Texans edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., center, poses with his parents, William and Tereon Anderson, on the NFL Draft red carpet
Texans edge rusher Will Anderson Jr., center, poses with his parents, William and Tereon Anderson, on the NFL Draft red carpet in Kansas City, Missouri. Credit: AP Images for NFL/Doug Benc

Over the years, Will Anderson Jr. has been influenced by so many along his football journey.

But no influence has been greater for the Texans’ third-overall draft pick than family. Anderson’s family and their love and support are with him wherever he goes – always internally, but often in the physical sense.

“I’m really tight with my family, especially my dad and my mom and all my sisters,” Anderson said. “They kept me grounded, kept me humble, making sure I was keeping the main thing, the main thing and making sure whatever mission I was trying to do, I was going to complete it.”

Also with him in spirit is his grandmother, Betty, who died in 2020. But to make sure she was with him on draft night, Anderson had his suit designed with a picture of her on the inside lining of his sports coat.

“This is like my best friend my whole life. She helped raise me. I went to go live with her,” Anderson said shortly after the Texans traded up to draft him. “She passed away my freshman year in college. She loved me and she loved football so much. She wasn’t able to be here, but I wanted to dedicate her in some way and know that she is watching over me and she is here with me on this special day.”

With the support of a great family, most of whom were on hand for Anderson’s introductory press conference, Anderson put together one of the most dominant college football careers at Alabama in recent history. The 6-foot-4, 254-pound linebacker/edge rusher was deemed the can’t-miss-player of this draft, which is why the Texans pulled off the biggest surprise of the first round, taking Anderson minutes after they had selected quarterback C.J. Stroud with the No. 2 pick.

There had been heavy speculation in the days leading up to the NFL Draft that new coach DeMeco Ryans and general manager Nick Caserio might forgo the need to take a quarterback in the second slot and instead take Anderson. Instead, the Texans surrendered four draft picks to the Cardinals to move up from No.12 to get the best of both worlds.

Nobody was probably more relieved than Anderson, who had developed a bond with Ryans during the pre-draft process. He was the first player the Texans hosted and the two former Bama linebackers instantly connected.

“I told them a dozen times probably, like I’m so appreciative of them,” said Anderson, who was a two-time All-American and SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

Also, this past season he won the Lombardi Award here in Houston. “I don’t take this for granted. That showed me how much they actually wanted me here. That’s all I wanted is to go somewhere where I felt wanted, where I felt like it was family. That’s what I’m big on. Just getting that feeling from them, it means everything.”

Clearly, Anderson is the type of player on and off the field who Ryans coveted as the new cornerstone of his defense.

“Love the energy that he brings,” Ryans said. “Love the passion, and love the humbleness, but also the competitor in him. It just like sticks out. That’s the thing that I love about Will. That’s who he is. He doesn’t change.”

Adulation and respect definitely go both ways.

“When I came here and I talked to Coach Ryans, I was like I’ve got to be here,” said Anderson, who amassed 204 tackles, 115 of which were solo, 58.5 tackles for loss and 34.5 sacks during his three-year playing career at Alabama. “The same exact mindset, the same mentality, what he’s trying to preach, everything. That’s what I’m all about, and that’s what I want to do. It’s going to be a lot of hard work. Nothing is given to me. That’s the way I like it. I want to go out there and earn it. I want to go out and compete.”

Will Anderson Jr.

Height: 6-foot-4. Weight 254 pounds

College: Alabama

Accolades: Lombardi Award (2022), two-time Bronko Nagurski Trophy (2021, 2022), Chuck Bednarik Award (2022), Lott Trophy (2022), two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year (2021, 2022), two-time Unanimous All-American (2021, 2022).

Texans 2023 Draft Class

Round 1: No. 2 – C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Round 1: No. 3 (from ARI) – Will Anderson Jr., LB, Alabama

Round 2: No. 62 (from PHI) – Juice Scruggs, G, Penn State

Round 3: No. 69. (from LAR) – Tank Dell, WR, Houston

Round 4: No. 109 (from LV) – Dylan Horton, DE, TCU

Round 5: No. 167 (from LAR) – Henry To’Oto’o, LB, Alabama

Round 6: No. 201 (from MIN) – Jarrett Patterson, C, Notre Dame

Round 6: No. 205 (from BUF) – Xavier Hutchinson, WR, Iowa State

Round 7: No. 248 (from PHI) – Brandon Hill, DB, Pitt

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Terrance HarrisPro | College Sports Editor

I've been with The Defender since August 2019. I'm a long-time sportswriter who has covered everything from college sports to the Texans and Rockets during my 16 years of living in the Houston market....