Motivation and focus are never an issue for 2022 CBS Sports Preseason Player of the Year Will Anderson Jr.

HAMPTON, GA — Initially, it was about Will Anderson Jr.’s raw talent. Anderson, an edge rusher in his teens from this Atlanta suburb, brakes his lightless Porsche.

It didn’t matter if the kid couldn’t decipher Speedrush and Bullrush, he was a wind-up toy that didn’t wind up. Forget technique…it could come later. It all started with completing practice at Dutch Town High School.

Anderson’s defensive coordinator Will Rogers remembers the prize defenders lining up against the offense in drills.

“We had to get him out,” said Rogers, who had been in Dutchtown for Anderson’s entire high school life. [offensively]I heard they are doing the same thing in Alabama. They have to get his butt out of there. “

There’s no official word on Anderson’s influence on Alabama’s practice. However, we have ample evidence on Saturday.

Unanimously selected for the 2022 CBS Sports/247Sports Preseason All-America and our Preseason Player of the Year, Anderson is the nation’s best defender, unanimously selected Preseason All-American, and the 2023 NFL Draft. Enters the season as a player who has the potential to be nominated 1st overall. .

At 19, Anderson became the first true freshman to start as linebacker for Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. As a sophomore last season, he led the nation in both sacks (17.5) and tackles for loss (34.5). No player in Power His Five has topped both categories in the same season in at least the last 13 years. Pro Football Focus listed Anderson as his second true sophomore, leading the nation in total pressure (82).

But Anderson’s influence goes far beyond his stat line. In a time when Edgerusher is so highly regarded, he forces Bama’s observers to crack open the vault and investigate the program’s history. Ultimately, Anderson has to be considered one of the greatest Tied players of all time, in just his two seasons of his career.

Alabama had great linebackers — Cornelius Bennett, Lee Roy Jordan, Roland McLain and Donta Hightower — but Anderson’s best comparison might be Pro and College Football Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas. .

“It’s kind of like the 15th question I get about it,” Mr. Anderson said last month when asked about the comparison to Mr. Thomas at SEC Media Days. “I saw the clip. [He’s] capricious athlete. “

Thomas was more than that. In 1988, he finished 10th in Heisman Trophy voting after posting a school-record 27 sacks, 12 years before the NCAA began tracking the stats. His legend grew up in the NFL. When Thomas died in 2000, he had the ninth-most sacks in NFL history, breaking his record of seven in one game against Seattle in 1990. there is no.

Had Thomas not left us, the torch could have officially passed from one freaky athlete to another in Alabama. His play already has an epiphany of Thomas.

“He’s got incredible explosive power,” Rogers said.

“His ability to get off the ball is amazing,” said CJ Stroud, an Ohio State quarterback who faced Anderson in the 2020 Army All-American Bowl.

Anderson has become so dominant that he has been mentioned as a Heisman Trophy favorite rather than just a nominee. I’m here. Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson is a defensive end force in which he finished second in the voting.

The foundation is now laid for voters. The final defensive runner-up was Alex Karas of Iowa in 1957. Of course, the last defensive winner was Michigan’s Charles Woodson in 1997.

“The reason I put [the Heisman] “Because what’s on my goal sheet this year is not only for myself, but also for the young athletes out there on the field,” Anderson said. we are worth “

This individual is capable and worth much more than that.

“coach [Saban] Alabama defensive coordinator Pete Golding said: … Will emerges with the same mindset every day. He’ll prepare better than anyone else.” You don’t have to count on Will. he has his own “

At Anderson, we don’t just get individuals. What his mother Tereon calls her family a “village” follows almost everywhere on and off the field. Several combinations of his five older sisters are regularly shot down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, just to take care of his younger brother.

“We don’t see him as Will the football player,” said Shannis, the second oldest brother. “We see him as Will, our brother.” We are his home away from home.”

Terrier, a hairstylist closest in age to her brother, said Anderson was recognized at Walmart. I talked to everyone.

“Big Will” remembers one of the owners of Urban Bar & Kitchen in Tuscaloosa noticing that his son was trying to sneak in with a hoodie over his head when he walked in with his family. increase.

“I don’t know why you’re sitting here with a hoodie on your head. Everyone here knows who you are. Please take it off,” Anderson’s father said. said, recalling the playful words of the restaurant owner.

It’s hard not to notice when Anderson walks into the room. He’s done so well in such a short time that he could literally take a year off and still be a top draft pick It’s one of those rare talents that you have. By not playing, you at least avoid the risk of injury.

