The best defensive player in the country will be back next year and has plenty of time and potential to grow his brand.
Alabama defensive lineman Will Anderson was one of the best defensive players in the country in 2021. And while Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson was the only player on that side of the ball to be invited to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist, Anderson had a good case to be there as well.
Fortunately for fans, this won’t be the last time we see Anderson on a college field, as he isn’t NFL Draft eligible until 2023. He’ll enter next season on the shortlist of potential favorites.
Laying the Foundation
- Consensus All-American
- SEC Defensive Player of the Year
- Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner (awarded to nation’s best defensive player)
- First-team all-SEC
- Finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting
Being a finalist for both the Nagurski Trophy and nearly missing the Heisman ballot will bolster his already growing national visibility. Being on Alabama also guarantees exposure — the Tide are the biggest brand in the game right now and are perennial playoff contenders. They’ll face Cincinnati on New Year’s Eve in the national semifinals.
Even as a sophomore, Anderson is one of the best athletes on the team. Dr. Matt Rhea, Alabama’s director of sports sciences, told ESPN.com that Anderson has reached 20 mph on GPS in practice and is the fastest Tide player going from a standstill to five yards.
Anderson also led the nation in sacks this year with 15.5, which is three more than the next-best player in the SEC, Sam Williams.
Anderson is a stud linebacker who is only a sophomore. He knows he has one more year in college and has decided to wait until after this season to begin pursuing NIL deals.
“I haven’t really been looking into doing any NIL deals right now,” he said in an interview before the Iron Bowl against Auburn. “I’ve just kind of been low key. I’m just worried about the season and waiting for all that stuff until after the season. But right now, my main focus is just playing football.”
Anderson’s social media does not have any announced partnerships. And even as teammates such as quarterback and Heisman winner Bryce Young have capitalized on NIL deals early in the process, Anderson is keeping his focus on the field. Given the reactions to him not being a Heisman finalist, his profile will only rise in the College Football Playoff and heading into 2022.