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Will Anderson Believes You Can ‘Turn On Any Game’ And See Him At His Very Best

Talking to Will Anderson is pretty funny if you’ve ever watched him play football. Anderson, the former Alabama star who was a consensus All-American edge rusher each of the last two seasons, is kind, funny, and constantly has a smile on his face. Of course, there’s a lot for him to be happy about right now, as he is almost certainly going to go in the top-5 of the 2023 NFL Draft when it rolls around next week.

The reason he is going so high is because the jovial nature that comes through in interviews goes away the nanosecond he steps on the football field. Anderson is perhaps the most tenacious player that Nick Saban has produced in his pro factory in Tuscaloosa in some time, as evidenced by his 58.5 tackles for loss and 34.5 sacks in three years. Whenever Alabama has needed someone on its defense to come up with a big play over the last few years, Anderson has been able to consistently find another gear. It’s made him into a big-time NFL prospect, the sort of defensive game-changer that every team covets as part of a rebuild.

Before the Draft rolls around, Uproxx caught up with Anderson as part of his partnership with Courtyard by Marriott that will give him a chance to interact with fans the day before the Draft. Beyond that, we discussed his competitive drive, going up against Bryce Young in practice every day, and much more.

What do you got going on with Courtyard?

Yeah, so, Courtyard by Marriott, the official hotel of the NFL, Courtyard is hosting a VIP fan zone at the NFL Draft with 32 fans, with tickets handed out by me in downtown Kansas City at 4 p.m. And I’ll be down there, and there’s gonna be a good turnout, hopefully a lot of fans come out, get to meet some fans, and have a good time. So, that’s what we got going on.

Speaking of the NFL Draft, has it hit you that you’re one week away from finally being an NFL player? Or do you think that’s not coming until you’re on stage shaking Commissioner Goodell’s hand?

Honestly, I really don’t think it gonna be ’til next week. I mean, now I know that time is getting closer, but it still hasn’t hit me just yet. Like, it hasn’t hit me at all, for real.

Let’s say you’re talking to an NFL team, and they want to know the case for why they should draft Will Anderson. What is the case that you make for yourself?

Yeah, so I’m just saying, like, I’m a very versatile player, I can play in both schemes, 3-4 or 4-3. I’m also a high character guy that will get his job done. And I’d be a good person, on and off the field, and I bring others along with me. And I think that’s what separates me from a lot of people, I can connect with guys but I can also go out there and lead by example, do my job, work hard, have a good work ethic, and really just be an all-around athlete, all-around player, for real. And I think that’s one of the biggest things about me, just my relentless mindset, my relentless motor that I have and what I bring to the game.

I’m talking to you right now and I see you’re such a nice guy. And then I watched your tape, and you’re nasty out on the field. Where does that competitive drive, mindset, spirit come from?

It has been instilled in me, kind of my whole life. My dad, my coaches, just being at Alabama, and for me, I’ve always said nothing needs to get you motivated to go out there and play the sport that you love. And I love football so much. When I get out there, it’s go time. I’m saying it’s time to flip that switch, go out there and attack and go do your job, fly around and jump up and down with your teammates, and hit people. And that’s what I’m all about. That’s how much I love the game. That’s how I get myself ready to go out there and do what I need to do.

And I watch your film and you’ve got your hand in the dirt, you’re standing up, you’re rushing off the edge and you’re blowing by a tackle. You’re blowing up a guard and getting a running back for a loss. Have you always been someone comfortable doing everything? Or do you feel like there’s an area where your game has really grown since getting to college?

Yeah, most definitely. As soon as I got to Alabama, they were using me everywhere. My freshman year, I was playing a 4-I, my freshman year, it was kind of just a mix of everything. It was just sprinkling me around, here and there. As I kept going, that’s when they started stationing me in certain games, you’re facing certain things there. And for me, I always looked at it as creating value for myself. Playing on the edge is always great, and I love to do that, that’s kind of like what my baby is, that’s where I’d be more comfortable, not really the 4-I. But playing on the edge is where I feel like … I want to keep improving my game, but that’s my strong point in my game.

What’s more important as a pass rusher, is it being bigger, faster, stronger, and having the best technique? Or is it having that drive and that fire where you’re not letting anyone stop you from getting to a quarterback, no matter what they try to do?

As a pass rusher, as far as size, some of the guys in the NFL are 6’2, 6’1, it’s really just about that mindset that you have. And yes, technique plays a big part, especially at the next level. So, technique really does have a lot to play in it. But being a pass rusher, I think I just have a relentless mindset to get to the quarterback and it’s really all about your first bit, your first step sets up everything. So, you have that mindset, and a good game plan, and some good technique behind that, you’re gonna be really special, really good.

You have plenty of great games from your time in Tuscaloosa. But if you want people to watch a specific game to see the very best of Will Anderson, what would you tell them to watch?

They can really turn on any game. You know what I’m saying? Each game, I’ve always — besides two, but we’re not gonna talk about that [laughs] — but you can really watch any game. I feel like as an edge guy, as a defensive end, any of those things, there’s so much more that people, I feel, some people don’t see. It’s just not about going out there and getting a sack. When you really hone in on the tape, and really watch, playing the run, using hands, shedding blocks, all that good stuff, getting to the ball. I think I do all those things really well and showed that in every game that I played in.

I always love asking dudes about teammates in the Draft, and if I did that with you for every Alabama guy in the Draft, we’d be here for an hour. But I want to ask about Bryce. What was it like in practice where it’s an offense led by the Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, and the defense led by the best dude in the country at getting to a quarterback in you?

Yeah, it was very competitive, very competitive. We couldn’t hit Bryce in practice, so that’s really why he talks smack all the time. We would literally get to him and sack him, and since we couldn’t touch him, he’d be like, “That’s not a sack! That’s not a sack! That’s not a sack!” And it’d have us so hot. And I think that just drove the competitive practices, but it was always fun. Both of us did a really good job as a leader on both sides of the ball, the guys responded really well to us. I think they just see how hard we worked and how much it meant to us. We were all bought into it, we just want to go out there and have fun.

I spoke to Bryce last year, and in talking to you now, I see that same professionalism, that same dedication to putting in the work to be great. How did he make you a better football player? And how did you make him a better football player?

Honestly, our minds are so similar. We share so much of the same thing. It really was just us feeding off of each other, because he was a big competitor, I was a big competitor. Preparation meant a lot to him, preparation means a lot to me. The love that we have for the game, it was just kind of easy to be teammates. I wouldn’t say both of us were already polished, but once we had to become a leadership group, and once we became so close, we were just, bro, we’re just alike. You help me, I help you, because we already know how it’s going to be.

My final two questions. First one, who are your favorite edge guys to watch in the NFL right now and why do you pick them?

I like Khalil Mack, Von Miller, and Nick Bosa. All of those are speed-to-power guys that know how to work off speed-to-power, bull rush, swipe, all the little things. Stuff like that, inside moves. So that’s really why I watch them and try to emulate my game.

And then my last question, I know your nickname is The Terminator. And I read something in 2021 where you said you’ve never seen the movie. It’s been two years, have you seen The Terminator yet?

[laughs] I still haven’t seen it yet!

Well, next time you get down to Tuscaloosa, I’m sure Coach Saban would love to take three hours out of his day and sit down and watch it with you. Because I know if there’s one thing that guy loves to do, and it’s not focus on football 24/7.

[laughs] Yeah, he probably won’t do that, though.