Will Anderson Redefining His Leadership Role
Will Anderson seemed to have a light switch moment in a press conference after Alabama's narrow win over the Florida Gators in September. Something clicked, and he seemed to realize that his words to the media had to be translated to his team.
While answering one question, the edge linebacker they call "The Terminator" seemed to decide mid-sentence he wasn't going to allow being a vocal leader to be difficult for him any longer.
While Anderson's play continued to grab national attention, in Tuscaloosa and those who follow the Crimson Tide the closest began to recognize him as the most influential defensive leader next to senior defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis.
In 2022, Anderson, with more eyes on him than ever, recognizes the weight that has been placed on his shoulders and the value of supporting it with and for his teammates. He said in Monday's press conference that this Spring is about mental growth: schoolwork to graduate in December and leadership qualities for his team.
“One of the biggest things that we came to an agreement about when we all met was just everybody being bought in and everybody committed," Anderson said. "Nobody is looking to take the short road out. We know what we did last year. We know what we have to work on so everybody is bought in and committed to what we have to do.”
Anderson said he learned from last year's leadership group that taking the opportunity to speak up was a valuable trait.
"We’re all brothers, no matter how they take it. It’s all love at the end of the day so not being scared to step on people’s toes and being that vocal leader because people are going to respond to just how you deal with it, and what you say and how you say it.”
Now rising as a junior leader and projected as the potential first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and Heisman candidate, all alongside Bryce Young, Anderson knows he and his squad on the defensive side still have plenty to improve on in preparation for the coming season.
“I think we are capable of being better than we were last year," Anderson said. "I think, starting towards the end we started to gel a little bit more but I think we just want to toll that over to the spring. I think that’s one of the biggest things, just keep gelling, keep working together, everybody playing together, everybody playing faster and physical.”
Anderson will put the onus on himself to maximize his own abilities and traits, as leading by example still proves to be his natural skill. Of course, as a player coming off a 17.5 sack season and a record 34.5 tackles for loss, it must be truly terrifying for opposing offensive tackles to read and hear Anderson's intentions of eclipsing everything he did in 2021.
"I have goals every year and those goals are going to be even bigger and better than the goals I set for myself last year," Anderson said. "Yeah, it’s hit me. It’s crazy to think about it but I’m just focused on next season and getting ready for that season.”