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) On Sundays, Will Anderson Jr. likes to slip away. He would rather not specify his whereabouts, which is reasonable considering how much his life has changed in the past 18 months. The days of anonymity are fleeting.
He seeks tranquility, and he often finds tranquility by a stream or a pond. Always by the water . That instinct has been there since he was a kid, long before he became the best defensive player in college football and the Heisman Trophy that hopes to change the way we think about the award.
He and his father, Will Anderson Sr., would spend hours on the water, each trying to catch more fish than the other. There is competition – there is always competition. But this place is also his escape.
“I’m the kind of guy that I give a lot to football,” Anderson said. “When I’m in nature, I release everything that’s going on. I listen to calming music and let myself relax. It comforts me. I can just look at the water and feel the breeze.” On Saturday, Anderson was everywhere. With his feet on solid ground, he spent more than three hours chasing quarterbacks and surrounding running backs. The offensive coordinator did everything possible to avoid him. The offensive lineman tried to get in his way. So far, no one has succeeded in a regular way.
Although he played at Alabama, the depth chart was looked at by 5-year-old star recruit, Anderson’s excellent It doesn’t look the same. His 17.5 sacks in 2021 are the most in FBS. He also tallied 33.5 steals, 11.5 more than anyone else.
His performance earned him fifth place in the Heisman voting last year. It also prompted many to question whether the junior should play college football again, even though he has to wait a year to make it to the NFL. Scouts have fallen in love with the outside linebacker’s game, prompting more and more rumors surrounding his football future.
“He’ll be ‘a mile ahead of last year’s No. 1 pick,” says one NFL scout Anderson. “Zero debate. There’s a few quarterbacks in the mix, and he probably won’t be No. 1 next spring. Unless you desperately need a quarterback, passing the ball is a huge mistake. “ In B/R’s latest mock draft, he’s the next No. 1 pick of the year. Look around Four weeks, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any way out without thinking he’ll be picked in the top three. Anderson still focused on more stuff. About unfinished goals. On history. Building the next great Alabama defense. At the national championship and another game at the Heisman. The idea of sitting outside is far from reality. Far. “I’m not going to do that,” Anderson said. “I love football so much. God has a plan for me and He wants me here. I promise. I’m all in. It’s an honor to play here. “ For a player who has accomplished so much, he still has a lot to do.
football started as an outlet. More specifically, according to his mother Tereon Anderson, “football was a way to get rid of all these girls. “ Today, Anderson and his five sisters have connections that no story can tell. But then , when Anderson was only four years old, he needed something different. Football is just that. First Shawnta Then came Shanice. Then, Chyna was born. After her, Endia and Teria joined the family. His parents had been planning to have a boy, although those plans had been put on hold five times in a row.
“My wife said if when we had a boy, he would be a teenager,” Anderson said. “But if the last one wasn’t a boy, I would Had to find one elsewhere. God finally gave us a boy. “ Like most houses with kids, it’s a mess. There’s disagreement. There’s also love and pairing Dedication to each other.
Everyone has a partner. Older children take care of their younger siblings. They push them; They guide them. They are responsible for each other. Take Will, his sisters who make football possible .. Since both parents work a lot, they make sure he can commute. When they watch him play, they demand more of him on the court.
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They also protected their younger brother. “And spoiled him like crazy,” their mother added.
Standards don’t change with age. Neither do bonds. With so much on the cusp, relationships between family members only grow and develop.
“My family means everything I’m in,” he said. “They make sure I have everything.” There is so much love and I am so grateful for them. Without them, I wouldn’t be here now. “
In another universe, Anderson is still playing fullback.
In fact, in For most of his football career, it was the only court he wanted to be. He grew up with the ball. Defense was never on the radar. That is, until Clifford Fedd was named head coach of Hollandtown High School in Hampton, Georgia, the winter of 2017. Fedd knew almost immediately Being a special athlete myself. “About a month later, maybe a month — and then — there Half of that, I know he’s a guy,” Fedd said.
Given Anderson’s size, Will Rogers, Fedd’s defensive coordinator Ask Anderson if he’d like to switch positions. They think his size and physical talent are tailored to the defense. “He was upset,” Feder recalled. “He didn’t want to be called the defensive end. He wants to be called a guard. “
While Will and his father didn’t like the idea, Thrun disapproved the most “I’m not happy,” she added. “We don’t defend. We attack. But they told me to trust them and I did. Will also likes to give it a try. Once he knew what he needed to do, he never looked back. “ Over the next two seasons, Anderson grew into his new role. In his recruitment By the end, he was ranked No. 5 in 247Sports’ Class of 2020.
Prior to that, however, some teams had a lot to say about him. Concerns about size and where he could eventually fit in. Clemson told the Fed it didn’t have room on the defensive end. Georgia never really got involved, though in Anderson’s home state.
Alabama finally sent ace recruiter Sal Sanseri to keep an eye on Anderson, who was listed as a recruit at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds “It was a battle of who had the biggest laugh,” Fader recalled in two meetings.
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Soon one player and one show made the perfect football marriage. While his mother urged her son to take his time and consider all options before committing, Anderson made up his mind.
