Jets' Henry Anderson living large as 'Goose' mystery widens

Henry Anderson has found a home with the Jets, who obtained him from the Colts for a seventh-round draft pick. Anderson will face his former team Sunday. Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Henry Anderson's nickname travels well. The moniker -- Goose -- was hatched at Stanford, circa 2011. It went from Palo Alto, California, to the Indianapolis Colts to the New York Jets. Crazy thing is, no one on the Jets seems to know the genesis of Goose. And he's not telling.

"There are half-truths that have been released to certain media, especially in college," he said with a smile, alluding to a Madden NFL video-game contest from his freshman year in which he went scoreless in the fourth quarter -- a goose egg. "The true origin, I can't really say it. It's kind of a secret."

Anderson bears a slight resemblance to Anthony Edwards' "Goose" character in the iconic 1986 movie "Top Gun." So maybe ...

Does it really matter?

The point is, the 6-foot-6, 290-pound defensive end is developing into a reliable wing man for Leonard Williams. Anderson is tied for second on the team in sacks (a career-high 2.5) and third in quarterback hits (five) and leads the defensive linemen in batted passes (four). The Jets stole him from the Colts, whom they face Sunday at MetLife Stadium. On Day 3 of the draft, they traded a seventh-round pick for Anderson, hoping he could provide stability as Muhammad Wilkerson's replacement.

The Jets liked Anderson when he came out of Stanford in 2015, although they believed he was overdrafted as a third-rounder. Still, they saw potential, especially in their 3-4 scheme. He became available because the Colts, with a new coaching staff, switched to a 4-3 front.

When Anderson plays, he produces, but he's had trouble staying on the field. He tore an ACL as a rookie and last season he suffered a frightening throat injury -- a fractured larynx, the result of an elbow from Houston Texans running back Lamar Miller. Anderson finished the game, but he struggled afterward to drink water and eat food. A scan the next day revealed his voice box was in bad shape.

The doctors told him he risked permanent damage to his voice if he didn't have surgery. The fractured cartilage was poking into his vocal cords, he said, and there was a chance it wouldn't heal properly on its own. A week later he had the surgery, ending his season after nine games.

"I still feel like it's a little bit different," he said. "If I'm singing in the car, sometimes I can't hit the high notes like I used to. A singing career is kind of out the window."

In normal conversation, Anderson sounds perfectly fine. Then again, he's not belting out any tunes in the locker room. If a star is born, it will have to be on the football field, where Anderson, 27, has found his comfort zone after a taxing offseason in which he felt like a human accordion, compressing and expanding.

When the Colts hired Frank Reich, who opted for a 4-3 defensive scheme, Anderson decided to go on a crash diet in an attempt to improve his movement skills. On a four-man line, quickness is more important than bulk and strength. For three months, he lived on chicken, fish and four-hour daily workouts, dropping about 30 pounds.

Anderson was down to 267 when his cell phone rang in his Indianapolis townhouse on draft day. In the middle of a video game, Goose glanced at the caller ID and it was Colts general manager Chris Ballard. This was the "you've been traded" call.

Once the initial shock subsided, Anderson realized he'd have to gain weight to fit into the Jets' 3-4 front. He started eating and pretty much hasn't stopped, bringing his weight back up to 290. He wasn't counting calories, per se, but he suspects he was consuming about 4,500 per day during the peak of his mass consumption.

"I was still eating a lot of healthier food, but I had to eat a ton of it all the time," he said. "If you're eating low-cal food to gain weight, you have to eat a lot of it. I was constantly eating. It wasn't too fun.

"When I was trying to lose the weight, I was on a real strict diet, and I'd have only one cheat meal a week. When I was trying to gain weight, I'd have two or three cheat meals -- kind of a cheat day."

He'd hit his favorite burger joint in Atlanta for a few burgers, fries and a milkshake. On other cheat days, he'd go Mexican, devouring tacos, enchiladas, cheese dip and gobs of guacamole.

Now that he's back to his 3-4 playing weight, Anderson could be called a stuffed goose, but he's not playing like a portly bird. He's one of the most productive players on the Jets' defense even though he has played only 194 of 361 snaps (54 percent). The Jets are using him primarily on passing downs, a departure from his full-time role with the Colts.

Anderson said the advantage of playing every down was that it enabled him to pick up the tendencies of the man trying to block him. After a few series, he had enough information to make adjustments to his game plan. But there was a downside.

"You're getting pretty gassed, especially on long drives," he said. "Here, we've got a good rotation going. They put me in a lot of pass-rush situations, so I'm going out there fresh and not already winded from being out there on first and second down. It's nice, feeling like you're moving faster than the guys you're lining up across from."

Coach Todd Bowles described Anderson as a smart technician who "understands what's happening to him and he understands the game. He's taking advantage of his opportunity." Bowles called him a "steady Eddie."

How about a loose Goose?

In a recent news conference, defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers referred to Anderson as "Goose," the first time anyone had used his nickname publicly. Rodgers admitted he didn't know the story behind the name; he heard players calling him "Goose" in the meeting room, so he started doing the same.

Backup center Jonotthan Harrison, who played with Anderson in Indianapolis, is responsible for reviving the nickname in the Jets' locker room. It got from Stanford to Indianapolis because of David Parry, a college teammate of Anderson who was drafted by the Colts the same year as his friend. Parry, currently a free agent, allegedly is one of the few people on the planet who knows the real story.

No word on whether he goes by "Maverick."