Bryce Young, Will Anderson discuss choice to play Sugar Bowl

Alabama stars Bryce Young and Will Anderson Jr. decided to set aside their NFL draft stock and the potential risk of injury by not opting out and playing in the AllState Sugar Bowl against Kansas State on Dec. 31.

Speaking publicly for the first time since coach Nick Saban revealed he would play, Young told reporters it didn’t take long to come to his decision.

“I have another chance to be a leader and play with my brothers, and that’s not something I can pass up,” Young said Monday.

Young is projected by ESPN’s Todd McShay to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft. The junior from California has thrown for 27 touchdowns and five interceptions this season after winning the Heisman Trophy last year.

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Young said “every individual case is different” when it comes to opting out of bowl games.

“I know everything happens for a reason,” he said of protecting himself, with the NFL draft potentially on the horizon. “I place my faith in God. I’m concerned about doing what’s best for the team.”

Anderson, projected by McShay as the No. 3 overall pick, said the “risk factor” of injury never entered his mind. The junior from Georgia won the Nagurski Trophy and led the team with 10 sacks. He also led the FBS with 53 pressures.

“Everybody says it’s like the business part of it,” Anderson said of opting out. “But when you love the game of football, you also have that competitor part of it. And me just being at home and training and sitting down watching the game, I would be feeling so bad or not feeling great about myself — like that’s just the competitor in me.”

Anderson said the fact that he and Young set their “stuff aside” showed everyone else that they could as well. Saban said he didn’t expect any opt outs from his players.

“I really think as far as everyone on the team,” Young said, “I think that speaks to the culture, that speaks to the standard that we have, the culture that Coach Saban has built.”

Anderson said the Crimson Tide are “locked-in” for their New Year’s Eve matchup against the Wildcats.

“We have a lot to prove,” he said. “We have a lot to show that we should have a chance to be in the playoff. We’re gonna take this opportunity and go with it and make the best of it.”

Alabama began bowl practice Friday.

“It’s kind of interesting that people opt out of playing for their team,” Saban said last Friday. “The way you create value for yourself is to play football. That is the best way you can create value for your future. When you do that against good competition, that creates value for your future.

“I hear guys say all the time, ‘I’m going to get ready for the NFL.’ Well, what do you mean? Getting ready for the combine? All the things you do at the combine aren’t even relevant to what you do on the football field. Every time you have an opportunity to compete, if you’re a great competitor and I think these two guys are great competitors, that’s why they wanted to play. They wanted to continue to create value for themselves and be good teammates and help their teammates play well in the game.

“That makes them a little old-fashioned in a lot of ways, but I respect that.”

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