CLEMSON, SC -- It’s been a strange road to Clemson for Kerrick Sanders.
The 6-0, 175-pound native of Atlanta started his football career on a similar track as current Tigers Robert Carswell, Gary Byrd, and Matt Bailey as a standout at Stone Mountain High School. And while Carswell, Byrd, and Bailey have settled into the system at Clemson, Sanders has been forced to take a different route than his former high school teammates.
After failing to qualify as a senior, Sanders was forced to either sit out a year or sign on to play at a junior college. He chose the latter, but his choices were limited.
“I could have gone to Middle Georgia or something like that,” Sanders says.
“Georgia Military’s Scholarships were full. All of the Mississippi JUCO’s scholarships were full so the only other choice was Middle Georgia, and they don’t give full athletic scholarships. So I came out here.”
To be exact, “out here” is a town known for UFO’s and not much else: Roswell, New Mexico, where Sanders was forced to adapt to life at The New Mexico Military Prep School.
“The first semester out here is kind of hard because they call you a RAT, which stands for “Recruit At Training,” but you can already see that when they call you that it’s kind of derogatory. And then it’s a prep school so you’ll have high school kids, like a 14-year old screaming and yelling at you and telling you what to do and you have no choice but to do it. That was kind of hard. Now I’m in the position where I can tell people what to do and I’m in a leadership position so it’s pretty good,” Sanders says, laughing.
Despite the initial hardships, Sanders would eventually excel both on and off the field at New Mexico Military, earning Junior College Academic All-American honors this past season.
“It’s been the best for me because it’s given me a lot of discipline and it’s given me a lot of good study habits. In high school, it was like football was the only thing I wanted to do and now I see that I can put football on the backburner and try and get an education,” he says.
Much like during his senior season at Stone Mountain, recruiters once again have swarmed over the speedy defensive back during the past few months, with Clemson, Mississippi, and N.C. State leading the charge. While Sanders has close ties to the Tiger program through friends Carswell, Byrd, and Bailey, he has a connection to the Wolfpack program as well. Jatavis Sanders, Kerrick’s younger brother, just finished his freshman season at quarterback for NC State. In the end, it would be the pull of the Clemson coaches and Kerrick’s high school friends that would win him over.
“I talked to Robert and Byrd a lot. Coach (Jack) Hines impressed me a lot. He was watching film from a guy from Middle Georgia and of me and he broke it down and said that he liked my film better,” Sanders says.
The opportunity to make an immediate impact at Clemson was another deciding factor for Sanders.
“Coach Herring says he wants me to come in and play. He said they he’s going to give me every chance to get to play and that’s all I’m looking for right now,” says Sanders.
With brother Jatavis taking snaps for NC State and Kerrick, Carswell, Bailey, and Byrd lining up for the Tigers, next years showdown between the Tigers and the Wolfpack is beginning to take on the appearance of a civil war.
“My parents are getting excited about Clemson and NC State and they’re already like, “You’ve got to get these many tickets for the game” and that kind of stuff,” Kerrick says.
Will Kerrick and company be placing any friendly wagers on the game?
“We probably will and Robert will probably get in on it. It’s going to be good to see.”
And how would Kerrick feel if Reggie Herring set him loose on a cornerback blitz if his younger
brother was lined up at quarterback for the Wolfpack?
“That would just be icing on the cake to get a good shot on him.”
UPDATE: Although Sanders plans to sign with Clemson acceptance of his commitment
will hinge on his academic record clearing the university standards. Sanders says the school is now reviewing all his transfer hours.