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Weber State football: Interceptions in same game add to Anderson brothers’ journey together

By Brett Hein - Standard-Examiner | Sep 14, 2023

Photos: Robert Casey, Weber State Athletics

Defensive backs LJ Anderson, left (2023 at Northern Iowa) and Maxwell Anderson (2022 vs. EWU) return interceptions for Weber State football.

The first pass Northern Iowa quarterback Theo Day threw in the second half of his team's home game against Weber State found itself in the hands of safety LJ Anderson.

Anderson returned it 15 yards. Weber State scored a touchdown two plays later, sparking a dominant second half on the way to a 34-17 road victory.

LJ had three interceptions in one season at Laney College, but that turnover Saturday was his first career pick in his 25 games at Weber State. His younger brother, Maxwell, knew he had to have a turn.

Maxwell dropped at least one good interception opportunity in a half full of so many of them that one by Abraham Williams didn't even count. But with three minutes left, Northern Iowa's last-ditch drive to stay in the game lasted just one play when Maxwell read a pass up the sideline and picked it off.

"I told (LJ) I was going to make our name look good because he got the first one, so I had to go get one and match his energy," Maxwell said. "I dropped one earlier so I needed to get one back for my own good."

It's hard to say for sure how many times two brothers have each intercepted a pass in the same college football game. In 2021, Boise State said, as far as it could tell, Kekaula and Kaonohi Kaniho's interceptions in a win at Fresno State was the third such time they could find.

Whatever the list -- it's likely a short one -- the Anderson brothers are now on it.

LJ watched last season as Maxwell racked up five interceptions on his way to becoming a first-team All-American. Saturday, it was finally his turn.

"I was screaming on the sideline the whole time after until we went back on the field," Maxwell said. "I told him that he should've scored, but I'm happy he got his first one."

LJ was always on Weber State's radar and coaches asked Maxwell about him often. The opportunity came to get LJ to Ogden and the brothers are now seniors, playing their last season together. WSU has six pairs of brothers on the team, and the Andersons join Ethan and Noah Atagi as pairs of seniors seeing out their careers at the same time.

There's one year of age difference between the two, so the brothers never really played football on the same team until LJ's senior year of high school when Maxwell was a junior and worked his way onto the field.

"It's a dream come true coming here, it always made sense to play with each other," said LJ, who has a bachelor's degree in professional sales and is working on his second in criminal justice. "I already knew the culture here, I knew a few guys like Naseme Colvin (who also picked off a pass Saturday) already. It was a no-brainer."

Each brother lauds the others' work ethic, their commitment to film study and each said they benefit from the other's knowledge. They each see the game in different ways, and LJ has played corner and safety at WSU. The two are constantly sharing information before, during and after games. Maxwell started as a freshman, while LJ has worked his way through special teams and now finds himself as the starter at free safety.

Northern Iowa totaled 96 yards and zero points in the second half, and LJ's interception set the tone. WSU had weathered a stretch in the first half when Day diced them up a little, so the first interception highlighted the all-around defensive effort that turned the game from a battle to a relative blowout.

LJ was there to clean up a tipped pass from linebacker Jack Kelly (who also had two sacks and two forced fumbles in the game).

"We just had to play as a unit, you know. No pointing fingers. Everybody just do their one-eleventh and we got the job done," LJ said. "Making plays is contagious ... we just had to be disciplined. We knew what was coming, we and the coaches just did a better job of realizing when certain things were coming and how we were supposed to play it."

The game was basically put away by the time Maxwell caught his interception, but it put an exclamation point on the team's second-half dominance and put him in the books with a pick-off in the same game as LJ.

"He's the greatest. He's like a superhero to me," said Maxwell, who has a degree in professional sales and another underway in health education and sports coaching. "Playing with him is great for me, just being able to learn from him, him getting hyped for me, me getting hyped for him ... it's fun to do this on a big stage."

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