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Anderson was the last player from Jackson State, a historically Black university, to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft. He was taken by the Panthers with the 23rd overall pick in 2000, while his teammate Sylvester Morris, a wide receiver, was taken two spots earlier by the Kansas City Chiefs. They were the first Jackson State duo to be picked in the first round since Hall of Famers Walter Payton and Robert Brazile in 1975.
Anderson, a native of Forrest, Mississippi, was a Jackson State standout, and is considered one of the greatest to ever play for the school. In 1996 he helped the Tigers win their first SWAC championship in school history, and then helped them win the SWAC Eastern Division title in 1999.
"Today is a sad day for the JSU family," said Jackson State vice president and director of athletics Ashley Robinson in a statement. "Rashard was one of the best players in the history of our football program and an outstanding person. He attended our spring football game in April and was excited about the program returning to championship status. Rashard will always be remembered by Jackson State University, and our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time."
Anderson's NFL career and return to Jackson
After being drafted in 2000 he played two seasons for the Panthers, notching 65 tackles and one interception over nine starts and 27 games. Anderson was suspended for the 2002 season after testing positive for marijuana several times, a violation of the NFL's substance abuse policy. He entered treatment and applied for reinstatement in 2003, but his application was rejected and his suspension extended through the 2003 season after another violation.
Anderson was reinstated following the 2003 season, but the Panthers cut him and he didn't get a shot with another NFL team. In 2005 he caught on with the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League, but wasn't able to make the cut when the roster was whittled down to 40 players.
According to Khari Thompson of the Mississippi Clarion Ledger, he returned to Jackson and worked at Callaway and Murrah high schools as a substitute teacher and assistant football coach.
Devastated over this…Rest in heaven my friend🙏🏾❤️ pic.twitter.com/eSSrum9tnW
— Rob Jay (@robjaykappa) July 13, 2022
💔Dam man, loss a brother, friend, teammate this morning. My Dude was a Father, son, nephew, and uncle. My Dawg Rashard Anderson, former 1st Rd pick Carolina, JSU Grad and Forest High Alum has transitioned! #CancerSucks #LLRIH46 pic.twitter.com/5DmpfLJhex
— Marcus Rogers (@CoachRogers88) July 13, 2022