During the month in which five-star rookie 2019 Evan Neil is expected to enter the top 10 of the NFL Draft and sign an eight-figure contract, Trey Sanders will spend the next two weeks still smashing his shoulders on Alabama’s training fields.
But Sanders, number 6 in the country’s overall finish three years ago, doesn’t seem to mind.
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Just participating in Sanders ’spring practice may not take for granted after he missed the entire regular season of freshman due to a foot injury, then suffered internal injuries and a pelvic fracture in a car accident in November 2020.
“You value everything much more,” the junior in the red shirt admitted on Tuesday at his first since joining the team’s press conference.
Sanders is now 17 months from the crash and is in an unusual location – taking advantage of the fact that he is healthy when others in his post return after injuries. With juniors Jace McClellan and Roidel Williams recovering this spring after completing a knee surgery season last fall, Sanders has had several opportunities to reach the first team along with the transfer of Jamir Gibbs to Georgia Tech.
Nick Saban said Sanders scored 73 yards in Saturday’s fight, while Gibbs had about 55. The school does not release official statistics on the clashes and does not allow reporters to watch, but Saban said the goal was for each to score 10-12 yards, with previously enrolled freshman Jamarion Miller also part of the backfield.
“Both of these guys did very well,” Saban said of Sanders and Gibbs. “I think we’re working a little more consistently than at this time a year ago, so hopefully we’ll continue to develop that.”
Last season, Saban spoke many times about Sanders ’resilience, and Sanders responded to him on Tuesday.
“I think Coach Saban was one of the main people who kept me going throughout the process because in those days I felt I couldn’t do it,” he said. “There was a time when I was in a wheelchair and I just rode around the facility and went out to train, watched other guys train and the like. I couldn’t get to training, and Coach Saban called me to a meeting, talked to me and gave me hope for the future.
“Every time he talked to me, he gave me hope and just gave me a better idea of how I want to get out of injury and get out of a car accident. I felt that coach Saban was on my side, it helped me a lot definitely. That was the main role in which he played a big role. “
Alabama Football Rehabilitation Director Jeremy Gsel said last year that Sanders ’injuries are a rarity for professional athletes, and“ it was what if he didn’t come back [from it]we would all understand. “
Sanders returned to attend his first collegiate touchdown in last year’s opening game against Miami, and Gsel met with a runner-up on the field to hug him afterwards. Sanders became a staple after starter Brian Robinson after McClellan and Williams were lost in the season, finding mixed results. His highest score was at the Cotton Bowl when Alabama’s game-oriented running plan saw Sanders score 67 yards on 14 career goals.
However, Sanders ’success did not go unnoticed that his body had survived earlier.
“Those were the moments when I felt [back to normal], of course, because it was only a year after my crash, so I felt that once I made one game or I scored a touchdown, I felt like I was automatically back, ”he explained on Tuesday. “It simply came to our notice then. It’s always just a step forward. So am I. [would] I’ll make a touchdown, or I’ll play well, and go back to training, and maybe not be able to do like last year, just because I have a sore body.
“It’s just steps every day and only getting better. That’s my main focus right now. “
Expectations were high for Sanders when he arrived as one of three five-star recruits in the 2019 class in Alabama. One of them, Neil, will soon be selected by the NFL team along with John Swords and Christian Harris. But another five-star recruit, Antonio Alfana, has long since left the program along with Pierce Quick, Ishmael Sopsher, Shane Lee, Scooby Carter, Brandon Turnege, Kevin Harris, Marcus Banks, King Mwickut, Tawloy Tawloy Tawloy Tawag. , Jahlil Billingsley and Paul Tyson.
Sanders is one of the few junior or senior classes in the red shirt from that class – including several starting in defense, headlined by Jordan Beatle – who have yet to finish writing their stories in Tuscaloosa.
“Without them over the last couple of years, I wouldn’t be the person standing in front of you today,” Sanders said. “I feel it has helped me a lot to survive the hardships, come back and see what I am capable of, mentally and physically. I feel that at this moment I am much more ready than I was in the first year. “
Sanders, who said he wants to become a crime leader who can use veterans ’votes to join Bryce Young this season, is also planning when his football career ends.
“I will say that because I went through this process when I was not playing football, I actually learned a lot about myself outside of football and realized what I wanted to do one day after I finished playing,” he said. . . “And I hope that when I finish playing football, I will be able to do the same thing I did when I played the game – to inspire people. That’s the main perspective I’ve had over the last couple of years. “
Mike Rodak is an Alabama Media Group reporter. Follow him on Twitter @mikerodak.