Playmakers 2022: Former VHS star Nick Anderson gets a do-over with Tulane

Published 12:22 pm Monday, August 29, 2022

Editor’s note: This story appears in the 2022 edition of “Playmakers,” The Vicksburg Post’s annual football preview magazine. Copies of “Playmakers” are available at The Vicksburg Post’s office at 1106 Washington St. in downtown Vicksburg.

Nick Anderson wanted a do-over.

The 2021 season at Tulane was supposed to be memorable for all the right reasons, and instead wound up being memorable for all the wrong reasons. A hurricane took away a high-profile home game against national power Oklahoma. A broken leg sidelined Anderson for a month.

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The Green Wave finished 2-10, with half of its losses decided by a touchdown or less.

It all left a bitter taste in Anderson’s mouth and he didn’t like it. So, with an extra year of eligibility thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s back to make things right. The former Vicksburg High star is returning for another season with Tulane determined to go out on a high note.

“We didn’t have a good year last year. We dealt with different things such as the hurricane and being relocated to Birmingham for a month. I was injured and missed four games. Just not really having the season that we wanted,” he said. “I really came back to finish what we started and not to give up on my team. Tulane took a chance on me, a juco kid out of Mississippi, so I wanted to finish things out. I feel like we’re going to be a good team this year.”

During his first three seasons with Tulane, Anderson has made his mark off the field as well as on it.

He graduated in May with a degree in Homeland Security Studies and has received a slew of academic honors. He was Tulane’s William V. Campbell Trophy nominee in 2021, and earned the school’s Stephen Martin Scholar honor that recognizes academic and civic achievements.

Anderson said one of his personal goals is to use his platform as a football player to make an impact well beyond the game.

“My biggest goal this year is just to allow God to use me to let my light shine wherever it may be. Whether it’s in the community in New Orleans, whether it’s on the field,” he said. “My biggest aspiration is that when people see me play this last year, they see how God has brought me from being a Vicksburg High School linebacker, to being a junior college linebacker, to representing Him in a great way on the field at Tulane, and just looking for if it’s the Lord’s will to represent Him on Sundays.”

Anderson isn’t just a big brain, though. He started nine games at linebacker in 2021 and played in 36 over three seasons with the Green Wave. He played another season at Jones College in Mississippi before heading to New Orleans.

Anderson was a third-team preseason All-American Athletic Conference selection. Despite missing all or part of four games because of a broken leg, he totaled 56 tackles, four sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss in 2021. He has 8.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in his career.

His talent has made him an NFL prospect, but he said he’s trying not to think about that and just enjoy his final year of college football.

“I’ve talked to different agents here and there. They definitely know about Nick Anderson down at Tulane. It’s just about the team. If we take care of business all of that will handle itself,” Anderson said. “I’m eager. Everybody wants to play in the NFL. To know the dream is at the door, it’s something that you do think about.

“But I’m just trying to keep the main thing the main thing — really enjoy things like this,” Anderson added, referring to his work as a coach at the Malcolm Butler Football Camp in Vicksburg in July. “Being able to come home and give back to Vicksburg, see kids that not too long ago I was in that same position, and just focus on the little things day to day and know the NFL is going to take care of itself when it comes.”

Anderson added that getting Tulane back to respectability is a major goal that will help the fortunes of he and all of his teammates.

The Green Wave went to three consecutive bowl games from 2018-20 before slumping badly last season.

The arrival of Hurricane Ida in New Orleans on Aug. 29 forced the football team to relocate to Birmingham for three weeks. The much-hyped season opener in Yulman Stadium against No. 2 Oklahoma was moved to Norman, and another home game vs. Morgan State was played in Birmingham. The Green Wave acquitted themselves well in a 40-35 loss to Oklahoma, routed Morgan State 69-20, and then lost 61-21 to Ole Miss in Week 3.

Their return to New Orleans on Sept. 25 was a 28-21 loss to UAB. Tulane recovered an onside kick in the final two minutes but couldn’t tie it. Three losses by seven points or less, including one in overtime against Tulsa, finished the season.

“I really don’t think the teams were a challenge last year. It was just the change in circumstances,” Anderson said. “From playing Oklahoma in a game that was supposed to be in New Orleans and we end up having to pack up from a hotel that we were in for a month and go up there to play them in Norman — and we still played them to the wire and almost beat them.”

The string of near-miss losses and a host of returning starters has Anderson optimistic that 2022 will be more like his first two seasons with the program, and not like the nightmarish 2021.

“Usually when you see teams have bad seasons, you see people go their separate ways. For the most part, we were able to keep 98 percent of the team there,” he said. “It shows we’ve got something special brewing. You’re playing with guys you’re familiar with, guys that you’ve been there with, and I’m just excited.”

Anderson also seemed excited to do something a little different this season. He’ll continue to start at linebacker, but said he’s gotten some work on offense and special teams.

Anderson occasionally played H-back at Vicksburg High, and experimented with that position this spring. The 5-foot-10, 225-pounder said his size makes him a natural.

“It’s something I’ve grown to adjust to, especially at my size. It gives me the ability to maximize that and use it as a strength,” Anderson said. “I have natural leverage on guys, so if I’m able to line up at H-back and pull across and get up under a defensive end or slip out and catch a pass in the flat it’s almost like I did in high school. It’s just God-given abilities and I’m blessed to use them as my coaches see fit.”

Whether it’s on defense, offense or special teams, Anderson said it all goes toward the same goal — helping Tulane to have a successful season. He believes a rising tide lifts all boats, and in this case does it by raising the height of a Green Wave.

“I always try to stay humble,” Anderson said. “One of the things I try to emphasize to my team is that individual success brings team success. Yeah, it’s fun to get all these preseason honors. But I’m looking forward to us winning the conference championship because that’s when all the big-time honors and the big-time notoriety, and the big spotlight comes.”

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 139-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.

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