BYU football’s Zayne Anderson kicks off sixth season after back-to-back injuries
BYU Football’s Zayne Anderson prepared for the 2018 campaign as if it would be his last with the team. The Stansbury Park, Utah, native was entering his fourth season with the program and was eager to give it his all before taking a shot at the professional level.
Just four games into the year, however, he sustained a season-ending injury to his right shoulder, resulting in a redshirt season.
After spending the following 10 months nursing his shoulder back to health, Anderson once again felt ready to leave everything on the field for one final season before moving on from the team. However, his 2019 season proved even more cruel than the previous one, as he lasted only two games before re-injuring his same shoulder.
“I don’t know if it was just bad luck or if my shoulder never fully healed,” Anderson said. “But it was devastating.”
Anderson, who had to start the exact same recovery process all over again, hopes his sixth season with the team finally results in a positive ending to his collegiate career.
“I’m ready to get after it,” Anderson said. “The last two years have obviously been tough. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs but I’ve learned a lot and I’m excited to see everything come together this season.”
The six-foot-two, 200 pounder is a key part of the Cougars’ defense when healthy. His combination of strength and speed have allowed him to be somewhat of a Swiss Army knife, excelling at both the linebacker and safety positions. Anderson has also been a regular in a variety BYU’s special teams packages.
Anderson tallied 36 tackles as a sophomore in 2016, including 23 solo stops and one tackle for loss. In 2017, he racked up 61 tackles, 41 of which were solo stops. He also recorded two interceptions, two pass breakups and three forced fumbles.
Assistant head coach Ed Lamb believes Anderson knows how much he can contribute to the Cougar defense when at full health and thinks that knowledge is what has motivated Anderson to bounce back from his injuries.
“I think Zayne realizes that he has a lot of potential in the game of football,” Lamb said. “I think he realizes there is a light at the end of the tunnel despite his challenges. When he has been healthy he’s played really well.”
Anderson’s coaches are so high on his versatility that they recently had him practice with the cornerbacks during spring practices. Lamb credited Anderson as one of the best man-to-man coverage defenders on the team. While it remains undetermined what position Anderson will spend most of his time playing at during the 2020 campaign, his coaches are just glad to have him near full strength again.
Despite not spending much time on the field over the last two seasons, Anderson has found other ways to contribute to the team. Lamb acknowledged Anderson’s work ethic and optimism has been motivating for his teammates.
“I think the younger players can look towards some of the more veteran players like Zayne and realize that the longer guys are competing for a program, the more it means to them,” Lamb said. “Guys earn credibility after making contributions on and off the field, and Zayne’s made a lot of those.”
Anderson is just one of five players currently on the BYU roster who have been around since the 2015 season. He’s had plenty of former teammates to learn from and model his game after, including eventual NFL standouts Fred Warner, Sione Takitaki, Harvey Langi and Michael Davis. Heading into his final season, one of Anderson’s biggest goals is to emulate the leadership qualities he’s learned from such teammates.
“Sometimes as older players it’s easy to think you’re more mature than some of the younger guys and not be super involved in their lives outside of football. But taking the time to really get to know everyone on the team and show you care can go a long way,” Anderson said.
Although he’s gone through the process twice before now, Anderson is once again ready to give his team everything he’s got this season before finally pursuing his dream of reaching the NFL.
“The last two seasons have been a roller coaster,” Anderson said. “But as long as I can stay healthy this year, I feel like I still have a lot to give to this team.”