Meant to be: Vicksburg native Nick Anderson signs with the New Orleans Saints
Published 9:24 pm Saturday, April 29, 2023
As the NFL draft wound down on Saturday, Nick Anderson was hearing from several teams interested in adding him to their roster.
When they all passed and he got to pick, however, there really was only one option.
After the Tulane linebacker and Vicksburg native was not selected in the final rounds of the NFL draft on Saturday, he signed a free agent contract afterward with the New Orleans Saints. It keeps him in the same city where he made his mark as a college player.
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“To still be in the city, still be close to home, not to have to deal with the craziness of traveling somewhere for rookie minicamp and getting adjusted to new scenery, it’s the perfect situation. This is where I wanted to be,” said Anderson, who played at Vicksburg High School.
Anderson was projected as a potential late-round pick. As the final four rounds of the draft unfolded on Saturday, he said he was in contact with the Seattle Seahawks and Cincinnati Bengals as well as the Saints.
He talked with several coaches from Seattle, including head coach Pete Carroll, but it wound up picking Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh in the seventh round. The Saints traded their two seventh-round picks earlier and did not have one to spend on Anderson.
Anderson had been in touch with the Saints throughout the process, however. He met with them before the draft and said they stayed in contact all the way through the end. They offered him a contract for a reported $25,000 guaranteed — $10,000 in salary and a $15,000 signing bonus — and he was eager to sign with the team in his adopted hometown.
“As soon as the draft was over with, the Saints came and put everything on the table. They said, ‘You know we’ve wanted you, we’ve always been transparent throughout this whole process, let’s get it done,’” Anderson said. “I’ve always been one of those guys who’s loyal to those who have been loyal to me, so I just felt it was right to make the decision to come play for the Saints.”
Now that he’s on the offseason roster, Anderson’s next step is staying there until the final cuts are made at the end of training camp in late August. The Saints’ rookie minicamp begins May 12, and Anderson said he’s ready and willing to do whatever it takes to make the 53-man roster on opening day.
“Just being an undrafted free agent or even a mid- to late-round draft pick, you’ve got to earn your spot. You’ve got to go in and attack, and work hard,” he said. “I feel like my edge is going to be a student of the game, and being able to play multiple positions, and make myself very versatile to wherever the Saints need me to do.”
Starting his career in New Orleans will also allow Anderson to continue following in the footsteps of one of his football idols, Sam Mills.
Mills was an undersized linebacker at 5-foot-9 and 220 pounds, almost the same size as Anderson, and both went undrafted.
Mills got his chance with the Philadelphia Stars of the original USFL in the early 1980s, then signed with the Saints when the league folded in 1986. He became an anchor of the famous “Dome Patrol” defense during nine seasons in New Orleans, then went to the Carolina Panthers in 1995 and became one of that franchise’s most beloved players as well. Mills, who died of cancer in 2005, was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2022.
“One time when I was at Jones, somebody made the reference, ‘The Sam Mills lookalike’ when I made a play. I still didn’t know who he was until I got down to Tulane and one of my coaches, J.J. McCleskey, was teammates with Sam Mills. He compared me to him right off the bat,” Anderson said. “I went home and did my research on Sam, and to see the character that he had, the way that he played the linebacker position despite his size, really attracted me to him. Especially dealing with this NFL draft prep, if Sam Mills can do it then I can do it as well.”
At Tulane’s pro day, Anderson wore a Saints jersey with Mills’ No. 51 on it. Saturday, after signing with the Saints, he rocked it again for a picture posted to Twitter.
“He’s definitely been an inspiration, and it’s awesome to be playing for his team. I look up to him and somebody like his character,” Anderson said. “For him getting inducted to the National Football Hall of Fame last year, and to now be playing for the Saints, it’s a dream story. I’m thankful to God. He worked it out exactly how it was supposed to work out.”