Sept. 24, 2003
After undergoing an emergency appendectomy the morning of the Kansas State game, freshman cornerback Brandon Sanders has emerged as an important piece to Cal's success on defense, in 2003. The son of former Cal defensive back Raymond Sanders and cousin of wide receiver Jonathan Makonnen, Sanders definitely has big play ability in his blood. This was evident over the weekend against Illinois, when Sanders intercepted a Jon Beutjer pass and returned it 18 yards to set up a Cal score that proved to be the difference in the game.
The following is a Q & A with Cal's rising young star.
Q.) How were you feeling going into your surgery?
"I was a little worried. I heard that a few people have lost their lives over the procedure, so it was definitely a scary thing. I was nervous because I thought my career might be in jeopardy, or, at the least, I would have to redshirt. But things worked out."
Q.) Are you surprised by your speedy recovery?
"Yes I am. I never thought that it would only take two weeks to get from the operator's table to back on the practice field."
Q.) What went through your mind during the Illinois game, knowing that you were going to see action?
"I just thought about making plays. I was able to zone out, to a point, to where it was really quiet, almost silent, in the stadium - that helped me to stay focused."
Q.) What kept you from being nervous in your first collegiate action at cornerback?
"In one word...preparation. In the two weeks that I sat out due to my surgery, I was able to watch a lot of film. In watching film, I was able to learn from others mistakes and began to see the trends of other teams and what they like to do against our defense."
Q.) How are you feeling going into this week's game against probably the best pair of receivers (Keary Colbert and Mike Williams) in the country?
"It's going to be a great experience playing against two receivers of that caliber in just my second game. This is a good opportunity for us as a team to get out of a hole and gain momentum toward the rest of the season. This is a big game; a win like this can erase a lot of what has happened thus far. It is almost like a second Kansas State game, but it will be a lot more emotional. "
Q.) Do you have an idol or someone you look up to as a player?
"It would have to be Deltha O'Neal. He has been my mentor for some time now. I met him a few years ago through my father, Raymond Sanders, who was kind of like his mentor. I don't try to emulate him on the field in terms of style, but I do admire his big play ability. A lot of people make big plays, but Deltha made big plays in key situations, and that's what counts. I want people to be able to say that about me."
Q.) Do you have anything that you do as a pre-game ritual?
"Well, my mother passed away when I was five, so ever since Pop Warner Football, I always take the time during warm-ups to have a conversation with my mother. That sacred time, really gets me focused and ready to play."
Q.) What is your favorite sport?
"I am actually a huge college basketball fan. Ayinde Ubaka, an incoming freshman from Oakland High School, is my favorite player right now. It feels a little weird to say that just because we are classmates and I played against him in high school, but he is honestly one of the best point guards I have ever seen."