Staying true to yourself is a big part of Will Anderson Jr.'s life philosophy. That philosophy has helped Anderson realize one of his dreams as a pro football player for the NFL's Houston Texans after being the No. 3 overall pick in April's draft.
That mindset also helped Anderson flourish at Alabama, where his finished fifth in the Heisman Trophy voting while helping the Crimson Tide capture another national title under Nick Saban in 2020. Anderson, who also earned a communications degree at Alabama, is the proud recipient of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Lombardi Award, the Chuck Bednarik Award and the Lott Trophy.
Anderson is part of a young Texans team that is led by first-year head coach Demarco Ryans, a former two-time Pro Bowl linebacker who arrived in Houston after a successful tenure as the 49ers' defensive coordinator. Ryans, Ryan and the rest of the Texans are hoping to get their first win of the year this Sunday against the Jaguars.
Anderson recently discussed a myriad of topics with CBS Sports that included his first career sack, handling pre-draft criticism, Texans QB and fellow rookie C.J. Stroud and his new partnership with Klutch Athletics by New Balance.
Let's start with your first career sack, which just so happened to come against former league MVP Lamar Jackson. What was that like?
"It was a surreal moment. I think that was my first game where I honestly felt like I was in the NFL. I remember before the game I cried a little bit. I had missed him like three times that game, and my coaches were like, 'Just keep rushing. Just keep rushing.'
"It was crazy. When I sacked him, I was so hyped that I really didn't even know that I had sacked him. I wasn't surprised by it because I had prepared and practiced the right way; I have good practice habits.
"I just give credit to all the guys up front really because without them I don't get that sack. The guys in the interior did a really good job of just pushing the pocket. And that's really the main thing. We want to rush as one, we want to be a great D-line, and we want to rush together and we want to create history.
"That's really the main thing up front is just causing disruption, caution havoc and just rushing together."
I thought how you responded to people referring to 2022 as a "down" year for you at Alabamawas really impressive. Did those comments motivate you now?
"One thing I learned being in college and being at Alabama is not trying to meet anybody else's expectations. The only person that you have to prove something to is yourself, and you do that preparing the right way, having a good practice, having a good work ethic and practicing and playing hard. Really, anybody's else opinions about me, I don't really pay attention to it because at the end of the day, nine of of 10, those people don't know football and they never played a down of football.
"I have a really good family base around me too to always remind me of who you are, what God has in sore for you and just leaning on God."
You are coming from a dynasty at Alabama to team that is starting something from the ground up. What has that experience been like?
"It's been fun. For me, I'm all about growth and building and creating something new and on the up and coming of making history. That's what I'm all about. Just to be a part of a franchise like this, a great group of guys, a great coaching staff. It's really exciting.
"Nobody said that it was going to be easy. … We have to keep getting better and keep building that foundation. ... I'm really excited about it. It feels like it is the perfect situation for everybody on the team to go out, dominate and make history."
You and C.J. Stroud are key parts of a young Texans roster. What are some of your takeaways from being C.J.'s teammate over the past several months?
"C.J.'s a phenomenal athlete. He comes to work and works hard every day. He's always one of the first people in the building and one of the last people to leave. He's a team captain, so the guys respect him a lot. I respect him a lot.
"I have nothing but love for C.J.. … I think the way he can operate an offense, get those guys going, and read different defenses so quick, it's really special. I'm really excited for him and his future."
Is there a veteran on the team that has made an impact on you?
"I will say Jerry Hughes. He's so knowledgeable. Me and him always talk about not getting lazy with the technique. Don't get bored with it. Every day, you've got to come to work. He's always just been so great.
"It's so crazy. We went to dinner last night, and I was talking to someone and Jerry showed up a little later. We were saying, like we've never, ever seen Jerry not smiling, not having a good time. Ever since I've been here since OTAs, Jerry's never had a bad day. It just makes want to go harder. If he can go out there and do it and he's been in the league for 14 years, why can't we come out here and do it? … Having a vet like that in a room full of young guys is very exciting, and I'm very grateful."
What is your long term goal in the NFL?
"Everyone wants to say Super Bowl and statistics, all of that. But really for me, it's staying true to who am I. At the beginning and the end of my career, I just want people to remember that Will Anderson was always Will Anderson. He wasn't anybody else. He was always himself. And I take big pride in that, just staying true to myself and being me."
You recently partnered up with Klutch Athletics by New Balance. What has that experience been like so far?
"I'm very grateful for the opportunity. Coming up where I'm from, not a lot of kids get an opportunity like this, so for me to have an opportunity for this for my family, I'm very grateful. To be part of Klutch Athletics by New Balance is a dream come true.
"I just wanted to be with someone who was authentic, shares those family values and is all about being different. I think that's my biggest thing. … I want to be different. I want to make history. That's how I looked at it. I'm just very grateful to be part of this brand."
I've got one of their hoodies, and I'm not going to lie, it's extremely comfortable. What are some of your favorite Klutch by New Balance products?
"Quality is one of the biggest things. The shoes are comfortable. You can style them with any type of outfit. I surround most of my outfits nowadays around the shoes that I have because they literally are so fly.
"The sweatshirts, the hoodies, the shorts. People at the facility are like, 'When are you gonna hook me up with some of this gear?' It's really exciting, especially when you get to see how people react to it. When I'm the locker room or with my training staff, they're like, 'You've got all this gear. I want some. It looks comfortable.' Just to see that, it really makes be excited for the future."