"Being a punter makes me feel like a wimp," said the 6-2, 298-pound defensive lineman who is a recent commit to the University of Florida. He averaged a not so wimpy 35 yards a punt as a junior with what he calls "pretty decent hang time" but punting is not high on his list of things to do on a football field.
"I do it for the team because they need me," said Sanders, who will be joining a host of top high school players Saturday for a Junior Day hosted by the University of Florida at Lake Wauberg. "I hate it because when I punt, I'm really vulnerable. I know that if they hit me it's a penalty and all that, but I hate that feeling.
"When I'm back there punting, I just really feel kind of lost. I feel so out of place because I'm not hitting somebody. Hitting is the fun part of the game."
When he is in the middle of the defensive line he is nearly as at home as he is in his own room which has been decorated in contemporary Gator since he was a youngster. At defensive tackle his first responsibility is to pound some poor offensive lineman into submission. Once he's done that, the real fun begins, which is punishing a quarterback or a ball carrier.
What makes him such a force in the middle is that quick burst off the ball which allows him to make the first contact. Because he has a mean streak, it is his goal to make that personal encounter as unpleasant as possible for the offensive lineman.
The mean streak is stark contrast to the polite, intelligent kid who is always smiling when he is away from the football field. Some might call it a split personality. He and his dad have another term for it.
"My dad has always told me that I am a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality," he said. "I love the hitting and the contact on the field. I love to beat up on people. That's my Dr. Jekyll. Off the field, I'm a nice guy. I'm Mr. Hyde."
Beating up on people in the middle of the line is his favorite part of football. There was a time when he thought he might be another Jerome Bettis. He was bigger than everyone else and like most kids who played football, he envisioned himself scoring touchdowns. That's when he discovered the defensive line.
"Since then I've played maybe one play at tight end but other than that, I've been in the trenches," he said. "That is where I was born to be. I have no problems being in the middle of the line. Really, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else on the football field. On every single play you're guaranteed to hit somebody and I don't think I ever want to be out of that position. I guess you could say this is my natural position."
With his college commitment already taken care of, he has shifted his focus to preparing himself for his final high school football season. He wants to help his team win a state championship but he knows that at some point, it will start sinking in that his high school days are numbered and his college football career is dead ahead.
"At some point it will all start to sink in that I'm going to be leaving Bradenton to be a Gator," he said, "but for now, I just want to do whatever I need to do to help my team."
He will help even if he has to punt and feel like a wimp.