Union Station is empty as the NFL draft graphics cycle through the screens projecting the future of Bryce Young and Will Anderson like a slot machine featuring team logos. The Kansas City wind cuts as Young and Anderson shiver on a couch at the Courtyard VIP Fan Zone, a far cry from the Alabama sun that will soon become a distant memory. Sounds of construction throughout the morning become a fitting metaphor for franchises picking atop the draft as hope springs eternal.
Anderson’s eyes light up when asked when he knew Young was “him” as the defender admits he does not want to “fanboy” over his former Alabama teammate then begins to gush over what he observed from the quarterback. The imposing defender admitted he started getting familiar with Young by watching YouTube highlight before eventually realizing the star was going to be “top dog.”
“I been knew [about Young], I don’t know, I wouldn’t say I was a fanboy, but I come from a little small area in Georgia, so I wasn’t used to seeing all the big recruits,” Anderson said of Young during an exclusive interview with Heavy Sports on the eve of the 2023 NFL draft. “So, that was my first time watching [Young], but I had heard so much about Bryce. I already knew [early that] he’s going to go to NFL. He got everything already and I already knew how good he was, and then I seen him in the game and he was just crazy, crazy- and I watched the highlights- I watch everybody’s highlights.
“And then we got to Alabama, even his freshman year, I just saw the way he worked, everything like that. And from his sophomore year to junior year, I was like, oh, he’s been had everything that you need in an NFL quarterback and what an NFL quarterback looks like from preparation to play to being a teammate, being a leader. …I watched his highlights and met him and [knew] he gonna be top dog.”
Will Anderson to Bryce Young Ahead of NFL Draft: ‘Remember When I Tackled You?’
The conversation turns competitive as I ask for some practice stories as the two Alabama stars were the leaders of their respective units. Anderson admitted to fearing the wrath of Alabama head coach Nick Saban after breaking the one rule of every practice- do not hit the quarterback.
“Remember when I tackled you?” Anderson asks Young.
The pass rusher begins to recount a story of tackling Young in practice after one of the Alabama offensive lineman pushed him into the quarterback. The two then debate how many sacks Anderson would have had on Young if the pass rusher were permitted to tackle the signal-caller in practice.
The good news for Young is the star defender was a menace to opposing quarterbacks notching 27.5 sacks over his final two seasons with the Crimson Tide. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compares Anderson to Hall of Fame pass rusher DeMarcus Ware citing his “traits, athleticism and production” as indicators of a potential Pro Bowl career.
Unlike Young, Anderson’s future is far less certain heading into the draft. The NFL loves to create suspense on draft night, but all signs point to the Panthers making Young the No. 1 pick. Anderson could go as high as No. 2 to the Texans with the pass rusher labeling the Seahawks and Lions as additional teams where he had good pre-draft visits.
All Signs Point to Bryce Young Being Selected by the Carolina Panthers With the No. 1 Pick
Young does not mention the Panthers by name, but I ask the quarterback for his message to his new fan base. The likely No. 1 pick starts with gratitude and ends with a promise.
“First and foremost, I’m grateful. Just thank you for everyone who believed in me and grateful for the embrace of that fan base,” Young said of his NFL future. “Just know that I’m going to give everything I have, give 100% [and] do everything I can to help achieve those team goals that we have.”
What can NFL fans expect from Anderson at his eventual next stop? Anderson emphasizes that he plans to “uplift the culture” of whatever team calls his name in Kansas City.
“I’m going to be super excited,” Anderson remarked. “To whatever team chooses me, it’s going to be a big blessing. And when I get there, I’m going to do my best to uplift the culture that they have there, and just be true to myself and have a good time and bring guys along. Just be me and have fun.”
Bryce Young & Will Anderson Partnered With Courtyard by Marriott to Give 32 Fans a VIP Experience at the 2023 NFL Draft
We were able to get a sneak peak at the NFL Draft Inner Circle inside Kansas City’s Union Station where the Courtyard VIP Fan Zone is located. Young and Anderson partnered with Courtyard by Marriott to present 32 fans with an opportunity to attend the draft in the VIP Fan Zone, a luxurious section at the event that offers these individuals the best seat in the house.
“This is a super fun partnership for both of us,” Young explained. “They’re doing an amazing thing, giving back to the community [by] giving 32 tickets for fans to come experience the draft here in the NFL Draft Inner Circle. We’re super grateful to be part of the experience.”
Something tells us these fans will not have to wait long to hear Young and Anderson’s name called on draft night.