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SZN Opener: Grambling State Defensive End Sundiata Anderson Talks HBCU Football, Overcoming Health Issues, & More


SZN Opener is back with new episodes dropping every week starting this December. On Season 2 of this dynamic podcast series, host and noted sports analyst Monica McNutt showcases Black college athletes and explores their triumphs, challenges and aspirations along their sports journeys.

In Episode 1, SZN Opener welcomes Sundiata Anderson, a defensive lineman at Grambling State University.

Anderson has received multiple SWAC honors as one of the most regarded defensive players in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (the premier collegiate athletic conference for Historically Black Colleges and Universities). The rising talent from College Park, Georgia, was considered a top HBCU NFL draft prospect entering the 2023 season.

Anderson has made his mark on Grambling State football with his lead-by-example work ethic and impressive physical gains during the offseason. The GSU defensive end is known for his sharp instincts and effective leadership style.

“My ability to work hard and be the hardest worker in the room, I think that’s what drives me past everybody,” he told McNutt.

Anderson chose to attend Grambling State for its proud legacy as an HBCU as well as its football program. “I wanted to be in the culture. And with Grambling’s rich tradition and all the past NFL players that have been here, I knew this was the place for me,” he said.


Health Issues Didn’t Stop Him

When health issues forced Anderson to take time off from football in 2019, he was able to lean on his community at school. “In 2019, I got sick where I had to sit out for a little bit,” he said. “It made me get closer to the people around me past football.”

Anderson was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic condition that caused him to lose about 70 pounds. He made the difficult decision to step away from the sport and focus on his health. But playing football remained his number one priority. “From that point right there, I had to put my head down and work,” he said. “I was setting goals. And from that, we got here.”

Recovery required a major lifestyle change, but Anderson did what he had to do to get back in the game. He gained the weight back—he is now at 240 pounds—and continues to push forward in his senior year at Grambling State.

Life After Grambling State

Anderson is determined to set himself up for the NFL by being the best defensive player he can be. The GSU senior was named 2023 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year in July and earned All-SWAC First Team honors in November.

Aspiring for the NFL, Anderson learned a lot under former head coach Hue Jackson until his recent departure from Grambling State. Jackson coached in the NFL for 18 seasons. “He’s taught me how to be a pro,” Anderson said. “So when I get to the next level, I’m already prepared to do my job.”

Catch the full conversation with Sundiata Anderson above. Listen to Episode 1 of SZN Opener and Season 2 on the Urban One podcasts platform or your favorite streaming app.