CHARLOTTE, N.C. (FWAA) – Will Anderson Jr., a dynamic playmaking linebacker for top-ranked Alabama and a constant nemesis in every opponents’ backfield as the nation’s sack and tackles-for-loss leader, has been named as the recipient of the 2021 Bronko Nagurski Trophy by the Football Writers Association of America.
Anderson was selected from among two other finalists that also included Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis and Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux. Anderson is only the second player at Alabama to win the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, joining defensive end Jonathan Allen in 2016. The Crimson Tide (12-1) have had Bronko Nagurski finalists in nine of the last 11 seasons, most recently nose guard Quinnen Williams in 2018.
The FWAA All-America Committee made the selection of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner as part of the 2021 FWAA All-America Team, which will be released on Friday. The official presentation of the trophy was made tonight at the Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet presented by LendingTree at the Charlotte Convention Center.
The 6-4, 243-pound sophomore from Hampton, Ga., is the primary cog in an Alabama defense that is fourth nationally in rushing defense, giving up 82.9 yards per game. Anderson is versatile in “affecting the quarterback,” a non-statistical term but a favorite of head coach Nick Saban when addressing the media. A force in the backfield, he leads the nation in sacks (15.5) and tackles for loss (32.5) and added a sack and two TFL’s in this past Saturday’s 41-24 win over previously top-ranked Georgia in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
Anderson has had at least one sack in 10 of 13 games and his 92 tackles (53 solo) are second on the team and include and at least one TFL in 12 of 13 games. He has been credited by the Alabama coaching staff with a team-high 38 quarterback pressures this season.
To put his season in finer perspective, Anderson was the 2020 FWAA National Freshman Player of the Year following a stellar season a year ago. But this year’s totals have boosted him to be on pace to reach record territory. Only one player at Alabama – College Football Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Thomas (1985-88) – has averaged more sacks and TFL numbers in his career. Thomas finished his Alabama career averaging 1.06 sacks per game (52 in 49 career games). Anderson, with 22.5 in 26 games, is currently at 0.87 sacks per game with at least one more to play in the College Football Playoff this season. But Anderson leads Thomas’ career TFL numbers currently averaging 1.65 per game (43 in 26 games) to Thomas’ 1.39 (or 68 in 49 games).
Anderson, with 3.5 more sacks, can tie Thomas for the No. 2 spot for single-season sacks (18) in the Alabama record book. His 32.5 TFL’s are already No. 2 behind Thomas’ 39 from the 1988 season.
Anderson was the Bronko Nagurski National Player of the Week on Oct. 16 following a four-sack game at Mississippi State, the most in a single game since Thomas did it in 1988. He earned the SEC’s Defensive Player of the Week honor five times in 12 weeks and was named one of the Crimson Tide’s permanent captains and one of two defensive players of the year at its team banquet Sunday.
Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. (Alabama Athletics)
Davis, the Georgia defensive tackle who was a fellow Bronko Nagurski finalist and a finalist for three other postseason awards including the FWAA’s Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman, gave Anderson high praise in an interview last week while preparing for the SEC Championship Game.
“He’s a game wrecker,” Davis said. “Watching his film and just seeing him, he’s explosive. He’s definitely one of those guys you have to make sure to keep contained. It’s great to see him play.”
Top-ranked Alabama claimed the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoff on Sunday and faces No. 4 seed Cincinnati in the semifinals at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Dec. 31 in Arlington, Texas.
Anderson is the fifth player from the SEC to win the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, following Josh Allen (LB, Kentucky, 2018), Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama, 2016), Glenn Dorsey (DT, LSU, 2007) and Champ Bailey (DB, Georgia, 1998).
The FWAA has chosen a National Defensive Player of the Year since 1993. In 1995, the FWAA named the award in honor of the legendary two-way player from the University of Minnesota. Nagurski dominated college football then became a star for professional football’s Chicago Bears in the 1930s. Bronislaw “Bronko” Nagurski is a charter member of both the College Football and Pro Football Halls of Fame.
The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is a member of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA), which encompasses the most prestigious awards in college football. Founded in 1997, the NCFAA and its 25 awards now boast over 800 recipients, dating to 1935. Visit ncfaa.org and @NCFAA on Twitter to learn more about the association.
Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of journalists, broadcasters, publicists, photographers and key executives in all areas of college football. The FWAA works to govern media access and gameday operations while presenting awards and honors, including an annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its programs and initiatives, contact Executive Director Steve Richardson at 214-870-6516 or email@example.com.
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The Charlotte Touchdown Club is a non-profit organization founded in 1990 for the purpose of promoting high school, collegiate, and professional football in the Charlotte, N.C., region. The club’s activities and services focus community attention on the outstanding citizenship, scholarship, sportsmanship, and leadership of area athletes and coaches. Since 1990, the club has raised and donated nearly $3 million to benefit area high school and collegiate athletics. For more information, contact John Rocco (704-347-2918 or firstname.lastname@example.org). The official website of the Charlotte Touchdown Club is touchdownclub.com.
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