RECRUITING: Terron Sanders Says Yes To The Gators

There was a time when all Terron Sanders could do is watch his buddies play football. He fit the Pop Warner league age bracket just perfectly but there was this one inescapable problem: he was too heavy to meet the weight requirements. He begged his dad to let him lose weight so he could join his buddies, but Ike Sanders kept telling his son just be patient. ALSO: VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

(Terron Sanders profile)

"My dad always told me, 'be patient …your time will come for football, just not now' but it was tough," said Terron, who couldn't wait until ninth grade so he could start playing high school football at Bradenton Southeast. Three years after that debut at Southeast, he's grown bigger and stronger. He's 6-2 and 295 pounds now, strong enough to bench 390 pounds and quick enough to cover 40 yards in 5.1 seconds. He used that strength and quickness to his advantage a couple of weeks ago at the Urban Meyer Football Camp at the University of Florida. The big guy became a human highlight reel. Nobody could block him and that performance earned a scholarship offer from the Gators.

The offer came by telephone from Coach Steve Addazio and after hearing what the Florida assistant had to say, Terron told Addazio he would call back after talking things over with his dad.

"When Coach (Steve) Addazio called me and offered, I turned to my dad and told him," Terron said Tuesday evening. "He asked 'what do you want to do?' and I said I want to commit. He said 'I've got no problem at all with that. You do what you need to do.' So I called Coach Addazio back and said I'm ready to be a Gator."

Sanders is the seventh commitment for the Gators for the recruiting class of 2006, joining Oviedo's Corey Hobbs as the second defensive lineman to say yes to the Florida football program. By making the commitment to Florida, Sanders says he has taken a load off his mind but also he has taken the first step toward fulfilling a lifetime dream.

"First off, it's a load off my mind because now I can concentrate on playing well my senior year, keeping my grades up and being a quality rep for the Florida Gators," he said. "Wherever I go, people are going to know that I'm a Gator."

The dream began long ago and survived the ragging of his older brother James. From the time he was a little tyke, Terron's room was done in contemporary Gator. James, on the other hand, was a Florida State fan who loved to rag on his baby brother.

"James tried to push the rivalry and Florida State on Terron but he learned that Terron won't bend and he won't break," said Tammy Sanders, Terron's mom. "He's been a Gator since he was a little guy and he'll always be a Gator. That's what is so special about this. Being a Gator has always been his dream. What's so great for my husband and I is seeing him with a chance to live out his dream. It's not often you get to see your kids have their dreams come true."

That unbendable love for the Gators became a heart pounding experience when he came to Gainesville for the Florida camp. He loved everything he saw from the campus to the weight room to The Swamp. The moment he walked out on the field for the first time, he could envision 90,000 fans going nuts over the Gators and he could see himself in orange and blue.

"The lights were on and the stadium was empty," he said, "but I in my mind I could see the fans and hear them screaming. I got lightheaded because of my love of the team and the stadium. Just standing there was a great experience for me."

It was during the camp that he gave daily lessons in how to beat up on offensive linemen. He was unblockable. He used his quickness to shoot gaps. When he was straight over the center or another offensive lineman, he overpowered them and then shot past them before they could mount a retaliatory move.

After each session, he would talk with Coach Greg Mattison, Florida's co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach and Coach Addazio. He really began to form a bond with Mattison. The two had some long conversations and Terron began to feel like this was the coach he wanted to play for.

"On the second to last day of camp, the last practice of the day, Coach Mattison was telling me 'I'm so close to offering you but I can't quite yet.' And then Coach Addazio said 'do you want to be a Gator? You say you've always been a Gator since you were a little toddler.' I said yes Coach, I want to be a Gator.

"Well, Coach Mattison said, 'then I'm going to ask you to trust me. If you can trust me, then you'll be a Gator.' Coach Mattison and me had a friendship going already but when he told me that, I knew he really cares, not just about me but people who play for him. I think it was important for him to know I trust him. It was important for me that he wanted me to trust him."

He also had a chance to spend time with Coach Meyer. Florida's first year coach left a lasting impression on the big tackle.

"We hardly talked football at all," he said. "Coach Meyer wanted to know if I am willing to do all the things to get into Champion's Club. He wanted to know if I'm committed to getting a college degree. He talked about how if you come to Florida you better be ready to study because you're coming here to get a college degree. That really impressed me a lot.

"He's just like Coach Mattison and Coach Addazio because they're interested in the whole person, not just the football player. I think that's one of the reasons Florida's going to be the top football program in the country for a long, long time."

Sanders comes from a family that if it isn't in church on Sunday mornings, does a Sunday Bible study at his grandmother's home. He says it is important for him to not only talk the talk but walk the walk.

"You never know who's watching you so you better live your life right 100 percent of the time," he said. "I want to be a good example. I want to be someone who comes back to my neighborhood one day so that others can see me and think that if I did it, they can too.

"Most of all, I want to be a good example for my younger sister (Corine) and my little brother (Trai). Corine gets up in the morning with me and goes to work out in the weight room. She's something. She's 15 and the first time she ever touched a weight in her life she bench pressed 135 pounds. She's going to be a freshman at Southeast this year and my coach is drooling over her. He thinks she's going to be the state power lifting champion one day."

Trai mimics everything his older brother does. Like Terron, his room is done in contemporary Gator. He plays right tackle for a Pop Warner team that made it to nationals and finished third last year. Trai's goal is to be the same kind of person and football player as his older brother.

"He says he's going to be as big as me and as good as I am someday," said Terron. "He says he's going to get letters from all the colleges and that all of the colleges are going to be calling him on the phone the way they've been doing with me. When I see how important I am to him, I realize that I have to set the example for him and that gives me incentive to live my life right all the time."

While he was already impressed with the Gators before he got to camp, he left Gainesville even more convinced that this was the place for him. It was Florida's academic programs that blew him away.

"When Coach Meyer started showing us where all of Florida's academic programs were rated, I knew this was my place," said Sanders, who has a 2.5 in his core courses and a 2.89 overall. He has taken the ACT one time and is a point away from being a full qualifier, something he says won't be a problem.

      Orange and blue forever, that's me. Those were my colors when I was a kid, they're my colors at my high school and they'll be my colors in college too. I'm a Gator." -- Terron Sanders

There is another motivating factor for this engaging young man. Ike Sanders (father) played football at Indiana but transferred to Howard when a new coach came along and said there were no tight ends in his offense.

"My dad says 'I went to college but you've got a chance to be the first one ever in our family to actually FINISH college' and that is something that I have to do," said Terron. "I'm going to get the degree for me, but yeah, I'm going to get it for my dad, too. I would be nothing without my dad and my mom and everyone in my family, so I'm doing it for them.

"The way I see it, if I get my college degree it will make it that much easier for my sister to do what it takes to get hers, and then my little brother will come along and it will be his turn. He will want to keep up the family tradition."

At Southeast High School there is a plaque in the locker room that says "I Bleed Orange and Blue." Now that Terron Sanders has made his college commitment, he loves the fact he won't have to change colors.

"Orange and blue forever, that's me," he said. "Those were my colors when I was a kid, they're my colors at my high school and they'll be my colors in college too. I'm a Gator."

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