WSU verbal commit Kelle Sanders just may be The Most Interesting Recruit in America

KELLE SANDERS won’t set foot on campus as an official member of the Washington State football team until summer, but the WSU verbal commit – and Hurricane Katrina survivor -- already gets votes for most intriguing athlete on Planet Coug.

Consider the range of honors that have been bestowed on the South Puget Sound product in recent weeks ...

  • All-State and All-Area defensive lineman by the Tacoma News Tribune
  • All-Area quarterback by The Olympian
  • MVP of the Sound Division of the 2A South Puget Sound League

Just to clear: This River Ridge High/Lacey athlete has been honored for excellence in the same season for playing two positions that typically only go together when a large body is crushing a smaller one from the blind side.

Yes, Kelle Sanders is a prep standout at quarterback AND on the defensive line. And for good measure, he also plays a pretty good brand of basketball.

Sanders checks in at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds (up 15 from last spring) and WSU coaches have him ticketed for defensive end.

“The bigger the moment, the better the Washington State commit plays,” wrote The Olympian in its All-Area description of Sanders. The newspaper calls him an “energetic, competitive leader” and marveled that he could morph from an All-Area and honorable mention All-State defensive end as a junior in 2015 to a double-duty 2016 phenom who threw for 1,304 yards and rushed or passed for 18 TDs in his first season at QB. He led River Ridge to the state quarterfinals.

But when it comes to capturing the essence of Sanders, stats and honors are just the surface.

In an incredible story in the Tacoma News Tribune this past August, reporter Lauren Smith takes readers through the life of a young man who has been confronting challenges on a daily basis since he was 6 years old.

That’s when Hurricane Katrina struck and Sanders woke up in a floating bed in his grandma’s house. That turned out to be a blessing, because his family’s home several miles away didn’t survive the storm. “The only thing left was the three porch steps,” Kelle told the TNT. “Everything else was blown away.”

To this day, he remains homeless in the truest sense of the word, though as his mom notes in the story, not in the spirit of the word. Here’s an excerpt:

A good day is a good goal for a 17-year-old who has already had plenty of bad days. He moved to Washington in 2005 when his family was displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Financial hardship has uprooted his family, and he’s struggled with focus and direction in the classroom.

“Look at this kid,” said Sanders’ mother, Tina. “He’s had some hard trials, but he’s still standing.”

Since last spring, Sanders has spent his nights at teammate Brayden Anderson’s house. Sometimes on the bed, other times on the couch — whoever gets to the bed first usually takes it, Anderson joked.

“I think he’s dealt with it really well,” Anderson said. “I think he kind of jokes around about it, doesn’t take it to heart, just keeps playing.”

Sanders anticipates staying with Anderson until he goes to college next fall, but he’s experienced enough to know not to count on it.

“You never know what’s going to happen,” he said.


Sanders is one of five in-state prep players in the 2017 recruiting cycle who have committed verbally to play for the Cougars:

Sanders and WSU area recruiter Eric Mele during a recent in-home visit

Cougfan Top Stories