MOBILE, Ala. — A red-shirt junior from a small town in Central Pennsylvania, Alex Anzalone had been accustomed to being a football star. The standout on a Wyomissing HS team that ran the table and won a state championship in 2016, Anzalone had the likes of Ohio State, Notre Dame, Alabama, Oklahoma, Stanford and more all fawning over his talents. Anzalone could have picked any school in the country to play football.
This week, Anzalone has become one of the stand out performers of the Senior Bowl and flourished in the spotlight of the brightest stage in NFL Draft evaluation. But his journey from a prep star to budding draft prospect has been littered with speed bumps along the way.
Anzalone’s original path to football stardom was through Columbus, Ohio as an OSU Buckeye commit. Shortly after his announced intention to become a Buckeye, he re-opened his recruitment after concerns regarding the Ohio State athletic program. From there, Anzalone settled into a commitment to Notre Dame but he again de-committed in January 2013 and was enrolled at the University of Florida the very next day. The multiple deviations of a heavyweight five-star recruit shook the Irish and Gator programs for the obvious repercussions they left. The drama for Anzalone was only getting started.
His college career with the Gators was riddled with just as many twists and turns as the path to finding a home. An injury riddled true freshman year limited Anzalone to just two tackles and limited reps in 10 games. A more prominent role awaited Anzalone in 2014, as he was a feature player on the special teams unit for 12 games. But even that 2014 season was not without its damages.
Coach Will Muschamp, who played an integral role in Anzalone’s commitment to Florida, was relieved of his duties in late November. Adversity found Anzalone again as a junior, as a shoulder injury sidelined him for the year after just two games in the starting lineup. Anzalone red-shirted the year and would have to wait until 2016 to make his impact felt.
Poised for a big season, Anzalone stepped into the shoes of recently departed LB Antonio Morrison and into the starting lineup once again this season. For a short while, everything fell into place. The movement skills, the physicality, the explosiveness, the instincts. It was all evident immediately when watching the Gators’ defense.
Four years after an All-American senior season in high school, Anzalone had finally clawed into arm’s reach of becoming a premier college football player. NFL evaluators, both in league circles and in the media realm, were starting to take notice as well. Anzalone was out-playing teammate Jarrad Davis, who entered the year as one of the consensus top-five off-ball linebacker prospects in the country.
The dream season lasted all of eight games. Anzalone started every game from the season opener through the Arkansas contest on Nov. 5. It would be his last day of his Gators career. A collision with a Razorback ball carrier resulted in a […]