The sole reason to keep Anderson in college is the NFL Players Association’s collective bargaining agreement, which stipulates that players cannot be drafted until three years after graduating from high school.

“Our village consists only of positive reinforcement,” Terreon said. “…I don’t think much about the injuries, but I don’t think about the mental ones. [aspect]There is no way around it.we are worried about his treatment [fame]You can’t go a week without seeing an article or someone saying something about him. That’s what we are most worried about. “

This issue was resolved by the person himself. Anderson expertly handled entry into the name, image and likeness market, joining A3 to advise other players on name, image and likeness opportunities. Anderson recently told an Atlanta radio station that the 2021 Porsche he drives the Cayenne GTS.

“I love soccer,” Anderson said when asked by CBS Sports about having to play a third season. “I can’t sit in the suburbs and watch other people play football. I was too worried about getting out there. I made a commitment to it, and I stick to it intend to.”

The village recently gathered at the Dutchtown media center to talk about Anderson. Terrier and Shanice were there. Tereon and Big Will sat side by side and talked. There was Rogers and former Dutchtown coach Clifford Fed. Both are currently attending Sumter County High School in Americas, Georgia. Dutchtown Athletic His director, Amber His Smith, was also there with his two daughters.

If you’re talking to one person, you’re talking to everyone. They liked fishing and widely refuted the destructive force of football that forced them to take out the trash even when they were at home.

A recruiter from Alabama once asked Rogers to name the worst of the awards they were pursuing.

“I had nothing,” said Rogers. “Literally nothing. He’s the complete package.”

That’s why it’s worth remembering Anderson’s jewels from the less sophisticated days. The motivation was personal, not in the national championship ring. Fed recalls telling Anderson in 10th grade that he was “soft.”

“Coming from South Georgia, we’ve always called North Georgia players ‘soft,'” Fed explained. “South He goes everywhere in Georgia and North he asks about Georgia players. ‘They’re long and pretty, but they’re soft.'”

Fed did it “just to mess with” the 6-foot-4,235-pound bony-looking kid. But Anderson cried and wanted to quit. He had to sit Rogers down and reassure him it was an ordeal. To survive it, Anderson had to give it back to the Fed.

“The light bulb clicked when he told me Me Fed said.i had to find someone else [to antagonize]It’s no longer fun. “

Anderson admitted to being aware of the North-South comparison. Must be from Georgia. But having grown up to 243lbs as a junior, ‘soft’ doesn’t come to mind, explaining him because opponents offensively will need so much slide his protection this season You will need skates for this.

“The fact is, I know it’s a whole different ball game in South Georgia,” Anderson said. I just want to step in and play Smashmouth football.We have some flashy guys here in North Georgia.We want to look good, we want to play good.”

All of that leads to another, more mature form of motivation. Anderson has a lot of it. Tereon was so angry that her son was transferred to the defense early in his high school career. Mrs. Anderson was not the only one.

“I asked him, ‘Do you know what an SEC defensive lineman looks like? ’” I hate it. He went home crying.”

Big Will was taunting not only his son during the game, but also his son’s coach, urging him to pull him off the field.

“I heard a lot during and after the game,” the linebacker said. “My father was unlike most parents. He wasn’t the kind of parent who said, ‘Let’s get my son in the game.’ He said, ‘Coach, if he doesn’t want to play If so, get his ass out of the game.” everything was love. “

So was Big Will’s conversation with Therion when she was pregnant with her sixth child. [only in males] I didn’t pass.

“I told him he would need to get a new wife,” Terreon said. “That was it for me.”

Luckily, the gender issue worked out. Now the only boy in Anderson Village has all the motives he can handle.

“Georgia was my dream school,” Fed said.

Perhaps this season, that “bond” may be broken. Anderson is “a little out of shape” after the loss at Texas A&M, he said. In his four games in his college football playoffs, he averaged 4.8 tackles and recorded two total sacks.

None of the Heismans, Porsches, Comps and expectations were a distraction. Anderson also plays for his grandmother Betty his Taylor, who passed away in 2020 from complications of COVID-19. The two are inseparable, and Anderson still keeps and wears one of his on the hood.

“She played every game she could,” said Big Will. “I had to push that wheelchair. She said, ‘I’m not going to get in that wheelchair. I’m walking.'” Some of that toughness rubbed off on him Dropped. “

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