The Opinion-Tribune's 2022-2023 Male Athlete of the Year: Glenwood's Kayden Anderson
A Man of Four Seasons
As a true four sport athlete, Kayden Anderson doesn’t get many days off.
Baseball. Football. Basketball. Tennis.
Maybe some more baseball.
“I’d say for four years, I’ve had very little break at all,” said the Glenwood junior, who took over as the Rams’ varsity starting shortstop as an eighth grader. “If I do, I usually do something with baseball.”
In those rare, brief breaks between seasons, Anderson can usually be found in the batting cage. Baseball is the only sport he competes in – on and off the field – year-round.
“Baseball is the main focus of my sports,” he said. “Every season I do a little bit of baseball, whether I’m playing or not, I’m working out.”
That same desire to improve on the diamond has been a driving force for Anderson in the sports he competes in. It’s a work ethic that landed him All-Hawkeye 10 Conference honors in football and baseball, the highest finish for the Rams at the Iowa state tennis tournament since 2016 and a Division I baseball scholarship to Nebraska.
And it’s earned Anderson The Opinion-Tribune’s Male Athlete of the Year Award for 2022-2023.
Competition is big for Anderson.
No four-sport athlete that has competed at the level he has shies from competing. That’s part of the reason why the lifelong basketball/football/basketball athlete decided to take up tennis his sophomore year.
His first tennis practice with the Rams also coincided with the first time he ever picked up a tennis racket. He saw tennis as a way to upgrade his hand speed and lateral quickness. Turns out, it became one of his favorite sports.
“But the big reason I went out (for tennis) was because one of our basketball coaches (Grant Stivers) was hired as the tennis coach and he was recruiting the basketball team,” he said. “He wanted athletes out to give it a try and have fun. I loved it. This past summer I worked a little harder on it and it paid off.”
When Anderson came out for tennis – at Stivers’ urging – the coach wasn’t sure what he’d have. But he exceeded all expectations. Anderson does that a lot, the coach said.
“He was willing to try a sport such as tennis, and it has been incredible to see him excel at something he picked up as a sophomore,” Stivers said. “His overhead throwing mechanics from baseball have helped translate into an excellent tennis player. Knowing who he is as a person, it is no surprise that he has been successful in the sport. Kayden is not one to try something and be average at it, he is going to give his full effort and be the best version of himself.”
After reaching his goal of being a part of the varsity his first season, Anderson took strides this past spring and netted a trip the state tournament. The Rams placed eighth as team and Anderson and his doubles partner, Tyler Harger, placed eighth, the highest finish for Glenwood tennis since 2016.
“That was our goal, to go to state, and it came true so that was a great feeling,” he said. “Most of us hadn’t played tennis for more than three years.”
Anderson had a stronger draw to basketball, where he came off bench as the Rams’ sixth man last season, averaging 8.2 points and finishing second on the team with 24 three-pointers. He heads into next season as the team’s top returning scorer.
Not bad for a sport he considers almost a hobby.
“I’ve played basketball almost as long as I’ve played baseball and it’s always been one of my favorite sports. The season went great. It was a fun group of guys, and I loved playing with them and the role I had. My sport is baseball, so I just enjoy playing basketball and doing whatever I need to do instead of being the guy.”
Anderson was the GUY for the Rams football team last fall. But the climb to QB1 didn’t come easy.
As a sophomore, Anderson split duty under center. But his junior season, he exploded for 2,272 yards passing and 24 touchdowns passes while starting all 11 games and earning all-conference and some all-state recognition. Not to mention, the interest of Division I college coaches.
After leading the Rams to a 7-4 record and their first playoff victory in ___ years, Anderson would be the first to admit he was surprised by his gridiron success last season.
“A lot of people know baseball is my sport so with football running into the summer stuff, I have to sit out of a lot of that to focus on baseball, so I didn’t really get much football (work) in before the season as a lot of guys did,” he said. “Going into the season I was kind of just having fun and enjoying the team and a lot of good things happened. It was a good feeling for sure.”
Glenwood head football coach Cory Faust was not surprised by Anderson’s success. He knew Anderson was as talented as any quarterback he’s coached in Glenwood.
“We saw the talent there and we knew if he got the reps and the got comfortable, he could put it (the ball) in the right places,” Faust said.
Faust uses words like “super mature” and “super coachable” to describe Anderson.
“He wants to learn, and he wants to get better. And he’s super respectful. The cool thing about him is, you hear his teachers say the same thing,” Faust said. “He’s high character kid. When he struggles, he keeps a positive attitude and doesn’t point fingers. He looks to see what adjustments he can make and continually improve.”
This spring Faust fielded several calls from Division I coaches who reached out about Anderson playing football. Anderson, he said, has all the “tools” college coaches look for.
“I was starting to promote him a little bit and he (Anderson) told me if he didn’t get a D-I baseball offer he’d be interested in football. I think people just needed to seem him more and get in camps and get on campuses to get those offers. But people were interested in him and keeping an eye on him.”
But Anderson’s heart remains in baseball.
He committed to Nebraska prior to his junior season and chose the Huskers over offers from Iowa and South Dakota State. The Huskers see him as a middle infielder with the ability to hit to all fields.
“It took a little bit off pressure of me, instead of worrying about getting recruited it let me have fun with the team and enjoy it, playing my game,” he said of his early commitment. “It did add a little pressure too, everyone thinking, ‘Oh, this dude’s committed, he’s gotta be going 3-for-3 every game.’ It always felt like somebody was saying something, but you move past that and forget about what everybody says, and you have fun.”
He does feel like the commitment, the school’s first to a D-I program in over a decade, did put a target on him. Not to mention bring out the doubters.
“I think it did, especially at the end of the year,” he said. “It felt like a lot of people wanted to see me fail and try and beat me. But that’s part of the game and what I love about it. I enjoy that. It didn’t hurt my confidence. Knowing people wanted me to fail was kind of fun.”
Anderson knows the Rams didn’t have the season on the diamond he’d hoped this season, finishing with a 13-14 record and a fifth-place finish in the conference standings. But that’s got Anderson and his teammates all the more hyped for next season – even if baseball is nine months and three sports seasons away.
“I like to take it one season at a time but there are a lot of guys returning so we’re all focused on being prepared for next (baseball) season and making a better run than what we did this year,” he said.
In addition to his Rams team commitments, Anderson plays summer travel baseball with the Nebraska Prospects, one of the top programs in the region. He estimates he’ll play 50 games this summer with the team that features six Division I players.
And football is right around the corner.
Anderson knows he will continue to have his doubters. And that’s okay, he said. Doubt can be a great motivator.
“Anytime someone doubts me or any team I play on, it’s a challenge,” he said. “Being from Glenwood, a small school in a big class in most every sport, at lot of people doubt us. It’s part of ours and my work ethic to outwork other people and not listen to what people say. I just go out and compete.”