May 9, 2012

Sanders reflects on Stanford decision

Barry Sanders had already made up his mind about where he wanted to play college football, but he wasn't resting easy on National Signing Day.

Like others associated with the Stanford program, Sanders was anxiously awaiting commitments from five-star offensive linemen Kyle Murphy and Andrus Peat.

Sanders, of course, had a vested stake in their decisions. As a future Cardinal running back, Sanders was eager to find out which lineman would be opening holes for him in years to come.

So when Peat and Murphy announced in favor of Stanford, Sanders was nothing short of overjoyed.

"I was probably the happiest guy in the world that signing day," Sanders said. "I was ecstatic when I found out that not only some of the guys they were recruiting but all of the guys they wanted ended up committing. I definitely made it known around my friends that we're going to be pretty good."

A little less than a month earlier, Sanders made Stanford's coaching staff happy with a decision of his own. A day after receiving news that he was admitted to Stanford, Sanders committed to the Cardinal at the U.S. Army All American game.

"Once I got admitted that Friday before we played the game, I knew it was a wrap," Sanders said.

Along with his official visit to Stanford for the UCLA game a few months earlier, the Army game provided Sanders an excellent opportunity to bond with his future teammates, such as Murphy, Graham Shuler, Alex Carter, Aziz Shittu, and Luke Kaumatule.

"We all connected," Sanders said. "The best part was being able to watch the game with those guys, the Fiesta Bowl. It didn't end up the way we wanted, but it was fun to be able to share the experience with them."

Sanders' commitment to Stanford marked the end of a lengthy and well-publicized recruiting process that saw the four-star recruit visit schools from Florida to California. A frequently repeated anecdote had Sanders falling in love with The Farm when he spent time with Andrew Luck on an official visit to Stanford without being harassed for autographs or pictures.

Some suspected that the anonymity Stanford would offer a high-profile athlete like Sanders played a deciding role in his recruitment, but Sanders said that wasn't the case.

"That was a little bit overblown," Sanders said. "We went out there and Andrew, I think he joined us for lunch or something in the little cafeteria. No one bugged us, but I don't think I was expecting for anybody to. It was a difference between when I went to Alabama and we went to that basketball game, I've never seen anything like it. Trent Richardson got bombarded. That's not something that scared me away, it was just different there and I recognized it and I liked it, but that's a little piece of the pie."

Not overblown was the role Stanford running backs coach and Sanders' regional recruiter Mike Sanford played in the four-star's choice. Sanford made numerous in-home visits with Sanders and developed a close rapport with Sanders and his entire family.

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"Coach Sanford, oh man, that's my guy," Sanders said. "And I'm sure if you asked my little brother he'd probably say he's more his friend than I am. I think Coach Sanford, he read [my brother] Terrance bed time stories one night. Coach Sanford, that's my guy. It was fun hanging out with him with my family on my official. I can't wait to play for him and learn from him and make him proud."

Despite turning down the hometown school (Oklahoma State) in favor of Stanford, Sanders said he hasn't taken too much grief about his Cardinal commitment. In fact, the primary source of contention Sanders' peers have had with his choice isn't really related to the football program at all.

"It's been very positive," Sanders said. "It's funny, because any time I'm talking to somebody, whether it be at the Fiesta Bowl, or they know about Stanford's band, they always tell me that probably the worst part of [Stanford] is the band. That's probably the only negative thing that people have said about that place."

Although he won't be playing his college football in Oklahoma, Sanders isn't finished leaving his mark on the state. Sanders is an outfielder on the Heritage High baseball team, which is currently in the midst of a playoff run.

The pursuit of a championship has kept Sanders' mind from wandering too far into the future.

"We're in the state tournament so I haven't really been able to get real excited about the summer yet," Sanders said. "But after this week I'll be able to start gearing my thoughts towards this summer."

Although Sanders will focus full time on football his first year on campus, he left the door open to pursuit a baseball career at Stanford sometime down the road.

"Not now," Sanders said. "We'll see how it goes, it's a lot of time commitment"

A product of strong recruiting in recent years, Stanford is well stocked at running back. But Sanders will have an opportunity to make an early impact on the Cardinal, depending on the development of his all-around skillset.

"I've talked with coach Sanford about it a little bit, and I think it's all up to my development," Sanders said. "Like Coach Sanford would tell you it depends on how you pass block and pick up blitzes and how I'm able to grasp the whole offensive concept."

By the time Sanders' Cardinal career comes to a close, he has aspirations far beyond seeing the field as a freshman.

"There's only one goal on the field and that's to bring home that national championship," Sanders said. "Off the field if I'm able to get that four-year degree, that'll be as good as it gets. But I plan on hopefully making life-long friends and just being in a great environment. I'm sure that's probably the main thing, just having fun and making memories."




 

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