Ex-Tulane linebacker Nick Anderson looks to keep defying the odds with Saints
The New Orleans Saints held their rookie camp this past weekend with 48 participants including 13 undrafted college free agents signed in the aftermath of the draft last month. During his initial introduction with the Saints, former Tulane linebacker Nick Anderson is just a typical rookie trying to acclimate to the challenges of the NFL.
One of those undrafted prospects is a familiar name to local fans.
“Overall, it’s been a great experience. I learned from Coach Michael Hodges and the other ‘backers. It’s a more complex scheme. The terminology is a little different, things that they run are just a little different. I just have the mindset that I’m going to soak everything in on a daily basis,” explained Anderson.
Listed at 5-foot-10 and 230 pounds, Anderson may not be the ideal size for an NFL linebacker. With a 4.6 forty time, a 36.5-inch vertical, 400-pound bench press, 600-pound squat squat, he still possesses enough speed and strength for the position.
Anderson’s biggest attributes include great anticipation and football IQ. He reads the eyes of quarterbacks well. Anderson is a downhill, explosive tackler who has the refuse-to-lose mentaltity needed to overcome the odds.
“The weight room is where I excel,” said Anderson. “My natural leverage gives me an advantage over bigger opponents. I’m a smaller guy with athleticism. I can play sideline to sideline. I’ll do whatever necessary to make the final 53.”
Anderson’s Green Wave defense allowed 22.2 points per game last season, ranked second in the conference. He managed 113 tackles to help lead American Athletic Conference and Cotton Bowl winning efforts.
He rarely takes false steps, and early recognition is a strength. Anderson’s natural ability and diligent preparation set him apart from most players.
“Overall, it’s a little bit of film study and innate skills,” he said. “I have natural instincts. I am a student of the game. That all comes from a lot of preparation and hours of film study. Late at night getting into my playbook. Having great coaches has helped me a lot.”
The product of Vicksburg, Mississippi feels he is not pigeon-holed as strictly a run stuffing inside player. Anderson believes he can rush the passer and play outside off the ball as needed.
“One of the things that helped me last year was my versatility. Putting me in a position on the edge. The Saints employ a 4-3 defense. I can help out at SAM. I have experience there. Thanks to the Tulane coaches for getting me the opportunity and giving me the confidence.”
Anderson has modeled his style after an outstanding player who won the Butkus Award in college and a Super Bowl in the NFL. The same current NFL performer has already collected 483 tackles during his first four NFL seasons to date.
“Devin White, a Louisiana guy,” Nick stated. “He has tenacity for the game. He has strength, speed, plays with a swagger. I just want to have fun. I want to model myself after someone like him.”
Not hearing his name called during the NFL draft has served as a motivation for Anderson, who carries a chip on his shoulder due to the undersized label. He was a two-star prospect in 2018, spending one season at Jones County where he led the squad with 74 tackles prior to heading to Tulane
“My path has never been an easy one going to junior college then Tulane, having to work my way up the depth chart. I go back to the underdog mentality. Just doing all the extra things and keeping my head down.”
Special teams may offer the best avenue for Anderson to earn a spot on the Saints roster.
“That’s what I always prioritized. (Tulane) coach (Willie) Fritz made sure that all starters had special team experience. I had 776 snaps on special teams while at Tulane. I started on two special team groups – punting and kickoff. I definitely plan to make an impact on special teams with the Saints.”
Tulane crafted an historic campaign last fall. It was a culmination of a number of factors. Having veteran leaders like Anderson was vital. Having players step up when called upon was as well.
One game stands out.
The Green Wave was coming off of their first loss, a 27-24 loss to Southern Miss at Yulman Stadium in the fourth game of the season. Next up was AAC favorite Hosuton on the road. The season could have followed a number of paths at that point.
To complicate things, the Wave would not have the services of starting quarterback Michael Pratt. That challenge was magnified further when backup Justin Ibieta was also injured on the first possession of the game. Freshman third-stringer Kai Horton was thrusted into the lineup.
Anderson decided to take control of the situation by leading a strong defensive effort against a potent Houston offense. He finished with a career-best 14 tackles in a stunning 27-24 overtime win.
“That was a personal game for me,” Anderson said with a smile. “(Houston) was picked to win the conference. Everybody was riding on their coat tails. I knew what we had and what we could do. Winning that game put us over the top, especially coming off the Southern Miss loss. I just went out there with the right mentality.”
The ’22 Green Wave enjoyed a storied, memorable season. It’s the type that will live on for generations to come.
The locker room atmosphere was amazing. We looked at each other as family, brothers who played for each other week in and week out. No one cared about the stats or who got the credit. We just played for the guy next to you. We now have 10 guys in NFL camps. The focus last year was to win, but this is the residual affect. Team success brings individual success.”
Anderson hopes he can parlay his college success and his own talents into a pro career in the same city. Fans in New Orleans will certainly have his back on that quest.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to play football at LSU, developing a passion for the game in even greater fashion while in…