Former Florida Gators defensive tackle Terron Sanders has taken a bumpy road filled with injuries and setbacks to get to this point in his playing career. A redshirt senior, Sanders remains in Gainesville, FL rehabbing with trainer Marty Huegel in order to heal a torn right labrum he had surgery on after the Florida State game.
Sanders, who signed with Craig Schaeffer and Glen Lansky of Elite Sports Agency, plans to head to Sarasota, FL after his rehab is complete so he can begin training for Florida’s Pro Day in April. He spent some time over the weekend with OGGOA recounting his collegiate career and looking ahead to the future.
ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s start at the beginning. I read you were a fan of the Gators growing up but obviously had plenty of other schools vying for your services out of high school. What was it like to receive a scholarship over from Florida and how long did it take you to jump on it?
TERRON SANDERS: “It was kind of a dream come true for me, actually. Coach [Greg] Mattison and Coach [Steve] Addazio told me that Coach [Urban] Meyer wouldn’t consider offering until I came up for a camp. So I came up for the camp, did whatever I could do, and when they called me in the office after the camp and told me that I really impressed them and they were really interested in me. That made me feel good. A week later I got a call with them offering me the scholarship. It felt surreal almost. I felt like I was kind of dreaming. It wasn’t something that I really expected because I didn’t know how well I did at the camp. It took me five minutes – if that – to call them back and tell them that I was going to be a Gator. Coach Addazio called, offered me the scholarship. [I asked for] a week to think about it, got off the phone with him and told my dad they offered me a scholarship. My dad asked me what I was waiting for, so I turned around, called Coach Addazio right back and told him that I’d come. There was no question about it; it was what I wanted to do.”
AS: Between your senior year of high school and the 2008 season, you tore your meniscus in your left knee twice, the one in the right knee once and suffered a high ankle sprain. Coming back from injury so many times, what were you going through mentally and how did you prepare physically to come back the next season?
TS: “I wasn’t doing what I needed to do when I first got here. I wasn’t accomplishing my goals. I was kind of disappointed in myself. I had the motivation for myself to get better and do what I needed to do.”
AS: After going through all of that you ended up starting 12 games in 2008 including the SEC Championship and BCS National Championship. How special was it getting to play that season and seeing the end result?
TS: “That was another one of those surreal moments. You kind of had to pinch yourself afterward. To sit back, look at the turnaround I made, it felt good to know that I did everything I could to become a part of that. I knew how important it was to be a part of that. And I knew that, if I hadn’t pushed myself, and I didn’t have the people around me – the family members, the support group that I had – it wouldn’t have been possible. After it happened, I went back to my hotel room, spent some time with my family and just embraced the moment. It was something that was an amazing feeling. A lot of people say it’s an once-in-a-lifetime feeling to experience two National Championships. The second one I was a part of, and I feel like I added my contribution. It was an incredible feeling.”
Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Terron Sanders…after the break!
AS: You seemed to be going strong in 2009 until another injury popped up – a fluke torn ACL. Talk about rehabbing from that and coming back strong this past year.
TS: “I knew that coming back for my senior year, I knew it was going to be important for me to recover to the fullest. I knew that I had one more shot to catch the eyes of anybody who might be out there and who might be interested in giving me a chance at the next level. After having torn my ACL, my trainer Marty [Huegel] got me back [in action] in six months. That is something not a whole lot of people do. I knew my knee was strong, and having missed so much of the offseason and not being able to go full speed, to go through surgery and get ready for the season was difficult. The support group I had – the family, the friends – everyone asked me if it was worth it.
I already had a National Championship. I could have laid down and said, ‘I have my National Championship.’ I looked back at what I did to get myself here. Kind of went back to that same place. I wasn’t all about partying or doing the stuff that wasn’t going to get me right. It was hard, closer to the end of the camp I ended up re-aggravating my knee, and I missed the first game of the season. I was able to take advantage of the opportunity [and return for most of the season].”
AS: How difficult was this past season week-in and week-out for the seniors?
TS: “It was hard because it wasn’t exactly what we wanted. At the same time, we were trying to make sure we led by example for the underclassmen and ones who were coming back. Things didn’t go the way we wanted them to, but we tried our best to rally up. It was definitely difficult because it wasn’t how we wanted to go. We knew that this was it. For some of us, there was no tomorrow. There’s not another guaranteed season. Some of us, myself included, are going into this offseason not knowing if we’re going to play another down of football. It was real hard finishing 8-5. It was real hard because it didn’t go how we expected it to go. We were expecting another opportunity at the SEC Championship, another opportunity at the National Championship. It didn’t go that way. It was hard but, as a senior class, we did a good job sticking together and finishing strong not only for ourselves but to send Coach Meyer out on a winning note. That was really important for us.”
AS: What did you think of Meyer resigning for the second time? Think he’ll coach again?
TS: “For him to announce that he was retiring for the second time, it kind of felt like it was necessary. Being there with him for the National Championships, for the five years that I’ve been there, I support him 100 percent. He’s one of those coaches who puts his whole entire heart into it. He sacrifices a lot. He cares about things that some coaches would never care about. That’s a burden – not a burden – but a lot of weight on one person’s shoulders for them to be carrying for as long as he did. When he announced that he was retiring, I was there for him. I support him 100 percent. I’m happy he made a decision that’s going to help him in the future. I’m sure, later on in life when things get a little calmed down and he gets a little bit of time for himself and his family, I could see him getting back into coaching. Right now I think him taking some time off and spending it with his family is probably the best thing for him.”
AS: Any thoughts on Will Muschamp? I’m not sure how much time you’ve gotten to spend around the team since all of that went down…
TS: “I haven’t had an opportunity to speak with him personally. From speaking to a lot of the football players, because I see them every day, a lot of them like him. They feel like he’s a good addition to the program. He’s coming in with expectations to make a run to a National Championship this year. With the talent that’s coming back, and the players that are there, I see that as an opportunity. Coach Muschamp might be the guy to do it.”
AS: Which guys returning next season really impressed you over the last year?
TS: “I would say Sharrif [Floyd]. Sharrif had an amazing year as a freshman. He made freshman All-SEC. Jaye Howard, me and him shared time. A lot of people need to watch out for Jaye Howard as well. I think he might have a good year as long as he stays motivated and continues to be coachable, wants to improve and get better.”
AS: Looking back on your career in the Orange and Blue, what one play that you were on the field for that you will remember the fondest?
TS: “There’s a couple of them. I’d probably have to say the stop I made on the field goal in the SEC Championship game against ‘Bama the first time in 08. The fumble recovery against Georgia in 08. The fumble recovery against Vanderbilt this year [see picture]. There’s been a couple of plays that I will remember for as long as I’m here.”
AS: What have you been up to since the season has ended? Have you signed with an agent or made plans for a NFL Draft push?
TS: “I had surgery after the Florida State game on my right labrum. I’ve been in Gainesville rehabbing with Marty again. I’ve been working out two-three times a day, just trying to cut weight and get in shape. I have signed with an agent; one of them is based out of Sarasota. As soon as I get clearance from the doctor, I will be moving down to Sarasota to train with my trainer and get ready for Pro Day.”
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