because that was the first time he saw Dres in a college uniform.
Flipper's son toiled prior to kick-off about dressing out for a bowl game at the end of the 2010 season, one in which he knew he wouldn't see the field.
"I was so proud of Dres just to follow in my footsteps as a receiver," Flipper says, before recalling a pre-game phone conversation. "He said, 'Dad, should I dress or not?' I said, 'You need to dress and get the whole experience of being in the bowl game. Even though you're not playing, you'll be on the field and all that.'"
Looking back on it, Flipper was glad to see his son take heed to his suggestion.
"When I came to that game in Las Vegas and I saw him come running out with the team, it just sent goose pimples (through my body)," Flipper says. "I can't explain it. He wasn't even going to play, but I was like, 'I can't believe that's my son out there getting ready to be out there with all those big guys.'
"It wasn't a game per se, (but) just seeing him out there I was just so proud."
A RIVALRY RUNS DEEP
If Dres makes San Francisco's 53-man roster – he'll have to wait three weeks into the regular season to take part in his first NFC West battle (at Arizona Cardinals in Week 3), and seven weeks before facing his father's NFL franchise (at St. Louis Rams in Week 8).
The Rams and 49ers have long been rivals, and that's way before San Francisco and Seattle recently earned national attention for hard-nosed battles. The Rams and 49ers have been in the NFC West since 1970, making it the longest rivalry in the division.
As Flipper remembers it, the 49ers-Rams games were back-and-forth but mostly went in San Francisco's favor as the franchise won three Super Bowls during his time with Los Angeles (1988-94).
"That was probably the most heated rivalry in the league at the time," Flipper says. "When I first came into the league, we were probably the most prominent teams vying for playoff spots and trying to win the division. We never had the opportunity to win any, (Joe) Montana and San Francisco, those guys always beat us. But those rivalries were second to none in the league. Those were the times when Montana and Rice were at their best and it was just a tough game for us."
Despite being on the losing side of many of those games, Flipper can fondly retell his first touchdown catch and 100-yard game. Both of those milestone-feats took place in an Oct. 1, 1989 road victory over the 49ers. Anderson caught four passes for 112 yards. His 65-yard touchdown grab from Jim Everett gave the Rams a 10-6 lead in a game in which they eventually won, 13-12.
DRAFT DAY '15
Leading up to the NFL Scouting Combine and draft, Dres was back on those same Riverside fields with Flipper. The route-running sessions were similar to the high-school-workouts, but they were much more critical this time around. Dres suffered a torn MCL last October in Utah's seventh game of the 2014 season. At the time, he was the team's leading receiver. The injury took place a year after Dres posted 53 catches for 1,002 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior for the Utes. The setback not only sidelined him for Utah's quest to be Pac-12 South champs; it also caused Dres to not be one of the 256 players chosen in this year's NFL Draft.
"Of course I felt bad for him that his name didn't get called," Flipper says, "but everyone has their own route. I told him, 'There's no special route to get to the NFL. Everybody has their own story. If there was one route, everyone would take it.'"
Dres didn't let his draft-day slide trouble him after signing with San Francisco. If anything, the slight has pushed Dres to be one of the hungriest players on the roster. While his son works towards making the 49ers roster, Flipper has come to grips with his son donning rival colors.
"I'm here now," Dres says, "so he has love for the Niners. At first he was like, 'Oh, OK…' He was a little iffy about it, but he's riding with the Niners now. He knows it's blood now, so he has to like it."
Dres continued to tap into his dad's knowledge throughout his time in San Francisco's offseason program. Dres says the tips ranged from how to utilize proper stretching, post-practice cold-tub sessions, how to watch film and how to "critique yourself and make sure you're bettering yourself so you see it before the coaches do."
As for the MCL injury of last October, Dres' on-field speed is on par with the rest of his fellow receivers. Flipper even thinks the injury helped his son emphasize lower-leg workouts prior to embarking on an NFL career.
"If you go out there and rehab your legs as much and as hard as you can," Flipper says, "you're going to be even faster than you were before you had this knee situation. From what I see, it's taking place now. Even though he's doing well right now, I'm still thinking he has a lot more left to give."
MAKING THE SQUAD
Flipper lives in Georgia, but he's actively watching football in two states. He coaches up Dres' younger brother, Seth, at North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee. The former NFL wideout also referees Division-III basketball games for a good reason.
"It helps keep me in shape and keep my nice figure," says Flipper with a chuckle.
The Anderson's football tradition could very well continue in San Francisco. If Dres is to be one of the 53 players to make the 2015 49ers, it'll be because the Utah product has showcased his big-play ability just like his father did for the Rams.
Flipper has no qualms about where Dres is playing ball these days. He only wants to support his son. So while it might be a little challenging to ditch the Rams gear, Flipper has come to terms with where his football is looking to make a living.
"I'm all in," Flipper says. "If the 49ers able to take my son in, as the son of a former Ram and nemesis of the 49ers, I'm happy that they've taken my son in. I can't wait to get out there and sport the red and gold and support Dres with the 49ers."
Dres has less than two months to get ready for his first NFL training camp. He'll surely tap into his support network and get tips on how to prepare for his first pro camp from the man who has first-hand experience doing just that.
For now, Dres says he's looking forward to the opportunity to compete with a talented group of receivers on the 49ers roster led by Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Dres is one of San Francisco's six rookie receivers who have their work cut out for them this offseason. He wants the Anderson name to be remembered for more than just his father's legacy. And that starts with him creating his own.
"I always get people telling me about him and how great he was," Dres says, "but he's always told me, 'Just be yourself. Don't try to be me, be better than me.' So that's what I've been striving to do."