“Alabama is there and I’m going to be able to be with people who have the same mindset as me,” Anderson recalls. “They’re here to insist standard. I come here every day to compete with the best and that’s what I do. “
When he came here as a real freshman, all of a sudden there was a lot of hype, Anderson was early Just know what his opponent is. After lifting weights in his freshman year, the outstanding offensive lineman in front of the school He was found by Lex Leatherwood. Anderson thought Leatherwood was trying to give him some words of encouragement or put him under his wing.
“He told me that when we started the spring ball field, he was going to get me excited,” Anderson recalls with a laugh. “I knew it was going to be a different type of ball game, and I was ready for it. All right. “
Before the start of last season, Anderson took a small piece of laminated paper and put it inside the protective layer to protect the case of his iPhone. On it, he wrote Coming Soon The goal of the season.
Anderson has never had to delete the item once during the year; he knows that What is written on the sheet of paper, word by word. However, when he often picks up his phone, he thinks about them. “I achieved all but one,” Anderson said. Anderson The only goal not achieved? He didn’t win the Bednarick Trophy, awarded to the best defensive player in the sport. That honor belongs to Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis. On top of that, Anderson produced one of the most productive and disruptive seasons ever at linebackers. Although his 2021 season is great, you can expect it to come. He starts 2020 as a true freshman at Alabama — — something Nick Saban has rarely done since arriving in Tuscaloosa in 2007 — he finished the year with seven sacks and 10.5 tackles.
This is just a foundation for Anderson, whose body and knowledge of the position have evolved in the light-years before his sophomore year.
“I started to prepare so hard in practice that when I got into a race, it felt like I was practicing,” Anderson said. “I knew I would what to expect. When I do this, I start playing faster. It became a lot easier for me at the beginning of the game. “ Anderson had multiple tackle losses in all but four games last year. He was with Mississippi State Played four sack races. He was often planned against, but it all came to nothing. Close to the season At the end of the day, Alabama’s Heisman-winning quarterback seemed to be directing most of the spotlight. But all along, Anderson has been great. Bryce Young ended up winning the Heisman in a landslide. Anderson pushed for the award but failed to get enough votes. Still, for a A defensive player, especially a true sophomore, whose fifth is still rare air.
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“I thought about it a lot, I just put it out there,” his dad said. “I’m confident he’s going to win the Heisman.” I see his game improve every year and I think it will improve even higher this year. “
It’s not that Anderson doesn’t know the hype and doesn’t shy away from the possibility. It’s not in his nature to predict a Heisman victory— —Only one defensive player in the history of the sport, Charles Woodson, did. Woodson’s expanded representation on special teams and offense eventually paved the way.
Anderson probably won’t have that luxury. If he’s going to win the Heisman, it’ll be because of what he’s done on the defensive end.
“I would be very grateful if I could win this award, but I think it’s more important than that,” Anderson said. “It’s not just for me. I’m doing this for all the defensive players and the work I’m putting in. If Heisman is truly for the best, defensive players should win this award. “
Whether he won the Heisman is on that little laminated sheet of paper in his phone case, it’s still unclear. I know.
“We’ll see,” he said with a smile, reluctant to extend his hand. Although in his only two years All done, but not many mountains left to climb.
On Saturday, Anderson’s junior season officially began. In a 55-0 victory over Utah State, he sent Made a tackle error. His day ended early due to the unevenness of the scoreboard. Ben When Alabama travels to Austin on Saturday, he may be called up by more to take on Texas in a rematch of the 2009 BCS National Championship. Officially, it’s over about him possibly skipping his junior year. Actually, they never carried any weight.
“We never Discussed,” his father said. “I know who Will is. He doesn’t sit outside. If he can help, he won’t miss a game. He will try to hurt before missing. “
Ever since former South Carolina superstar defensive end Jadeveon Clowney No more.. 1st overall pick in 2014, is the debate so strong about the future of defensive players. Since freshman year, NFL teams have had their sights set on Anderson. They’ve been watching ever since. “Simply put, Anderson is the most damaging fullback we’ve seen this century,” said B/R draft analyst Brent Sobleski. “Any criticism of Anderson’s game at this point will Seen as picky because he has always been the best player on the field. “
Like Heisman, Anderson is not numb to the conversation about his football future. He knows that in Alabama What does kicking football bring. That’s largely why he landed there in the first place.
His parents also Get it. However, when asked about the NFL, Anderson Sr. was more eager to talk about the fact that his son is poised to earn his degree in December.
It’s definitely more chaotic now than the whole family has ever been, but there’s a part of it that everyone seems totally content to stick with.
While the sport is growing faster than ever, Anderson looks happy and motivated. So do those around him. Fame and fortune can wait a little longer.
“As a parent, I’m watching my son realize his dream,” Trian said. “I asked myself if this really happened. Don’t pinch me; I don’t want to wake up. I want to be here in this moment, so proud and so fulfilled. “
No matter how the year ends – no matter how many goals on his laminated paper are achieved – —We are witnessing the end of one of the greatest careers a college linebacker has ever created.
There is a sense of urgency to grab Live every moment and tackle behind the line of scrimmage. It’s not just greatness; it’s a level of football excellence reserved for the very few.
Sunday is coming, and coming soon. The days of escaping to a nearby lake will soon give way to what could be a long and prosperous NFL career.
time, Anderson will have to find a new day and a peaceful environment. However, until then, he is exactly where he should be.