When it comes to recreational activities, Judah Anderson has tried virtually everything.
Nothing, he discovered, compares to the discipline and competitive drive football produces.
“You know, he was involved in karate, which that didn’t last long,” Anderson’s mother, Dr. Tonya Lyons said with a grin. “But nothing he liked more than football. I have tried everything. The other stuff wasn’t rough enough for him.”
Less than a year removed from having found his niche as a dual threat athlete for the East Memphis Vikings 5-and-6-year-old division football team, the six-year-old Anderson, it seems, doesn’t plan on hanging up his cleats anytime soon.
For starters, Anderson not only developed a fond astonishment for an organized sport in which he was a newcomer when he was invited to the Vikings’ spring practice early last year, but the Dogwood Elementary Kindergarten wasted little time making his presence felt after earning a roster spot.
As the team’s backup quarterback and safety, Anderson helped propel the Vikings to an impressive Super Bowl win last September, a feat that, according to his grandest cheerleader, only suggests that football tops everything else she tried to convince her son to take up.
“Every single day, I said, ‘Maybe I could try out for football,’ Anderson said. “And I told my mom, ‘Maybe I could try this.’ I’m really comfortable a lot. Like every time, coach (Terence) Conley put me in, I felt really tough, because on the field, you have to be tough.”
For Anderson, his defining moment in his first full season of playing organized sports unfolded during the midway point of the Vikings’ championship campaign.
During a recent practice, Anderson suffered an asthma attack and had to be tended by medical trainers on the sideline. Ironically, the incident occurred when Lyons had missed her son’s practice, news that prompted her to ponder whether her son should continue playing the sport he had come to embrace approximately six months earlier.
“When I got there, I saw the condition he was in,” Lyons explained. “I was scared. He was having what they call global contractions. It was good because the team has a mother who lives near the field and she had all the machines. The East Memphis Vikings were prepared.”
Considering Anderson had been diagnosed with asthma when he was just 11 months ago, Lyons, owner and president of New Image Family Dentistry in East Memphis, said she has taken the necessary precautions to ensure her son handles his condition appropriately.
According to medical experts for the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, for instance, there were 243 recordd football-related deaths between July 1990 and June 2010. Of those figures, asthma accounted for seven deaths according to an April 2013 The Morning Call report at www.mcall.com.
“With me being in the medical field, I’ve asked the ER to give me everything he needs because he would have them (asthma attacks) occasionally. We have done inhalers, breathing machines, the steroids, and the decongestion medicine.”
Since his diagnosis, Lyons said her son customarily has about three asthma attacks a year. Conversely, among the things about which he deems intriguing is that Anderson can sense when it is time to undergo treatment.
“He usually knows and assesses when it’s time to have a breathing treatment,” Lyons said. “It’s been a way of life for him.”
Much like football is starting to become.
While there was much concern as to whether she would continue to allow her son to play football, Lyons said the decision was ultimately up to him.
“Of course, I did (wonder if he should quit football), but I didn’t want him to feel like he had to quit,” Lyons said. “My first thought was he’s not going to be able to do this. But after talking with his pediatrician, she says he was going to be fine with it. (The incident) happened on a Thursday. When I asked him if he wanted to go to practice the following Monday, it was a resounding yes. A lot of parents won’t let the child make the decision and keep going. I don’t want him to be a quitter. When he told me he wanted to keep going, that told me a lot about him as a leader.”
Like several of Anderson’s extended family members who had been diagnosed with asthma at one point in time, Lyons expects him to make a fully recovery from having occasional attacks. In the meantime, however, among her chief priorities, she said, is to continue to be Anderson’s biggest cheerleader, in large part because he has learned the significance of demonstrating toughness off the field.
Come Sunday, she and her Super Bowl champion have plans to watch Super Bowl 48.
“Those guys had to start somewhere,” Lyons said of Sunday’s game that will pit the Seattle Seahawks taking on the Denver Broncos. “There’s a possibility my son could be there someday. I wonder if he’ll stick with it. If he does, that’s fine. If he doesn’t, that’s fine because the leadership quality will take him a long way in life. Organized sports will help him think of someone other than himself.”
His teammates found that out firsthand when he showed up for practice four days after his midseason incident.