This feature story on Abdullah Anderson originally ran in the program for Bucknell's game against Sacred Heart on Sept. 23, 2017.
“Coach Borich wants me to be the tip of the spear,” Anderson said. “He always tells me if I cause havoc in the front line then everyone else in the defense can be the rest of the spear and go through whoever we’re opposing.”
For the past 37 games, Anderson has wreaked havoc on opposing offenses, piling up 144 tackles (83 solo), 27.5 tackles for a loss, 13.5 sacks and three blocked field goals. Head coach Joe Susan said the Bison, who currently rank 13th in the FCS in total defense (271.5), have been so successful defensively in part because they have Anderson leading the charge.
“It all starts with Abdullah Anderson,” Susan said. “He’s really progressed during his time here, and he makes our guys better, from his fellow linemen to the linebackers and secondary. He has the potential to be the best defensive lineman in the Patriot League."
At 6-foot-4 and nearly 300 pounds, Anderson has the size and the strength needed to overpower opposing offensive linemen. He’s also exceptionally athletic and mobile for his size, giving him the ability to run down running backs and quarterbacks alike.
"Nobody can block him," Susan said. "He’s talented as an inside guy, and we’re going to use him on the outside in certain situations. He draws double teams all the time, and that creates opportunities for our other players."
Not only does he create opportunities for his teammates, Anderson also energizes them. At any given practice, he’s often the most vocal player on the field. He can be seen giving advice and encouragement to underclassmen, cheering on the kickers after successful field goals and hustling to be the first across the line during shuttle runs.
“I try to keep everyone upbeat and motivated every day,” Anderson said. “In practice, I’ll be yelling and screaming to keep the energy going. I feel like that’s a good thing for me to do as a captain. If everyone’s working hard and staying motivated, we’ll reach our ultimate goal. And that’s to win.”
A three-time all-Patriot League selection, Anderson has been helping the Bison win since he arrived on campus in 2014. Each of the past three seasons, he finished in Bucknell’s top 10 in tackles, rising to fourth with 55 (33 solo) a year ago. He also led in the team in sacks (8.5) and tackles for a loss (13.5) during the 2016 campaign.
Anderson, who was named a 2017 STATS Preseason All-American, enters the Monmouth game with 15 tackles, three of which were for loss. He has also broken up three passes, two shy of his season-best total. Asked how he’s been able to make such an impact, Anderson credited his teammates, coaches and family, singling out Borich in particular.
“From the first day I walked into the gym, Coach Borich helped me to rebuild my size,” Anderson said. “That’s allowed me to become more and more dominant on the line. I feel my mix of size, athleticism and strength really help me succeed in the position I’m at.”
Anderson took a unique road to get to where he’s at today. And, sometimes, his success makes it hard to believe he started playing football as a high school senior. For three years, Absegami head coach Dennis Scuderi begged Anderson to join the football team.
“I was a basketball player all my life,” Anderson said with a chuckle. “I was a 195 pounds and 6-foot-4, thinking I could play basketball around the world. My senior year, I went to Coach Scuderi’s office a week or two before the season started and said, ‘You know what? I want to try football out.’ And I’m glad I did.”
While Anderson may never have the chance to play basketball around the world, he may one day find himself competing on football’s biggest stage. Beyond helping Bucknell win, Anderson’s goal is to follow in former teammate Julién Davenport’s footsteps.
On Sept. 14, Anderson watched Davenport make his NFL debut for the Houston Texans against the Cincinnati Bengals. After expressing how excited he was for his “mentor,” he said Davenport, who became the first Bison since 1969 to be selected in the NFL Draft when the Texans took him in the fourth round of the 2017 rendition, has paved the way for him to achieve his own NFL dreams.
“It helps me a lot seeing him achieve,” Anderson said. “He basically set up the game plan for me. I always call him for advice, and he’s always there for me. Seeing him succeed pushes me to work harder and play harder so I can be in the same shoes next year.”
The Anderson File
- 2017 STATS Preseason Third Team All-American
- 2018 Reese's Senior Bowl Watch List
- 2016 & 2015 All-Patriot League First Team
- 2014 All-Patriot League Second Team
- 2017, 2016 & 2015 Preseason All-Patriot League Team
- Needs 2.5 sacks to crack Bucknell’s top 10 in career sacks
- Needs one blocked field goal to claim sole possession of Bucknell’s career record
- Lone senior who has started all 37 games since arriving in Lewisburg
- In 2016, ranked in the NCAA’s top 10 in blocked kicks (t-8th) and sacks (t-12th). Also finished second in the Patriot League in tackles for a loss and third in sacks