Thursday, July 13, 2006

Sanders Surprises Himself

Thursday, July 13, 2006

By Andy Hamilton and Pat Harty
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Bob Sanders built a reputation with his speed and high-impact hitting, but even he didn't expect to be such a big hit this fast in the NFL.

With barely more than a full season's worth of game experience with the Indianapolis Colts, Sanders already is an All-Pro, one of the rising stars in the NFL and one of the game's hardest hitters.

And perhaps nobody is more surprised than the former Iowa safety.

"I thought it would take me a little longer to get adjusted and acclimated to the speed of the game and everything like that," Sanders said. "But once I got in there, it all became second nature. It happened so fast, though."

Sanders had his rookie season cut short in 2004 by a foot injury that prevented him from being ready for the early portion of the year. The 5-foot-8, 206-pound safety played in 14 games this past season, collecting 91 tackles, filling highlight reels with teeth-rattling hits and helping change the complexion of a Colts defense that went from average to one of the league's best in the span of a year.

"I'm not surprised one bit," said Philadelphia Eagles safety Sean Considine, who started alongside Sanders in the secondary with the Hawkeyes. "I love going into the locker room and bragging up Bob. I tell everybody that Bob Sanders is the best football player that I've ever played with. When I told people that a year or two ago, they all wanted to say, 'Well, he's too small.' Now look. He's a Pro Bowl player. It doesn't surprise me one bit."

Sanders is in town this week to help with the Training with Nate Kaeding Youth Camp at West High -- a camp for ages 7 through 14 that specializes in football, basketball and soccer instruction.

Sanders recalled Wednesday how track and wrestling helped enhance his football skills.

"I think a lot of my wrestling comes into play when I'm making a tackle," he said. "When you take a single-leg takedown, you're going hard and you're going real low. So all that stuff comes into play. Track helps you out with speed, and it helps you learn how to run properly. Doing all those different things helped me with football."

So did meeting the late Joe Moore.

Moore was the mentor for Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, and he also coached Sanders at Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep High School. He convinced Ferentz to spend a scholarship on Sanders, whose only other offer was from Ohio University.

"He meant the world to me (with) just everything he did for me," Sanders said. "If it weren't for him I would not be in this situation right now. I would never see myself being able to accomplish all the things I've accomplished. He put me into a great situation by introducing me to coach Ferentz and coach Ferentz trusted his word and gave me a chance.

"To me, I look back and say it's a blessing that he came into my life. He's like an angel to me because he helped me get to the point where I am now."

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