Since winning the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award with the Indianapolis Colts in 2007, Bob Sanders has torn both of his bicep tendons and blown out a knee. This season, he is looking for a fresh start with the San Diego Chargers, with whom he signed a one-year deal last month.
Sanders was not heavily recruited out of high school, but he made the most of his skills, starting as a true freshman and eventually becoming an All-American and three-time All-Big Ten player for the University of Iowa. He was drafted by the Colts in the second round [44th overall] of the 2004 NFL Draft.
Here's what you can learn from his recruiting process.
Find the Right Fit
In his sophomore year of high school, Sanders transferred to the all-boys Cathedral Preparatory School in his home town of Erie, Pa. He says, "I felt like that would be the school for me if I wanted to go on and play in college. There were so many kids going to college on academic and athletic scholarships every year." He took advantage of the opportunity, quickly moving up the varsity, one step closer to his goal. As a senior, he was named team captain and was selected to the All-State first team. "[Cathedral] Prep really helped me, as far as getting that knowledge of football and learning how to study and prepare," he says.
Work Your Connections
Many of his high school teammates were recruited as juniors, but Sanders' smaller size held him back. He was fortunate to have someone on Prep's staff who had coached Kirk Ferentz, Iowa's head football coach at the time. After his coach placed a quick phone call to Coach Ferentz, Sanders became a Hawkeye. "[Ferentz] offered me a scholarship on the spot, without ever seeing me [play]," he says. "And when I finally got my opportunity, I realized that I better not screw this up."
Get it on Film
Sanders, who played running back and safety in high school, didn't have superior size [he's 5'8", 206 lbs.], but he was a hard worker, and he made sure to get quality film of his exemplary play. "The field is your friend, so put it all on the field," he says. "What's going to get you to college is what you put on film."