Jamarca Sanford

Ole Miss Rebel Strong Safety Jamarca Sanford kept a stiff upper lip last spring when he was roaming the sidelines of football practice unable to participate, but it was tearing him apart to miss out. The guy just loves to play the game, practice included. Read about it inside.

Some guys don't mind missing a grueling practice or two here and there.

But when you take any part of football away from Jamarca Sanford, Ole Miss' sophomore strong safety, you may as well take away his food.

"Man, I couldn't stand not going through spring training," said Sanford, who had to have a hernia fixed in the offseason. "I was out there, but not being a part of the action. . . I felt like a caged tiger."

The 5-10, 200-pounder simply loves the game, whether it's on Saturday or during the dog days of August in two-a-days. He's always smiling when he has football gear on.

"I don't know, it's just in my blood," Sanford said yesterday when th Rebels were reporting for fall camp. "I can't wait to get back out there."

Jamarca needed a good summer to prepare for August. He rehabbed all spring and was cleared by his trainers and doctors in June to resume full-speed work. He found out quickly he was way behind the conditioning curve.

"I couldn't do anything but rehab for 10 or 11 weeks. I never realized it because I've never faced this before, but you don't understand how bad out of shape you can get in that short amount of time," he explained. "I've been busting it all summer just to get back where I was, conditioning and strength-wise."

The good news is that he's finally 100%.

"I'm ready to go. I haven't had any problems with the area that was fixed and I've got my conditioning where I need it," he noted.

Jamarca was a first-time starter last year as a redshirt freshman. Even though he made the Freshman All-SEC team, Sanford says the best is yet to come.

"I expect to be a lot better this time around. There are a lot of reasons. One, I'm more mature as a player and a person," he continued. "Two, the system is second nature to me now. There were times last year when all of us were confused trying to learn the scheme and getting used to the way the new coaches coached. Now we know what to expect and we know the system. This year will be a lot better for me and for all of us who went through it last year."

Jamarca said he's also got one ace up his sleeve - playing behind All-American MLB Patrick Willis.

"If you are not careful, you can catch yourself just watching him. It's a thing of beauty. Not much is going to get by him, but if it does, I'm his insurance," Jamarca laughed. "He knows everything there is to know out there and rarely makes a false step or misses an assignment. He makes everyone better and makes everyone's job easier."

Sanford looks for the defensive package to expand some this year because everyone now has the basics of the scheme down pat.

"I think the coaches can trust us more now and can make some calls they might now have felt comfortable making last year," he explained. "We think we have an opportunity to play more aggressively and not be thinking so much. That's our goal anyway."

What is the next step for Jamarca? Simple.

"I can't wait to hit someone," he smiled. "It's been a long time and it's what I like about football. That first contact is going to feel real good."

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