The Panthers selected James Anderson, who played collegiately at Virginia Tech and was born in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, in the 3rd round (88th overall) in the 2006 NFL Draft. Anderson was actually drafted with the compensatory pick the Panthers gained from Chicago after the Bears signed restricted free-agent cornerback Ricky Manning and Carolina decided not to match the offer. I heard Anderson in a pre-draft interview with a local sports show in Blacksburg when I was in the area for college and it was actually the first time I had even heard of him. After listening to the interview I began hoping that Carolina would somehow select Anderson in the draft. Anderson has a studio arts degree and is an amateur artist who hopes to open his own gallery in the future. I remember him being very well-spoken and he seemed to embody everything that the Carolina Panther franchise stood for. Add in the fact that Anderson measures in at 6-2, 235 lbs, and boasts a 4.5 forty yard dash, and a 41 inch vertical jump, it’s easy to see why he was so attractive to many NFL general managers.
Anderson played mainly special teams his rookie year, appearing in all sixteen games and started two. He accumulated 21 tackles that year during his rookie season. Over the next two seasons, Anderson only appeared in eighteen games and only had a total of twenty tackles over that period. The Panthers tendered Anderson after his third year as a restricted free agent and he began showing some promise. During the 2009 NFL season, Anderson appeared in all sixteen games, started seven and accumulated 65 tackles, one sack, one pass defended, and a forced fumble. Anderson exploded onto the scene in 2010 and became the player I always thought he could be. He started fifteen of the sixteen games he appeared in and racked up 130 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 5 passes defended, an interception and two forced fumbles. The Panthers rewarded Anderson with a five year $22 million contract following the 2010 season.
Coming into the 2011 offseason the Panthers boasted one of, if not the best, linebacking corps in the entire NFL. Panther Nation was excited considering the possibilities of a starting three of Anderson, Jon Beason, and a healthy Thomas Davis. Of course, early in the year both Beason and Davis went down to season-ending injuries and Anderson seemingly became the de-facto leader of the Panther defense. The 28 year old linebacker, who is in his sixth NFL season with Carolina, has answered that call for leadership in a major way. Anderson, who is having a Pro-Bowl caliber year, has appeared and started all thirteen games this year and has served up 117 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven defended passes, and an interception. He has quickly become a fan favorite in Carolina and all of Panther Nation is eager to see how much further Anderson’s game will progress in future seasons.