Alabama's Will Anderson eyes Heisman Trophy, says defensive stars are worthy of college football's top award

ATLANTA -- Alabama star outside linebacker Will Anderson said he has a new goal this season: to win the Heisman Trophy and change the perspective of the award.

"I kind of feel like they love offense over there," Anderson told ESPN on Tuesday at SEC media days. "They love touchdowns, they love yards."

No athlete who played strictly defense has ever won the Heisman. Former Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson won the award in 1997, but he also spent significant time at receiver and returning kicks.

To be the one to change the minds of voters, Anderson said, "That's what I want to do.

"It's not really just for me, but for other defensive players to know that we have a chance," he said. "We are worthy enough to be a Heisman candidate or win a Heisman."

Anderson led the country in sacks (17.5) and tackles for loss (34.5) as a sophomore last season on his way to winning the Bronko Nagurski Award, given to the top defensive player in college football.

Anderson was not among the four finalists for the Heisman last year, finishing fifth, but received the third-most first-place votes with 31. His teammate, quarterback Bryce Young, won the award.

Young said those who watch Alabama's film will "see how much Will means to us and how disruptive he is."

"Will definitely deserves it," Young said of Anderson's Heisman chances. "He's an amazing player, an amazing person."

Anderson returns to lead a defense that figures to be among the best in the country this season, and he is projected to be a top-five NFL draft pick in 2023.

"I'm just gonna go out there and keep doing the same thing I've been doing -- be Will Anderson," he said. "Nothing that anybody else want me to be, no expectation that nobody else is gonna put on me. I'm just gonna go approach the season like I did last year."

Alabama defensive back Jordan Battle said the Heisman was actually a topic of conversation on the plane ride from Alabama to SEC media days in Atlanta, as he spoke with Young about the experience of winning.

"I feel like defensive players definitely should be able to win the Heisman and change that perspective," Battle said. "I feel like Will Anderson would be a great addition to the Heisman Trophy watch list."