Sanders excited to sign
Growing up, C.J. Sanders always had two things in his life: football and Twizzlers. He hasn’t outgrown either.
On Wednesday, the four-star receiver from Sherman Oaks, Calif., will sign a National Letter of Intent to continue his education and football career at the University of Notre Dame. He’ll likely celebrate that event with a few pieces of his favorite candy.
“Everybody knows I love Twizzlers; that’s known by everybody,” Sanders said. “I’m a sugar fanatic so anywhere I go people put Twizzlers into the equation. That’s funny to me that everybody knows that. Everywhere I go it always pops up.”
His love of licorice will likely follow him to South Bend. So will expectations for an immediate impact on the Irish football program. Notre Dame’s staff expects Sanders to hit the ground running when he enrolls this summer.
“They want me to come in and compete and contribute anyway I can in kick return, punt return and in the slot as well,” Sanders said. “It just depends on how I do in camp. I’m ready to compete and do the best I can and we’ll go from there.”
Sanders isn’t afraid of competition. That’s in his DNA.
His father, Chris Sanders, played college football at Ohio State then had a seven-year career in the NFL, which included an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIV. His mother, Stacie McCall Harris, played basketball at Michigan. His stepfather, Corey Harris, played football at Vanderbilt then won a Super Bowl title with the Baltimore Ravens.
“Having two father figures and my mom as well, they just kind of showed me what work ethic can do and how it contributes to your game,” Sanders said. “I just remember me waking up at five or four in the morning since the age of 12, so that’s something they instilled in me and turned me into who I am. I’m grateful for it. I got to experience it firsthand and they molded me into who I am today. I’m really thankful for them.”
Sanders’ support system also guided him through recruiting by letting him make his own decision.
“Since they’ve all been through it they left it up to me,” he said. “They said we know how it feels to be in your position. Do what makes you happy. They really didn’t say too much. They just said follow your heart. A lot of parents want to tell their kid where to go but I was just blessed to be how I was and in the position to choose where I wanted to be. They didn’t give me any pressure. I just felt like Notre Dame was a perfect fit.”
Notre Dame’s academic reputation and the relationship Sanders developed with the Irish staff sealed his commitment.
“I love coach (Brian) Kelly and I’m really close with coach (Scott) Booker. They all make me feel at home and that’s what stuck out to me about Notre Dame, just the relationships built and the high character that they have,” Sanders said. “That’s what appealed to me. I have a great relationship with the staff and that’s another reason why I chose it but Notre Dame as a whole is why I chose this university.”
Sanders quickly endeared himself to future teammates through the group chat the class has kept up since last year. They hope that rapport means something next season.
“This class, we’re the most tight-knit class in the country,” Sanders said. “Everybody knows we have a group chat and we talk every day. We’re just building our relationship and that’s what I’m looking forward to when I get to campus. We’re already close. I spent a lot of time with a couple of the guys at the Semper Fidelis All-American Game. I just can’t wait to be up there. It’s a great group of guys. That’s really true of Notre Dame; it’s a close-knit type of family atmosphere and high character people.”
Sanders expects to sign and fax his official LOI early Wednesday morning. He’ll return to school for a group signing ceremony later in the day.
“I’m just excited,” he said. “That’s the main thing. It’s finally here. I’ve waited so long. It’s crazy that time flies. The main thing is just excitement. I feel blessed to be in the position and I just can’t wait to get to work and contribute to the team. That’s my main focus right now.”
A former child actor, Sanders hopes to utilize his on-camera experience to major in broadcasting or even business at Notre Dame.