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Ryan Anderson in search of bigger spotlight at Senior Bowl

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Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson (22) makes a tackle on Arkansas tight end Austin Cantrell during Alabama's 49-30 win over the Razorbacks in Fayetteville Saturday, October 8, 2016.
Gary Cosby Jr. | The Tuscaloosa News

MOBILE | One of the dozens of draft-centric website reporters casually strolled up to Ryan Anderson’s podium Tuesday night at the Senior Bowl and asked one of the best outside linebackers in the country how he felt being one of the top running backs in the draft.

Anderson, one who doesn’t suffer fools and a guy who will call a spade a spade, looked at familiar media faces, pointed his thumb at the poor soul who asked the question and said, “This guy thinks I’m a running back.”

Funny as that moment was, it is a metaphor for Anderson’s last two seasons at the University of Alabama. Those paying close attention to the play on the field recognized Anderson for what he was: One of the best defenders in the nation. To those who look only at statistics, Anderson might have been overlooked by one of his many talented teammates such as Jonathan Allen or Tim Williams or Reuben Foster.

To Anderson’s credit, he never cared all that much about the hype. He wants to be appreciated for his play on the field by the people who matter.

“I’m not worried about being disrespected,” Anderson said. “I’m not concerned about those other guys.”

That attitude holds true to draft projections, and even though he is projected by most analysts as day two selection, Anderson doesn’t put much stock in that.

“I try not to pay attention to most of that stuff. It’s all entertainment,” Anderson said. “At the end of the day, hype is hype. You have to come out here and get better. I’ve got a lot of stuff i’ve got to improve on and I’m going against some of the best players in the country."

Anderson suffered a dislocated thumb on the first day of practice and fought through the pain again Wednesday before shutting it down Thursday afternoon. He stood on the sideline in street clothes and his status for Saturday’s game is not yet known.

Anderson enters the game after an outstanding two-game playoff run, where he won defensive most valuable player honors in the Peach Bowl for his performance against Washington. He recovered two fumbles in the national championship game against Clemson.

That Clemson game still eats away at him, but he sleeps fine at night knowing he did everything he could to help his team win.

"I couldn't walk the next day, man," Anderson said. "No, I really couldn't. My legs were hurting. It took like three or four days to get my legs back. I was limping around a little bit. So, it definitely took a toll on me.”

"I was doing everything to put my team in a position and finish out what we started," he said. "We lost to a good [Clemson] team with good players. It is what it is. I hate the way it ended. But I don't have any regrets. I laid it all out there. I left everything on the field and my best wasn't enough. But I left it all out there.”

This week he’s worked beside Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware. But there’s been no friendly trash talk between the two.

“He ain’t going say nothing about that game,” Anderson said. “That'll start a fight.”

Anderson wasn’t joking.

His former coach thinks the versatility Anderson brings will pay dividends for him when the NFL Draft comes calling.

“Ryan Anderson played great for us,” UA head coach Nick Saban said. “He was a really good leader on our team. He was a very, very consistent performer. He can play inside backer or outside backer, and he’s got some pass-rush ability. I think his versatility as a player creates value.”

Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0229.