Anderson excited for opportunity with CFL’s Edmonton Elks

Published 4:00 am Friday, March 15, 2024

While Nick Anderson waited patiently for another NFL opportunity to come his way last season, Chris Jones was impatiently trying to lure him in a different direction.

Jones, the head coach and general manager of the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Elks, called Anderson. He visited. He called some more.

“He was persistent,” Anderson said. “He came down and saw me in November, January and February, and that’s not an easy drive.”

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Eventually, Anderson gave in. The former Vicksburg High and Tulane linebacker signed with the Elks on Monday, marking the start of a new chapter in his football career.

“I always knew in the back of my mind, if I’ve got to take the CFL opportunity Edmonton would be where I go. Simply because of the relationship that me and Coach Jones established and his belief in me,” Anderson said. “Through this whole journey he has been the guy that has consistently believed in Nick Anderson every step of the way.”

Playing in the CFL was not the first choice for Anderson, just like most other American football players.
After a stellar career at Tulane in which he accumulated 275 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and led the Green Wave to a 12-2 record and No. 9 ranking in 2022 — capped off by a victory over Southern California in the Cotton Bowl — he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the NFL’s New Orleans Saints.

Anderson played in all three of the Saints’ 2023 preseason games and had eight tackles, but was released when the final cuts were made at the end of training camp.

He spent the next four months waiting for another opportunity while also enjoying life away from the game. He got his non-profit organization, Through Faith, up and running. He started a podcast. He even got a chance to be an assistant coach for Tulane in the GoBowling Militart Bowl against Virginia Tech in December.

After head coach Willie Fritz was hired by Houston and took most of his assistants with him, Anderson said interim head coach Slade Nagle reached out about helping. Anderson, who said he wants to coach football some day, jumped at the chance to become the interim linebackers coach.

“(Fritz) took almost everybody and they were looking for all the help they could get,” Anderson said. “Me just being the person that I am, being those guys’ captain and knowing a lot of those guys personally, knowing that they got dealt a really rough card losing their coaches, I was extremely grateful to get in and help out.”

Anderson was hoping to land a spot on an NFL team’s practice squad or a futures contract as the season wound down, but the offer never came. Jones did, though.

The Edmonton coach scouted Anderson when the latter was at Tulane and was impressed with Anderson’s character as much as his football ability. Anderson was a three-year starter, a team captain, and involved in charity work in New Orleans.

“He asked what was the biggest thing in us going from 2-12 to 12-2, and they said, ‘Nick Anderson.’ Coach Jones said that’s all he needed to hear. He didn’t need to watch any film, he didn’t need to look at anything else,” Anderson said. “For everybody at (Tulane) to speak so highly of my character and my impact on the organization, that’s the kind of guy he wanted on his team.”

Anderson still wasn’t sure if he wanted to leave his adopted hometown of New Orleans for the Great White North of Canada, though.

“Edmonton reached out to me in September and wanted to bring me in when I first got released from the Saints. But I was still kind of optimistic about potentially getting the chance to go back with the Saints,” Anderson said. “I chose to wait and see how things would go, which I don’t regret at all.”

He stayed in shape and a game week routine, ready to fly out at a moment’s notice for whatever team wanted to take a look at him. He even examined the new UFL, created from a merger of the USFL and XFL spring leagues, but it wasn’t the right fit.

Finally, after looking at all of his options, Anderson decided to take the polar plunge and head to the CFL.

“It feels surreal. It really hasn’t hit me yet that I’m fixing to be back playing, simply because I never stopped training since I finished with the Saints. That next week I went into it like a regular day like I was still on the team — training, practicing, working drills, things like that,” Anderson said. “It feels good to know the opportunity has finally came, but I’ve been so robotic with training that I knew it was going to come.”

The Elks will begin training camp on May 12, and their first preseason game is May 25 against Saskatchewan. The regular season begins June 8 and continues through late October.

Besides playing through the spring and summer, Anderson will have to adjust to a new set of rules. The CFL plays on a 110-yard field, teams have three downs instead of four on offense, and offenses can have more than one player in motion, in addition to other rules differences between it and American leagues.

And that’s just the football side. Anderson will also be adjusting to a new country and culture.

“It’s going to be a little different, for sure,” he said. “But I know God is going to have me wherever I go. I know

I’m never going to be alone as long as I keep Him with me. So I’m excited for it.”
Anderson said he’s looking at playing in Canada as a pathway back to the NFL. After getting a taste of football at its highest level, he wants more.

“I really wouldn’t feel right looking myself in the mirror and never pushing myself to get back to that level. That’s the ultimate goal,” he said. “But I also am aware that Edmonton has given me that opportunity to come up there and achieve my goals so I want to give them everything I have.”

He’s also encouraging others to do the same. Getting a chance to play pro football is rare, no matter where it’s at, and being in that elite fraternity is not something that is lost on him.

“Never give up on your dreams or your desires. I had a lot of people try to persuade me to go another route, or persuade me that I’ve accomplished so much. But my desires and my dreams were bigger than what I’ve already accomplished,” Anderson said. “Never let anybody else or the negative side of yourself dictate what you desire to do with your life. Keep putting God first and keep going after it, and I promise you’re going to reap the blessings you’re after.”

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.

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