Anders took a hard road to the pros

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:03 PM ET

Eryk Anders’ final conversation with his late father turned out to be prophetic.

When Anders didn’t play for Alabama during the Independence Bowl in 2007, the sophomore linebacker contemplated leaving the university altogether.

Nick Saban had taken over the Crimson Tide and Anders didn’t fit into the new coach’s system.

In a long conversation with his father, Eryk was told to stick with the program, get a degree, finish what he started and things would work out.

Hours later, Gayle Anders died of a heart attack.

On Jan. 7, 2010, Eryk Anders forced a key fumble and celebrated a national championship with Alabama as it beat Texas 37-21.

“He was the first thing I thought of when the clock said zero,” said Anders, who is trying out for the Calgary Stampeders as a defensive end.

“My life could be a whole lot different right now. If I went to a different university, I probably wouldn’t have won a national championship.

“Who knows what would have happened had I left Alabama?”

The 23-year-old took a long, hard road through college, and it appears the same is ahead of him in the pros.

At 6-foot-1, 240 lb., he is somewhere between ideal size for a linebacker and a defensive end, which is what hurt him at Alabama.

When Saban took over, Anders wasn’t his prototype for outside linebacker. It wasn’t until his senior season the San Antonio native earned a starting spot through plenty of hard work.

In the BCS championship game, Anders made a play that proved he deserved the spot.

Holding onto a 24-21 lead over Texas with three minutes left, Anders came free and hit quarterback Garrett Gilbert in the back, knocking the ball loose.

The Crimson Tide iced the game with two more majors, but had it not been for Anders’ play, the outcome might have turned.

“The moment came in the game, they called the play and it worked out just like it did in practice,” Anders said. “That never happens. It never goes exactly how it’s drawn up.”

Anders didn’t attend the off-season free-agent camps with the Stampeders because he was waiting for the NFL draft. He wasn’t selected, and free-agent offers didn’t materialize, but the Stamps gave him a training-camp spot.

He’s thankful.

“Everybody feels they should get drafted, but I knew there were doubts about my size,” Anders said. “I wasn’t really shocked I didn’t get drafted. I just needed an opportunity and I’m glad it’s here.”

Just as his father told him to do, Anders earned a degree at Alabama majoring in health studies. He could enter the workforce now if he wanted, but he is confident he can adapt to the pro level.

No one could blame him if he walked away a winner after his final college game, but Anders doesn’t want it that way.

“I’m not yet satisfied because I know I can play at the next level,” Anders said. “I stick to my father’s words of working hard and always keeping my head up. It will all work out in the end.”

Winning the national title was nice, but Anders is sure his father would have been happy as long as he finished out his career at Alabama.

“Even if we would have lost that game, he would have been proud of me not matter what,” Anders said.

“He knows that if I’m out there, I’m giving it my all. Sometimes you come up short and sometimes you win it all.

“Either way, he would have been proud of me.”


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