You are a freshman at the University of Texas, and you just played a part in the Longhorns’ thrilling 31-27 come-from-behind win over Oregon State in the Valero Alamo Bowl. What do you do now?
If you’re Kendall Sanders, you come home to Athens.
The 6-foot, 183-pound former Hornet visited with Henderson County Now this week to talk about what it’s like to play football in Austin — and to no one’s surprise, it’s amazing.
“Just being there, the atmosphere will open your eyes,” he said. “Practice is like Friday nights here.”
“I (stand in awe) a lot,” Sanders said. “When I first got there, I’d do that in practice. Then I got used to it, and we started bowl practices and it hit me again. It’s my first bowl game and I’m at Texas.”
He also learned quickly that he was playing on a different level, talent wise.
“At the All-American game, that’s when I got perspective (on talent),” he said. “Because all those people were All-Americans, all those people were great. I thought, that’s where I’m going to, Texas, where everyone is great, so I just kind of prepared myself there so I wouldn’t be (overwhelmed) when I got to Texas.”
He might have known he was on a different level, but grabbing two interceptions in that U.S. Army All-American Bowl last year also proved he belonged on that level.
He proved it again when he got to Austin and earned a spot on special teams as a true freshman. He also earned time at wide receiver. His first catch came against Wyoming in the season opener and yes, he heard the crowd.
“When I caught that ball, I felt like I had never played football before in my life,” he said with a laugh. “When I caught the ball, I didn’t know what to do. I heard the crowd (roar) and I stopped, and then I went on with the play.”
Like any season, Sanders’ freshman year had ups and downs. Even though he was playing, it was much less than in the past.
“But at the same time, it was a learning experience because I never played just that position,” he said, “so i was learning from the guys in front of me.”
Sanders said that positive spirit comes from God and his family.
My family instilled the three “H’s” in my life: Be Humble, Honest and Hungry,” he said. “So I just try and live by that.”
That ethic also helped Sanders nail down a solid “B” average in the classroom.
And believes he’s at Texas for a reason.
“I believe God led me to Texas. He sets my whole life, and so I’m just following his footsteps,” he said.
Looking forward, the path seems ready for Sanders to take on a bigger role in the offense for the Longhorns next season.
The 18-year-old isn’t surprised, but still manages to be both humble and confident about the future.
“Like I said, God is setting up my road,” he says.