football Edit

Will Anderson's Alabama teammates marvel over his 'Heisman' heroics

Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) celebrates with linebacker Henry To'oTo'o (10) after scoring against the UL Monroe Warhawks during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Photo | Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Will Anderson Jr. (31) celebrates with linebacker Henry To'oTo'o (10) after scoring against the UL Monroe Warhawks during the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Photo | Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Heisman moments don’t happen against Louisiana-Monroe. However, when it comes to celebrating Will Anderson Jr.’s first touchdown in an Alabama uniform, his fellow Crimson Tide teammates aren’t afraid to drum up a bit of hype.

Just ask cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry, who began his assessment of the reigning Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner with one word.

“Heisman,” McKinstry said shaking his head. “What he can’t do, man? I mean, I’ve done seen it all.”

McKinstry thought that was the case heading into Alabama’s game against ULM Saturday. Last season, the sophomore saw Anderson lead the nation with 33.5 tackles for a loss and 17.5 sacks over 15 games, putting together the most dominant campaign by a Crimson Tide defender since Derrick Thomas’ record-breaking 1988 campaign.

Of course, Anderson had a new trick up his sleeve Saturday as he recorded his first career interception, corralling a bobbled pass at the ULM 25-yard line before racing toward the end zone for a score.

“Actually, that’s my first time seeing him catch an interception,” said McKinstry who now has as many interceptions in his career as Anderson. “We’re just so proud of him. He brings so much energy to the team.”

Anderson’s score came as ULM quarterback Chandler Rogers was pressured by blitzing defensive back Malachi Moore on the right side. Looking to get the ball off quickly, the quarterback fired a pass that ricocheted off the hands of running back Andrew Henry. From there, Anderson jumped up to snatch the ball before scooting down the right sideline. Rogers gave chase, but a simple stiff-arm from Anderson around the 15-yard line allowed the 6-foot-4, 243-pound edge rusher to easily shove aside the quarterback.

Following the game, Anderson was not made available by Alabama to discuss his heroics. However, Mike linebacker Henry To’oTo’o did his best to sum up both the play and Anderson’s reaction from his own vantage point on the field.

“He’s probably surprised he caught it,” To’oTo’o said with a laugh. “I’m not going to lie. Definitely had a little stiff-arm, and then he was just watching it when they put the highlights on the board. He was like, ‘Man, I can’t believe I did that.’

The play before his touchdown return, Anderson recorded a sack, bringing down Rogers for a 3-yard loss on first-and-10. The edge rusher finished Saturday’s game with five total stops, including 1.5 for a loss, to go with his Pick 6.

Through three games, Anderson has 15 tackles, 4.5 for a loss, with a pair of sacks. While not bad, he’ll need to up the pace if he’s going to match last year’s production that saw him finish in fifth place in the Heisman voting.

According to VegasInsider, Anderson currently has the fifth-best Heisman odds in the nation at +2200. Saturday’s score will help improve that as it put the linebacker back into the award’s conversation following a penalty-plagued game against Texas.

At the very least, it gave him and his teammates something to smile about.

“Definitely super proud of him,” To’oTo’o said, “and he was happy about it.”