SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Ray Anderson decided to become a lawyer the day his father died suddenly. Just 9 at the time, Anderson figured if his father wouldn't be able to fulfill his dream, he would do it for him.
He did just that, working his way through high school, four years at Stanford and Harvard Law School before becoming an attorney and, later, an NFL executive.
Now Anderson wants a chance to give back.
On Thursday, he was named athletic director at Arizona State, where he hopes to help student-athletes pursue their goals, whether it's becoming a professional athlete or a lawyer, like him.
''I love the professional arena, but once they get to us, they are kind of down a different path,'' Anderson said during his introductory news conference. ''The opportunity to have a different group of student-athletes at a point in life where they're not necessarily going down the professional path, they're just trying to find their path in what they're going to do, to have an impact and an influence on that really, really drove this decision and made this so special.''
Arizona State was put in a bit of a bind last November when Steve Patterson, who had replaced Lisa Love 18 months earlier, left the university to become the athletic director at Texas.
But with that setback came an opportunity to bring in Anderson, a sharp-minded executive who's had success at every step of his career, from his early days as a lawyer to his current job as an NFL executive.
''I'm big believer that all things that seem dynamically negative are in fact not that, they are but an opportunity,'' Arizona State President Michael Crow said. ''You have to seize opportunities when they appear and we have seized this opportunity to find Ray Anderson.''
Anderson spent eight seasons as the NFL's executive vice president of football operations before announcing in December that he was leaving to pursue other opportunities. He previously spent four years as an executive with the Atlanta Falcons and before that owned his own sports agency, AR Sports, which merged with Octagon in 2001.
Anderson began his career as an attorney, co-founding a sports law practice in San Francisco in 1980, after lettering in both football and baseball at Stanford.
He will continue working for the NFL until the Super Bowl before taking over as Arizona State's vice president for athletics on Feb. 5.
''This is not a stepping stone for me to anywhere else. This is a destination,'' Anderson said. ''I'm going to be here as long as I am effective, as long as I am a collaborator, as long as I am a teammate and as long as my boss thinks I am deserving of this honor.''
Anderson will be responsible for overseeing Arizona State's 20 sports and $60 million budget. He also comes onboard as the school is about to renovate Sun Devil Stadium and is developing the University Athletics Facilities District, a 330-acre, mixed-use area north of the Tempe campus that will raise funds for large projects at the university.
Though he has never worked in collegiate athletics, Anderson has worked with the NCAA during his current job with the NFL and has a background with a wide range of experience.
''More than any other thing, we weren't looking for any particular skill set,'' Crow said. ''We were looking for a breadth of experience and intellect matched together in a single person. Ray was that person.''