TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Bryce Young took a rare moment to soak it all in.
After he finished his final postgame field interview, the quarterback acknowledged the crowd with a simple wave and that patient smile. His smile grew brighter and brighter as he approached the locker room tunnel behind the end zone. Fans cheered for the quarterback’s performance while simultaneously trying to reach over the railing just to get a touch of the reigning Heisman trophy winner.
Those fans knew, and by Young’s reaction, he knows it too. It’s likely the last time No. 9 is going to line up under center at Alabama.
“It’s meant the world to me,” Young said. “Just the support I felt. You know I’m from California and moved across the country to move to the south. It’s so far away, but as soon as I got here, everyone made it feel like home and I’m very grateful for that. The atmosphere and the environment we get to play in is the best in college football. I’m just super grateful.”
Young saved one of his best performances for last as his 343 passing yards pushed him over the 3,000-yard mark for the second-consecutive season. He becomes the first player in program history to record multiple 3,000 passing yards in multiple seasons, moving him to second all-time for career passing yards with 8,035.
His astronomical career mark makes Young one of just two quarterbacks in Alabama history to surpass 8,000 passing yards, joining AJ McCarron who tallied 9,019.
It’s why draft boards have seen the Alabama product maintain a spot in the top five on multiple NFL Mock Drafts. Fellow junior Will Anderson noted just how special the quarterback is after the team’s win against Auburn on Saturday.
“He’s a real class act,” Anderson said. “He makes sure that everybody’s okay, make sure everybody needs everything. He always checks up on us. I can’t say enough good things about Bryce. I wouldn’t rather have any with a quarterback, I wouldn’t have any other teammate than Bryce Young. He’s been doing a tremendous job this year. So much adversity has come his way and he has held his head up high. I’m proud of him and I’m glad to call him a brother.”
Young and Anderson have been linked a lot this season, not only as the team’s two leaders, but Anderson often joins his teammate in that lottery pick conversation, falling one pick below the quarterback in multiple mock drafts.
It shouldn’t discount the career Anderson has had in his own right as his sack in the fourth quarter moved edge rusher to second-all-time in school history with 61.0 tackles for loss.
Like Young, Anderson had a big day on defense tallying two of the team’s four sacks along with tackles for loss to lead all edge rushers with five total tackles.
For D.J. Dale, Anderson’s performance was a culmination of what he saw from him early in his Alabama career.
“I don’t even know how to describe him,” D.J. Dale said. “First and foremost, he’s just a great guy in general. Just the way he’s carried himself and the way he’s led his team, really since he was a freshman. We’re not who we are without Will, so I’m very thankful for him.”
While Anderson may not have taken the chance to have his final bow, he was just as appreciative of the fan support and the chance to be a part of the Alabama program.
“If it was (my last game), it’s been everything and it means a lot to me,” Anderson said. “I haven’t grown up an Alabama fan but coming in here to a culture and adapting to it, “(I’ve) learned so much as a man, build great relationships, learned so much from Coach Saban and implement that in my life and helped me become a better man, a better brother, teammate, anything like that. It’s been a pleasure and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
While Young and Anderson didn’t reveal what their next steps are if this is the duo’s final curtain call they had their moments in front of 102,000 adoring fans who continuously sang their praises while at Alabama.
“Those two guys, not only have been great players at The University of Alabama, but they’ve been great leaders for our team,” Nick Saban said. “They’ve been great ambassadors for this university and the way they’ve represented themselves. They’ve set a marvelous example for any upcoming young person who plays sports to emulate them in terms of how they go about what they do and the class and character that they have. I couldn’t be prouder of two guys in terms of what they’ve contributed but also how they’ve represented our program and the university.”