Jamarca Sanford has a passion for football that is quite obvious.
Whether he's on the field or on the sidelines, he never stops talking, challenging whoever is on the other side of the ball to bring it on.
In practice, he's constantly encouraging his defensive teammates or trying to get under the skin of the offensive players to spur them on to greater productivity.
"I just love football," said Sanford. "Practice, games, pickup games - doesn't matter. I just want to play."
With that type of fire, spring training this year was painful for the talented strong safety in two ways.
One, the groin surgery he had in the offseason carried a certain amount of physical pain with it. Two, the mental pain of not being able to participate ate at him.
"When my team is working, I want to be working. I would get so pumped up watching the scrimmages this spring that it was all I could do not to run out on the field, hurt or not," he said. "If P-Willie (MLB Patrick Willis, also rehabbing from offseason surgery) hadn't been over there with me, I don't know if I could have contained myself."
Sanford first caught Coach Ed Orgeron's attention with his fire last spring, Coach O's first as the Rebel mentor.
Even though it wasn't certain where he would play - he was tried at corner and linebacker before he was moved to SS, there was one absolute. He would be in the lineup somewhere.
"We weren't sure what position was best for him, but we knew he was one of our best 11 and we were going to get Jamarca on the field," said Secondary Coach Chris Rippon. "I've said this a hundred times before - Jamarca is a rattlesnake on the field."
Besides the mentality of a hard-nosed football player, Jamarca is physically gifted with the speed, strength and quickness that is prototypical.
But what separates him from the pack is his style and his approach to football.
"He's fearless," Rip said. "When he gets solid hit on someone, they know they have been hit."
His boyish enthusiasm for the game of football keeps everyone alive and on their toes.
"Competition is what it's all about," Sanford says. "I love to compete. I'm not going to back down from any challenge on the football field."
Unfortunately, the only thing he could compete against in spring was himself and the calendar.
"I was competing to get healthy and to do it as quickly as possible," he noted. "Being in rehab with Patrick has helped me. We are both focused on doing everything possible to be ready when summer workouts begin."
Right now, Sanford says his rehab is "coming along pretty well."
"I wear weights on my ankles and do reps with different motions to strengthen the muscle. I'm able to do a little jogging now and I can do some light squats in the weight room, but I haven't put too much strain on the groin yet," he explains. "I hope to be full speed by the end of this month (May)."
Jamarca knows he has ground to make up when he is given the green light to resume full-speed practice.
"I have lost some of my conditioning. I can feel that. My strength is starting to come back, but I know I can't run like I need to. When I get cleared by the doctors and trainers, I am going to have to carefully double up on my work load in terms of conditioning," Jamarca says.
On the field, in assessing his 2005 play, he says he needs to work on his pass coverage.
"I'm so aggressive in the box against the run that I would sometimes get out of position in my coverages," he assessed. "I have to play the deep ball better and just be a better coverage guy. That will be my focus in the offseason after I am cleared."
Jamarca doesn't believe he missed out on anything as far as the X's and O's of the Rebel defense.
"I attended all the position meetings and the practices and kept up with the scheme. I could have used the spring reps, just like everyone, but knowledge-wise, I'm OK," he closed.
Jamarca would also like to put on a few pounds for 2006. He played at 200 pounds last year but would like to be in the 205-210 range in '06.
But that's secondary. The main thing is to get back on the field and to be healthy. The rest will take care of itself.
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