It didn’t take long for Southern to realize safety Bryan Anderson wasn’t a typical freshman.
Secondary coach Marty Biagi figured it out during position meetings before the season even began.
“We conduct it like business, and they have to bring a notebook,” Biagi said. “He was always the first person there, and he always had questions and he hasn’t stopped. He just has what you’d call that passion to be great.
“For an 18-year-old to walk in and quickly gain the respect of his peers by knowing what he needs to know to play, but also being very open and eager to learn and digest even more, I think those guys understood, ‘Man, this guy is really coming to compete every day.’ ”
Anderson earned a strating position well before the season started, and he caught Biagi’s attention again when he made an interception in the opener at Louisiana-Lafayette, but it wasn’t that play that stood out most.
“His first thing was,” Biagi recalled, “ ‘But, coach, I had this many errors.’ ” He’s always trying to figure out what he can do to help the team, especially for his position.
“He just brings a passion to the game that really wakes our team up and the guys feed off of that. He tells us every day that it’s his goal to get the team hyped for practice and if they’re not hyped it’s on him.”
Anderson had already established himself as a leader by the time Southern played Texas Southern three weeks ago, but he opened wide receiver Justin Morgan’s eye when he put a powerful hit on the Tigers’ scrambling quarterback. Morgan said it reminded him of the types of plays that are usually made by Dionte McDuffy, the hardest hitter in the secondary.
“He brought the hammer down,” Morgan said.
Anderson is not only one of many talented first-year players who will compete for Southern and Grambling in the Bayou Classic on Saturday, he’s one of numerous Jaguars and Tigers who played high-school football in the New Orleans area.
Southern has 22 players from the area on its roster, nearly half of whom are key contributors. Anderson and freshman linebacker LeMar Martin played at Edna Karr.
“Any time you get a young man out of Edna Karr, you’re getting a polished young man,” Jaguars coach Dawson Odums said. “They do a great job down there with those guys not only as players but as young men as well.”
Southern starting quarterback Austin Howard is one of four Jaguars from West St. John, and they have multiple teammates from St. Augustine, L.W. Higgins and Helen Cox.
Grambling is a lot farther from the New Orleans area than Baton Rouge is, but the Tigers have eight players from the area on their roster, half of whom are from St. Augustine — offensive linemen Kevon Roy and Ryan Moore, long snapper Byron Williams and defensive back Shaun Jackson.
The outcome of this game could tilt a few current high-school players from the area who are considering both schools.
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.