NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The journey from Andalusia, Alabama, to Nashville, Tennessee – more specifically from Andalusia High School to Vanderbilt University – is not a common one.
So the fact that Allan George and BJ Anderson both made that journey? And that the pair are cousins? And play the same position?
“It’s just a blessing, man,” Anderson said. “It’s a credit to God because it’s the only way it happened.”
Anderson played his entire career for Andalusia where he was a star receiver totaling 2,513 receiving yards and 25 touchdown catches. He was an under-recruited prospect who had South Alabama at the top of his list of college choices – that is before Vanderbilt came calling.
A 6-foot-1, 184-pound cornerback now in his third year with the Commodores, he only started to consider Vandy when defensive backs coach Marc Mattioli came to the high school to watch George, then a senior, play a different sport.
“(Mattioli) came to basketball practice and (George) went up and dunked – then I went up and dunked, too,” Anderson recalled. “Coach Mattioli was like, ‘Man, who is that kid?’ ”
George enrolled at Vanderbilt a year before Anderson – in 2017 – as his understanding of the cornerback position continued off the field during a redshirt season. George said he didn’t start playing football until his sophomore season (at a rival school before transferring to Andalusia) and even then mostly played wide receiver.
George said it’s not lost on him how special it is he gets to play college football with his close cousin.
“Just the fact that we’re both from (Andalusia), a really small town that no one knows about it. It’s like 45 minutes away from the nearest highway,” he said. “Nobody recruits down there really, so just the fact that we got out and the fact that we’re related and so close to each other – it’s fun to play on the same field with him again.”
Both George and Anderson will be counted on to anchor a Vanderbilt defensive backs group that returns most of its playmakers from a season ago. George (6-1, 185) finished the 2019 campaign with 39 tackles, two sacks, four tackles for loss and an interception. Anderson made 30 stops in 2019.
Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason lauded the pair’s speed, explosiveness and athleticism.
“When you look at those guys, they were hidden gems who are now starting to hit the best part of what they can do,” he said. “Allan has really hit stride academically here – I think he’s been on the Dean’s list the last two semesters. (Anderson) is also finding his way academically.
“That just speaks volumes about how they were raised and where they come from. They value football. They understand what this place offers, both on and off the field. These guys are working toward being Vanderbilt Men every day. They understand why they’re here, what they’re doing here and they want to make an impact.”
Anderson and George first met as grade school students at a family reunion. The two have been close ever since, but that bond has strengthened in recent years at both Andalusia and on the West End.
Now, as the 2020 season nears, Anderson and George know it’s up to them to take that next step in leading the Vanderbilt defense.
“We just kind of hold each other accountable,” Anderson said. “If I make a bad play or he makes a bad play we tell each other to fix it, and go back and make a play. We encourage each other every day.”
“We just want to go into the season and just give it our all and play to the best of our ability – that’s the goal for everyone on the team. If everyone plays to the best of their ability, we’ll be good.”
UPDATE ON TED ROOF
Mason provided Tuesday an update on defensive coordinator Ted Roof. Roof was absent from Tuesday’s practice – the fourth of the spring for the Commodores – after undergoing a medical procedure.
“He’s going to be out for, hopefully, a short amount of time,” Mason said. “We’ve made some contingency plans and made sure we’re going to continue moving forward. I ask that you respect (Roof) and his family’s privacy in terms of the medical procedure and we’ll just continue to move forward.”
Roof arrived in Nashville in January as the team’s defensive coordinator.
Chad Bishop covers Vanderbilt for VUCommodores.com. Follow him @MrChadBishop.