Sanford looking to the future

The Vikings made a stir with some around the league by using their first pick on a player (Percy Harvin) who had some off-the-field issues. The team came full circle in the seventh round, drafting Mississippi safety Jamarca Sanford - a four-year starter with some off-the-field red flags of his own.

Seventh-round draft picks know they face longer odds of making an NFL roster, but Ole Miss safety Jamarca Sanford is not your typical seventh-round pick.

It's no small achievement to start all 44 games of your college career, much less in a conference as powerful as the SEC. Sanford did that, but for all his experience, it was his downside that had teams wary of taking him.

He felt he was going to be drafted somewhere in the fifth or sixth round but had to wait until the final round before the Vikings called his name. But, with the team having an opening at safety with the departure of Darren Sharper via free agency, Sanford believes he could be the player to fill that roster position.

"I feel it's a great fit for me," Sanford said. "I was just waiting for an opportunity and the opportunity came. I'm just really look forward to get there (to Minnesota), learn the system and get ready to play."

The concerns surrounding Sanford were two-fold. First is his size. Despite having tremendous upper-body strength – he did 29 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine – at 5-10, 214 pounds, he is viewed as undersized by NFL standards.

The second problem is a little more unnerving to NFL decision-makers. In September 2003, he was reportedly arrested for stealing a stereo out of a car parked on the Ole Miss campus. In January 2008, he was reportedly arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after failing to adhere to a policeman's warning to disperse from a parking lot of a pool hall/night club near campus in Oxford, Miss.

Following his performance in the Texas vs. the Nation postseason all-star game, Sanford got a call from Vikings head coach Brad Childress, who wanted to express the team's interest in him, but also make sure that his problems were behind him.

"He called me after the Texas vs. the Nation Game and we talked about my off-the-field issue," Sanford said. "I told he doesn't have to about that (happening) again. He asked, ‘If we give you a chance and draft you, do I have to worry about that again?' I said that was a mistake on my behalf and you won't have to worry about that again."

Sanford said that he has grown from his experience and realizes that off-field incidents can carry a lot of weight in NFL war rooms – a lesson he learned the hard way Sunday.

"You're going to make a few mistakes," Sanford said. "The biggest thing is that you have to learn from your mistakes. That's something that I did. I just make better decisions."

Although he has a couple of strikes against him, one of his major pluses is a wealth of experience playing in one of the premier college football conferences in the country. Having started 40 games at strong safety and four at outside linebacker - filling in due to injuries – Sanford has a solid resume on the field to fall back on.

"When you play in the SEC and start for four years, you really go against some of the best," Sanford said. "Going to the NFL, there's even more talent. There really isn't anything you haven't seen. Playing week in and week out in the SEC, you see the best talent."

Sanford knows the odds will likely be against him making the final roster. He said he's prepared to give it his best shot and make it difficult for the team to let him go. He's willing to do whatever it takes to make the team and knows he has a short window of opportunity to get the job done. Because of that, he said he will be willing to do whatever the team asks of him.

"It really doesn't matter," Sanford said. "All I wanted was a chance. (I'll do) whatever I've got to do to make the team. I can play special teams. I can help on defense. Whatever it takes, I'm willing to do it."

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