After a tough day at practice, the 6-foot-5, 254-pound tight end heads to the locker room. But first, he pauses for a moment and helps offensive coordinator Brian White’s young daughter pick up her toy, then leans over to slap her a high-five.
This move would not be a shocker to those who are close to Mark Anelli. The senior, who hails from the town of Addison, Ill., is a family man in more ways than one.
This season, Anelli is one of the team’s six captains. He is also the eldest member of the tight end unit.
“I’m like the father,” Anelli said. “[Bob] Docherty calls me Coach — pretty much most of [the tight ends] call me Coach. If they’re not listening to Coach Davis, they have to listen to me because I’m allowed to hit ’em back! I’m always on their butt, because if they’re not doing things right, that means I have to go back in there and do it right for them. But, it’s kind of fun being the ‘big brother’ of the group.”
Not only is he close with his fellow tight ends, he also shares a special bond with his teammate — and roommate — quarterback Jim Sorgi.
“Mark’s a great guy; he’s kind of like my big brother,” Sorgi said. “I was raised in a family of four sisters. He’s kind of like the big brother I’ve never had, and I’m kind of like the little brother he never had. You could say we’re kind of like family.”
Anelli is starting off his season with a bang. As a starter in all seven games, he has had 18 catches for 158 yards, both of which are career season highs for him. After already meeting many of the goals set for him, tight ends coach Tim Davis is extremely pleased with the work Anelli has accomplished.
“He’s really taken on the mentality, ‘I’m gonna be a better blocker, I’m gonna be a better finisher, I’m gonna be the top guy in the Big Ten,'” Davis said. “What makes me most proud of him is that he’s taken all the steps to get there. He’s put the time in the summer, in the classroom looking at film, asking the right questions ? and then having the energy and the exuberance to get it done. He’s played really well against Ohio State and Indiana, but he can get better and better, and he sees that. When you have a guy like him, you’re very fortunate.”
So where does Anelli get his initiative to be the best he can be on the field? His family, of course.
“My parents and my brother are my biggest role models,” Anelli said. “I’ve learned a great work ethic from them. And how to be a person — not so much an athlete — but just how to act as a person.”
Davis firmly believes that the strong bond Anelli shares with his family is what got him to where he is today.
“He’s got a great family,” Davis said. “His parents are awesome people. They’re first-generation Italians. They’re very strong, have a great work ethic, and they’re great cooks. They have instilled in him [that] whatever you’re doing, do it full speed. Do it the best you can do.”
Anelli has definitely gone above and beyond what is expected of him here at UW. As he graduates this December with a degree in agricultural business management, he hopes to continue his growth as a football player.
“I’m going to stay [in Madison] for the spring semester and train,” Anelli said. “And hopefully I’ll get a shot at the next level. That’s always been my dream.”
Sorgi thinks that dream could become a reality for his roommate.
“Mark’s such a good football player, with such good hands, that he will get a shot in the NFL,” Sorgi said. “He’s a kind of guy who you know is going to succeed no matter what he does, just by his demeanor and the way he carries himself. I’m not worried about Mark. Whatever he decides to do, I’m sure he’ll be successful.”
Davis is also confident in Anelli’s future.
“The world’s his oyster,” Davis said. “He’s one of those guys that comes in, and you get to coach, and you’re really fired up about it. Hopefully he gets everything he asks for.”