Grambling’s Doug Williams on Christian Anthony: Not sure we could’ve cleared him to play

Christian Anthony, the former SWAC defensive player of the year, was already gone when Doug Williams arrived at Grambling — signed with an agent and working out in Florida with a pro trainer.

But Williams says he wasn’t sure if the Tigers’ do-everything defender — felled before last football season with chest ailment — would have been cleared to play, anyway, at least by anyone on a small-school training staff.

“I can’t answer that,” Williams said. “There are too many questions marks. He would probably have to go through so many obstacles, and a battery of tests. You’d have to find somebody who will sign off on him. You’re talking about a heart attack. Our guys can’t clear somebody after something like that.”

Williams hadn’t yet agreed on a return to his alma mater — following the abrupt post-Signing Day resignation of fourth-year Grambling coach Rod Broadway — when Anthony appeared at February’s NFLPA Game, a post-season college football all-star contest sponsored by the National Football League Players Association at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. (The event was previously known as the Texas vs. The Nation Game, when it was held in El Paso.) Anthony, who continued to work out through his lost season, was measured by pro scouts and general managers at 6’3 and 281 pounds — only a slight uptick from the 275 pounds he was set to played at in 2010. He was clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.65/4.7.

But being away from the game for a year, and the questions about Anthony’s heart, may have continuing implications.

“He looked exactly how I figured he would,” said Chad Reuter of NFL Draft Scout. “You see his strength and athleticism, but not playing this year put him at a disadvantage. He could still make some plays in the game because his instincts will take over. He’ll probably not be drafted because of his heart issue.”

Last December, Anthony disputed initial reports that he had a heart attack, saying the episode was the result a hard hit in practice, which inflamed an artery — and that he had not been found to have high blood pressure or cholesterol. “It was a freak thing … like one out of millions,” Anthony said. All signs, at that time, pointed to Anthony trying to get back on the field at Grambling for a sixth-season, assuming the NCAA made a special exemption since he didn’t take the field in 2010.

Through it all, Grambling has never confirmed the exact nature of Anthony’s episode, and is perhaps understandably hesitant to re-instate Anthony after a devastating 2009 incident involving student athlete Henry White. After the transfer basketball prospect and others were made to run a grueling 4.5-mile disciplinary course in the heat of an August afternoon in Louisiana, White and another player collapsed from heat exhaustion. White subsequently died, and his family has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit.

“You’ve got to remember that Grambling has already been through a trauma,” Williams said.

When healthy, there’s no question what Anthony can do. In 2009, a year after earning defensive MVP honors while helping Grambling to a Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game title, he collected 76 tackles (15 for a loss), 10 turnovers (including an amazing 5 interceptions from the end position), eight sacks and seven quarterback hurries. He returned two picks for touchdowns, and led the league in fumbles forced with five, earning first-team All-American honors from the Sports Network and the Sheridan Broadcasting Network’s Mel Blount Defensive Player of the Year Award.

“Anthony was not only fast off the edge and wreaked havoc on quarterbacks, but he created turnovers and scored touchdowns,” said Josh Buchanan, who focuses on small-school products for JBScouting.com. “He was athletic enough to drop into coverage and pick off a pass and hit hard enough to jolt the ball loose. He was the top small-school projected defensive end I have seen in quite a while. He would have been in the top 6-8 on my board and a mid-round projection.”

Anthony has been working with Tom Shaws, a well-known Orlando-based pro trainer who focuses on speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness, and has signed with XL Sports Management. He was set for a Pro Day workout today at at Troy University.

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