Former 5-star Adam Anderson is now a formidable member of Georgia's top-rated nationally ranked defense. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Adam Anderson: He’s bigger, older and wiser .... but still plays for an Angel

Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s the Intel. This entry is about the latest from Adam Anderson today as top-ranked Georgia begins preparation for unbeaten Kentucky on Saturday afternoon.

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Adam Anderson still plays with an Angel in his heart.

There are a lot of things that can be said about the former 5-star from Rome High School this week. There still seems to be one thing that frames his story better than anything.

It was true back in 2016 and it still makes sense today.

That’s even though the talking heads and columnists can bring to mind a lot of things like:

  • Anderson leads the Bulldogs in tackles for losses (4.5) and sacks (4.0) and is second on the team to the one-man wrecking crew that is Jalen Carter (17) in QB hurries.
  • He is the top-rated prospect on the entire Georgia team for NFL scouts. He said in the preseason he was aiming for 20 sacks this year. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. had him as the highest-rated Bulldog prospect in his 2022 NFL Draft mock at No. 16 overall.
  • A recent Sports Illustrated mock draft for 2022 had him going at No. 24 overall.
  • Why? That is because of his natural pass-rush ability and raise-the-roof athleticism. Despite limited snaps a year ago, he was second on the team to Azeez Ojulari in TFLs (6.5), sacks (6.5) and QB hurries (21) in 2020.
  • When Anderson gets to the NFL combine next year, he will kill it. His speed and start-stop-go burst and agility metrics will have all the scouts swallowing their stopwatches.
  • He’ll be tested this week by a Kentucky offensive front that Kirby Smart said on Monday was the most physical and imposing line his Bulldogs have seen. Anderson even added that the Wildcats were the most physical group up front he saw last season.

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Former 5-star Adam Anderson is now a formidable member of Georgia's top-rated nationally ranked defense. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

Adam Anderson: A forever Angel in his heart

Those are all very good stories. But there is nothing like his Angel.

Anderson wore his typical UGA gloves against Auburn last week. But at the rim of those gloves was a script that read “R-I-P Angel.”

Those that know that story can’t help but feel a warmth in their heart to see that Anderson is still moved to do that.

It traces back to a story shared on these pages when he first committed to UGA in August of 2016.

Anderson lost Ange Johnson, his beloved older sister, before the end of his sophomore year. He never received any clarity about the cause of her death.

At about the same time, he saw his stepfather passed away after a battle with cancer.

He was raised in a single-parent home with his younger brother. That younger sibling was 10 years old back then and classified as deaf. How many 5-stars had a 300-word sign language vocabulary when they were in the tenth grade? Anderson did.

The loss of his older sister was especially tough.

She helped him set up his first email address. Angel Johnson told him his best hairstyle would be a frosted gold color. He wore it for a time in high school.

“The last thing I told her was that I will see her later,” Anderson said in August of 2016. “She was in the hospital for about two months before she passed away.”

He kept a picture of his sister in his locker. He got the feeling that he drew strength from it. If you saw his wrists at the Auburn game last Saturday, it was clear he still does.

“I didn’t start thinking about being a college football player until my freshman year when my sister told me to keep working at it,” Anderson said back in high school. “She told me to keep working and working hard. She was a major spark and motivator in me getting started in football.

“She would try to keep me motivated and keep me excited. I remember her putting a helmet on and her telling me ‘Let’s go’ whenever I needed to hear it.”

Anderson said in high school he would write her name on the tape of his wristbands at practice and before games, too. Nothing had changed against Auburn on Saturday

“She was so close to me and really it was like she was a twin or so,” Anderson said in high school. “The first two weeks were a real struggle, but I just try to keep the good memories we had together and just think of those instead of how sad I am that she is gone. She was always a major part of my life. I use that as motivation football-wise for me to give more and more effort and overcome the sadness about that.”

When he grew weary at his high school practices, he would close his eyes and recall the good days he had with her.

Despite all of that, he still looked at his upbringing as a “blessed” life.

Rome High coach John Reid was asked years ago about the most impressive thing he had seen Anderson do. His answer then was uncommon, to say the least.

“My answer to that would be watching him walk one Sunday morning,” Reid said back when Anderson was a sophomore in high school. “He was walking to church. It was Easter Sunday. He was all dressed up in his Sunday best and he was walking to church.”

A member of the Rome staff estimated that as a four-mile trek from where he stayed to church. Another said it was closer to eight miles.

Anderson left his home at 6 a.m. that morning so he could get to church on time.

“I wanted to be there in church on Sundays,” Anderson said then. “I’ve got a good relationship with God that I hope to keep working on getting better. He’s blessed me with a lot and I want to make sure I know I’m so very thankful for what he’s done for my life.”

Have you subscribed to the DawgNation YouTube channel yet? If so, you will be able to see special 1-on-1 content with UGA names like Jake Fromm, Gunner Stockon and Brock Vandagriff here.

Former 5-star Adam Anderson stays warm on the sidelines on an exercise bike against Auburn last week. The script "R-I-P Angel" can be seen at the edge of the gloves on his wrists. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

From Rome High to the Wolfpack: The Adam Anderson story

There are those whom we can label great athletes, but then there are rare breeds like Adam Anderson.

