Ken Anderson, the first No. 14, is back in town this weekend.
Ken Anderson's big weekend starts where it all started in his hometown of Batavia, Ill. Then he'll head to his adopted hometown of Cincinnati to lead the world's largest chicken dance before hosting his fourth annual Opening Day fundraiser for adults with Autism.
It's quite a way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of what may have been the greatest of his 16 seasons as the Bengals all-time leading passer. He didn't win the NFL MVP and go to the Super Bowl like he did in 1981, but he led the Bengals to the 1975 playoffs with his second straight NFL passing title.
Anderson is being inducted into Batavia's first Hall of Honors class, a star-studded group that includes NBA great Dan Issel and long-time TNT basketball announcer Craig Sager. During the Homecoming ceremonies he'll also present a Gold Ball to the school as part of the NFL's recognition program of honoring every high school that sent a player to 50 years of Super Bowls.
Anderson then finds himself in Cincinnati's Fountain Square at 4:30 p.m. Saturday during Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati to lead the big dance. It's an honor that's been bestowed on such figures from Weird Al Yankovic, Davy Jones, Joe Morgan, Tom Browning to Bengals all-time leading receiver Chad Johnson.
"That's going to be fun," Anderson says. "I hope to do as well as the others that have been chosen to do it."
It shows just how embedded Anderson is in the pantheon of Cincinnati personalities. He became as well known for his involvement in the community as he did for his four NFL passing titles and his precision passing and he's still giving back.
On Sunday from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at The Banks he'll continue his efforts to build homes for autistic adults with Kick Off 2015 at a brunch with music and drinks across the street from The Holy Grail at the former Johnny Rocket's. Tickets are $100 with more info at 513-806-7319 or kenandersonfoundation.com.
The event comes one day shy of 40 years to the day the Bengals opened the '75 season with a 24-17 victory over the Browns at Riverfront Stadium with Anderson throwing for 287 yards on 17 of 27 passing and a 27-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Isaac Curtis. It began a monster year for him, leading the Bengals to an 11-3 season on 21 touchdown passes and a league-leading 3,169 yards. He threw just 11 interceptions, although it was nothing like the '81 season when he threw 29 TDs against just 10 picks while throwing for a career-high 3,754 yards. In '75, his 60.5 completion percentage was second only to NFL MVP Fran Tarkenton's 64.2. In '81, his 62.6 percentage was second to Joe Montana's 63.7.
But '75 just may have been better.
"It's tough to compare the two," Anderson says. "The rules were different. In '81, the offensive line could block extending their hands pass protecting. They had the five-yard chuck rule. Before that defensive backs could bother receivers all over the field."
That's one of the many reasons Anderson should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He led the league in passing twice under the old rules (1974-75) and twice under the new rules (1981-82).
"In '75, you didn't quite see the big numbers you saw in '81. There were 16 games," Anderson said. "You look at 21 touchdowns and that doesn't sound like a lot today. But back then if you threw for over 20 touchdowns that was a lot. In that era, a lot of quarterbacks had touchdowns to interceptions ratios of one-to-one and it was a higher completion percentage than you saw in that era."
So '75 was better?
"You never know," Anderson said.
But he does know this.
"Great weekend," he said.