David Anderson always looked for an edge when he was a player.
In his post-NFL days, he's helping current players find an edge as well.
A Texans wide receiver from 2006 through 2011, Anderson is now the CEO of Breakaway Data, a company which Anderson said "helps athletes collect and utilize their data and performance". Anderson, who finished his NFL career with Washington at the end of the 2011 campaign, jokingly described himself as "a Moneyball dork" these days.
"We help an athlete better understand how their off-field performance affects their on-field performance right now," Anderson said. "For forever, analytics have been sold to teams, and they've certainly taken advantage of that situation, and we've helped a lot of teams along the way. But now I want to kind of pivot the focus to athletes, helping them better understand and get more use out of their data."
After Anderson's time in the NFL finished, he went back to school and picked up an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. As a player, he took advantage of NFL-sponsored business management and entrepreneurship programs that were held at Penn's Wharton Business School, Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management and Stanford's Graduate School of Business. His studies and his interests collided and became Breakaway Data.
Coming out of Colorado State in 2006, Anderson got a call on the final day of the 2006 NFL Draft from new Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak, who said the Texans were picking the pass catcher in the seventh round. According to Anderson, Kubiak stayed true to his word from earlier that spring after a pre-Draft workout.
"I remember when I finished my 40 (yard dash), 'Kub told me, 'Hey, if you're available late in the Draft, we're going to pick you up.'"
Anderson was the cherry on top of a Texans Draft class that also featured DE Mario Williams, LB DeMeco Ryans, OL Charles Spencer and OL Eric Winston, TE Owen Daniels and RB Wali Lundy. Anderson graduated CSU as the school's all-time receiving yards leader, and is in the Colorado State Athletics Hall of Fame. But the 5-10, 192-pounder had an eye-opening experience upon arriving in Houston.
"You quickly realize how little you know about football and that you're with a group of grown men who've been doing this for a profession," Anderson said. "You are just following what the script says, and it doesn't look like that once the humans are actually running around. You're like, 'Well, all the dots on the page are the same size, except that guy is 6-7, 290 pounds, and this guy is like the fastest human I've ever seen in my life. So you've got to find out who you are and find your fit pretty quickly. Otherwise, you'll find your way out of the locker room."
Anderson overcame that early shock to the system and fit in nicely with the Texans over the next six seasons. In 67 NFL games, Anderson caught 88 passes for 965 yards and found the end zone four times. He saw the club log its first .500 season in 2007, and then its first winning season two years later. With the benefit of hindsight, Anderson looked back on those Houston squads that took steps toward improvement and eventually the playoffs.
"It took us a while to get over that and figure that out and just how meaningful every possession is in the NFL," Anderson said. "That takes some maturity. It took the guys in the locker room growing up with each other and realizing that the guy next to you has been through this situation."
Anderson still keeps in touch with the likes of Winston, Ryans, Daniels, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, Mike Brisiel, Jacoby Jones and Joel Dreessen, among others.
Now in Manhattan Beach, California, he misses the people of Houston the most, as well as the restaurant scene and the abundance of space.
"My neighbor lives about this far away (holds hands a foot apart) from where I do," Anderson joked. 'And the traffic is way worse out here."
For the future, Anderson and his wife are raising their daughter and son, and he wants to turn his business "into something big" and that the sports data industry is a "ripe" one.
"I can be a nerd, but I'll always be a ballplayer at heart," Anderson said. "I think that's the key to the spirit and ethos of the company. So I'm excited to do that."
For more on Breakaway Data, please click here.
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