Vicksburg linebacker Anderson is the Defensive Player of the Year

Published 11:00 pm Friday, December 23, 2016

Nick Anderson is one of the strongest athletes in Warren County. The 5-foot-10, 215-pound junior linebacker bench presses 325 pounds. He can squat 505 pounds.

And yet, his greatest feat of strength this season might have been the simple act of putting on a uniform.

Anderson injured his back in overtime against Grenada on Oct. 28. He continued to play the next two weeks, helping Vicksburg High beat Holmes County Central and stay competitive in a playoff game against Lake Cormorant. It was the kind of grit, resolve, and steadiness that made Anderson a leader on the defense and the best in the county.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Anderson, who had 136 total tackles and 19 tackles for loss this season, is the 2016 Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year.

“If it wasn’t for my defense and my coaches, and my mom and my grandparents, and God foremost, none of this would be possible. Especially my mom,” Anderson said. “Last year, being a sophomore and having to earn my reps, everything that’s happening now is coming off hard work and dedication. I just thank God.”

Anderson had 61 tackles as a sophomore in 2015, but had to earn his way back into the starting lineup because of some missteps in the classroom — he got a B in Spanish, which caused his parents Emmarie and Stephen Anderson to remove him from the football team until he raised it back up to an A.

“It was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Anderson said. “It helped me stay focused on the goal at hand. My main goal for the year was us being state champions, but this is a pretty good achievement and I’m pretty thankful for it.”

Anderson did raise that B back to an A and also regained his place as the Gators’ starting middle linebacker. This year he truly came into his own with 10 or more tackles in 10 of the Gators’ 13 games. He also finished the season with five sacks, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

“I was watching his highlight film the other day, and it seems like when he gets you he’s got cruel intentions. I like it. We need it, and that’s the persona we’ve got on our defense. What better than Nick Anderson to be the leader of that defense, and to have him for another year is a blessing,” Vicksburg coach Marcus Rogers said. “He personifies everything in a middle linebacker. He’s sideline to sideline. He reminds me of (former Warren Central and current Grambling star DeArius) Christmas. That kid was smart, he’s smart. I’m just glad he’s on my ballclub.”

Smart hardly begins to describe Anderson. The young man who can seemingly lift a house might have built his strength by lifting a ton of books. He has a 4.23 GPA and is on course to be the valedictorian in Vicksburg High’s Class of 2018.

Rogers said Anderson approaches football just like another class. He’s an avid watcher of game film and smartly applies what he learns from it to what he sees on the field.

“You’re talking about a middle linebacker that’s going to be the valedictorian. I don’t think that’s ever happened in the history of football,” Rogers said with a laugh. “Defensive guys, we joke with them as offensive guys about being jocks and not being able to think as much. But this kid probably watches more film than me. He’s very academically astute, but just as good on the field.”

Anderson is also as tough as he is smart and strong. While making a tackle in overtime of that 42-41 loss to Grenada, he started suffering back spasms. He wasn’t able to practice heading into the regular-season finale against Holmes County Central the following week, or the first round of the playoffs against Lake Cormorant the week after that.

Anderson instead spent the week watching film and undergoing physical therapy. He played and had three tackles against Holmes County. Against Lake Cormorant, he made 12 solo tackles, assisted on three more, and had two tackles for loss.

“All he could do was therapy and watch film, and get ready to play on Fridays. Whatever we asked of him, he did it,” Rogers said. “He was hurting against Lake Cormorant. They have a pretty good running game, and the second half we were able to shut it down and it’s all attributable to him.”

Something else that’s attributable to Anderson — and his classmates — is a change in culture and identity within Vicksburg’s football program.

The Gators finished 9-4 this season for their first winning record since 2008. Even more than that, the program once known for its prolific offenses is quickly becoming one of the better defensive units in Mississippi.

The Gators posted two shutouts this season and held three other opponents to seven points or less.
Between 2009 and 2014, Vicksburg allowed an average of 34 points per game. Over the last two seasons, with Anderson and 2015 Vicksburg Post Defensive Player of the Year Jomon O’Neal leading the way, they’ve allowed an average of 19 points.

The best news in that stat is that nine defensive starters are coming back for the 2017 season. Anderson said all of the players in next year’s senior class have been playing together so long it feels like they’re as much a family as they are teammates.

“All of the starting defensive players are juniors in the Class of ’18. I’ve been playing with these guys since fifth, sixth grade, since the Packers and junior high. It’s like a vibe when you’re on the field because you’re playing with your actual brothers,” Anderson said.

With the program on an upward trend, and so many players coming back, Anderson feels like the Gators can make a lot of noise on a state level in 2017.

“The sky is the limit,” he said, before quickly adding with a smile, “The stars are the limit.”

Vicksburg Post Defensive Players of the Year
2016 – Nick Anderson, LB, Vicksburg
2015 – Jomon O’Neal, DL, Vicksburg
2014 – DeArius Christmas, LB, Warren Central
2013 – DeArius Christmas, LB, Warren Central
2012 – DeArius Christmas, LB, Warren Central,
Derrick Thomas, LB, Warren Central
2011 – Devon Bell, P, Warren Central
2010 – Lee Douglas, LB, Central Hinds
2009 – Mitchell Hoskins, LB, Port Gibson
2008 – Carlos Williams, LB, Vicksburg
2007 – Carlos Williams, LB, Vicksburg
2006 – Dekores Branch, LB, Vicksburg
2005 – Willis McGowan, DB, Vicksburg
2004 – Chico Hunter, DB, Warren Central
2003 – Humphrey Barlow, LB, Porters Chapel
2002 – D’Eldrick Taylor, DB, Vicksburg
2001 – D’Eldrick Taylor, DB, Vicksburg
2000 – Thad Henderson, DT, Warren Central
1999 – Thad Henderson, DT, Warren Central
1998 – Jason Myers, LB, Vicksburg
1997 – Josh Morgan, DB, Warren Central
1996 – Ivan Martin, DL, Warren Central
1995 – Chris Rainey, LB, Vicksburg
1994 – Eric Payne, LB, Warren Central
1993 – Michael Myers, DL, Vicksburg
1992 – Michael Myers, DL, Vicksburg
1991 – Chris Henderson, LB, Vicksburg
1990 – Ronnie Taylor, LB, Vicksburg
1989 – Robert Winters, LB, Warren Central
1988 – Robert Winters, LB, Warren Central
1987 – Jack Muirhead, LB, Warren Central

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

email author More by Ernest