It was all there in high school. He played for a 15-0 team which annihilated the schedule with an average margin of victory of 46.2 points.

He rested the fourth quarter and second halves in a large portion of those games, but still managed 15 sacks and 35 tackles for losses. The senior Georgia Bulldog was 6 feet, 5 inches tall back then.

Anderson said on Monday that he was 218 pounds when he reported to UGA. Anderson is still only 235 pounds even though he tries to eat enough protein to satisfy an Army battalion.

He was on the Rome 400-meter relay team which won a region title. Anderson was in the top four in the region in the high jump, shot put and discus. In those days, he could power clean 300 and bench press 300 in high school.

Anderson rejoined the basketball team for his senior year of high school. His coaches told DawgNation then that he could touch six inches above the square on the backboard.

Fast forward to now. How were SEC offensive tackles supposed to eventually block a grown man like that? What about after he had four years in an elite strength and conditioning program?

There was a good story from his high school days. It serves as a telling example of how he can bring all that athleticism to bear.

Anderson could defend the dive call and the outside edge on a power option call from his defensive end spot. He was able to squeeze down and push back to still cover his gap to take the dive and the quarterback option away. It drove the offensive coordinator and the offensive line coach at Rome crazy.

As it should.

“We tell our quarterback not to get used to the defensive end being there to make that play,” Rome offensive coordinator Chris Boden said. “No other defensive end anywhere else will make that play in high school. Just Adam. Only Adam has the size and speed and length to make that.”

Reid would say “Good job” and just shake his head. His next coaching point was to tell all the other defensive ends at Rome to never try what Anderson just did.

The stories from back then were plentiful.

There was a blocked kick against a top 5 team in the state playoffs. Reid wasn’t sure who blocked the extra point in the heat of the game. He figured the angle meant it had to be a cornerback. They had to come crashing down from the outside.

He found out it was Anderson by watching the game film with him the next morning. Nobody gave any signs. Especially not Anderson. He just ran off the field.

“He didn’t pound his chest or pump his fist,” Reid said way back in 2016. “I was watching the film on Saturday and asked him if he blocked it and he said ‘Yes sir’ and that was it.”

“That’s just the kind of kid he is. That one story right there tells you all any Georgia fan needs to know about this big and fast and rangy linebacker they are getting. He is probably one of the best citizens that walk into our school every day. Without any doubt.”

What does Reid think of Anderson now?

“Adam is an explosive kid,” Reid said last month. “I think he is about where I thought he would be at Georgia. They recruit so many kids at Georgia. I like to see how they use so many kids and keep them so involved in the game plan. I think it is going to evolve with Adam as the year goes on. Adam has got big plans.”

Anderson is up to 235 pounds. He said on Monday his goal was to get to 245. That would likely be his best playing weight.

“A lot of people say he hasn’t gotten as big as they thought he would be at Georgia,” Reid said. “But then didn’t know how he was when we met him. He was probably 180 pounds when we first saw him. Maybe he is more suited to second and third down long term. Pass rush specialist. They really specialize and pay those pass rush guys a lot of money in the NFL.”

Adam Anderson was one of two representatives of the Georgia football team which met the media on Monday to preview the big SEC clash this weekend with unbeaten Kentucky. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

What’s on Adam Anderson’s mind this week?

Anderson had a few things to say this week on the subject of the Kentucky Wildcats.

It was interesting to see his face glow when the subject of his teammates Robert Beal, Jr. and Chaz Chambliss came up. That just goes to show that very little has changed from the days when Reid called him a “first-class citizen” at Rome.

He actually giggled when asked about Beal.

“Honestly, just seeing anybody in our room improve it makes you feel better,” Anderson said. “You are seeing development in every player. So honestly just seeing the fact of him coming out and making plays and just the rotation of everybody producing as well.”

A question came his way about the other guys on his team chipping away at his preseason goal of 20 sacks for 2021.

When he heard that question in full, he laughed out loud again.

“If my teammate is getting back there, too,” Anderson said. “Shoot, then I feel like I am getting back there as well.”

He discussed the need for neutral thinking when the subject of the Bulldogs being ranked No. 1 in the country came up. Was it a target on the back of his team?

Anderson shook that topic off, too.

“Honestly, when you come to the University of Georgia you are always targeted,” he said.

When he played as a freshman, it looked clear that he didn’t know what he was doing at all times when he got on the field. He said that his time at Georgia has helped him be able to recognize what offenses are doing more. He’s more of a student of the game now.

Check out the rest of his 13-minute session with the media on Monday:

Check out a DawgNation.com Adam Anderson gallery below:

Adam Anderson comes up with a stop in space against UAB earlier this season. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation
Georgia OLB Adam Anderson works to get by an Auburn offensive lineman on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021 at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation
Former 5-star Adam Anderson says that Kentucky's offensive front will pose a stiff test for the Bulldogs this week. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation
Adam Anderson has been one of the more fashionable Bulldogs in their game day attire getting off the bus for their games so far this season. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation
Want to see a bunch of happy 'Dawgs? Check out the group photo on the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium after Georgia's big 34-10 victory last weekend. Anderson is there at the top right. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

SENTELL'S INTEL

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