It came as a surprise to many when Alabama defensive end Will Anderson and quarterback Bryce Young decided to take part in this year’s Sugar Bowl on Dec. 31. They are both likely to be top-five picks in April’s NFL draft, and few players in their position play in bowl games other than the College Football Playoff to protect themselves from getting injured.
Young is the projected No. 1 overall pick in most mock drafts while Anderson is considered the top prospect by The Draft Network and ESPN partner Scouts Inc. Recent mock drafts from CBS Sports and The Draft Network have Young going first overall and Anderson getting picked third.
Speaking to the media this week ahead of the No. 5 Crimson Tide’s meeting with No. 11 Kansas State, Anderson and Young explained that they are choosing to put their trust in God instead of worrying about suffering an injury.
“I have faith in God,” Anderson said. “God makes no mistakes. That’s another thing me and [Alabama head coach Nick Saban] talked about with the risk factor. That was never anything in my mind. I’ve been playing, what, three years here — some of the hardest football of my life, SEC football. And if I haven’t had that same mentality going into my freshman year, I probably wouldn’t be standing up here right now because I’d be worried about getting hurt or something.”
He added that his competitive nature would have made it really difficult for him to watch his teammates knowing he could be on the field with them.
— Alabama Crimson Tide | AL.com (@aldotcomTide) December 19, 2022
Anderson took home the Nagurski Award and the Bednarik Award — both given to the best defensive player in the country — as well as the Lombardi Award as the nation’s top lineman following his 51-tackle, 10-sack season.
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He also got his degree Dec. 10. With his time at Alabama almost certainly coming to a close, the two-time consensus All-American is trying to keep his focus on the present and savor every moment.
“Just being in the moment, being where my feet are,” Anderson said. “Making sure I’m just enjoying it. Make sure I’m still building those connections, still being a leader, not slacking off, still upholding everything I’ve been talking about since last year, the year before that, this year, everything.
“That’s kind of where I’ve been, just being in the moment, enjoying everything, enjoying the guys. Just the laughs in the locker room, everything. I think that just keeps me going, being around those guys.”
Meanwhile, Young followed up his 2021 Heisman Trophy-winning campaign with 3,007 passing yards and 31 total touchdowns in 11 games this year. He couldn’t turn down the chance to take the field with his “brothers” one final time even if the season didn’t go exactly how they wanted it to.
Every high school + college athlete should listen to Alabama QB Bryce Young on why he's not skipping the Sugar Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft.
"I wanted to finish with my teammates this season." pic.twitter.com/YbzPDAbV9z
— Teddy Mitrosilis (@TMitrosilis) December 20, 2022
The Pasadena, California, native has been active in sharing his faith throughout his college career, including after winning the sport’s most prestigious individual award last season. He is letting God guide his steps as he prepares for the Sugar Bowl and navigates all the draft buzz.
“I mean, the goal is always to go out there and do whatever it takes to win and do what I have to do to do what’s best for the team,” Young said. “I know everything happens for a reason. I place my faith in God. I’m concerned about doing what’s best for the team, whatever it is, play by play, possession by possession on offense to go and try to put points on the board.”
The Sugar Bowl kicks off from the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans at noon ET on New Year’s Eve. It will be televised on ESPN.
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