Having seen life as a backup, a starter and then a backup again, Isaiah Sanders brings a unique perspective to the quarterback position at Air Force.
The lesson he’ll take from all that into his senior year?
“What I’m shooting for is to trust God and have fun,” the Palmer Ridge graduate said, “and I think everything else will take care of itself.”
Sanders speaks quietly, dominates in academics and has thrown for at least 210 yards in a game twice in his career and twice run for more than 170.
“Isaiah’s a guy who’s Mr. Steady,” quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen said. “He’s the guy that’s tough, a competitor, does all the things right on and off the field. Leadership-wise he’s rock solid in everything.”
Coach Troy Calhoun added some more compliments.
“Very humble,” he said. “Extremely hard worker. Heck of a competitor. Just couldn’t have a more dependable, more trustworthy person. Just everything he does, he truly embodies what it means to pursue excellence in each endeavor.”
Sanders was named to the American Football Coaches Association All-State Good Works Team in July as one of the 137 college football players honored for work in the community. He earned the accolade for various leadership roles, including his involvement with Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Undivided, a non-profit that focuses on strengthening communities and helping community members create positive change in their spheres of influence.
He was also one of 86 players placed on the Wuerffel Trophy watch list, an award that touts itself as “College Football’s Premier Award for Community Service.”
“It’s cool just to see off-the-field work be recognized,” said Sanders, who split his summer between Air Force camps, an internship with Lockheed Martin in Florida and working the assault course during basic training. “I don’t want to hang my hat and feel like I made it just because I’m on some watch list, but I definitely appreciate it and it’s a blessing.”
On the field, Sanders likely faces an uphill climb to take the starting position back from Donald Hammond III. The junior leads Sanders in nearly all statistics (though Sanders has a better completion percentage – 55.9 to 52.9).
Air Force is 2-4 in games Sanders has started, but all were decided by 10 points or fewer. In Hammond starts, the team is 3-2. Overall, the offense was more effective under Hammond last year.
But that was last season.
Sanders said his knowledge of Air Force’s offense has allowed him to focus more on defenses in film study and he’s able to be more decisive during plays.
Calhoun praised the strides both have made in lower-body strength, poise and confidence.
“We’ve got a quarterback competition going on,” Thiessen said.
“We don’t know who our starter is. We’ve got two guys who have played for us and have proven they can win. They’re guys our team believes in, we trust in; guys who skillfully have the talent to do so. So we’ve got a lot to find out here over the next three or four weeks before we prep for our first game.”
Sanders knows the position won’t necessarily be settled after that one game. Air Force hasn’t had a quarterback start each game since 2012, so fluidity at the spot is expected.
“There’s only so much I can control,” Sanders said, “so what I’ve got to do is come out every day and enjoy these last five or so months that I get to play football – the game that I love – and know at some point I’m going to have to hang up the cleats. So I’m going to maximize the time I have with my brothers on the field.”
Yep, Mr. Steady.