Former ‘Cane, Vol Randy Sanders still winning on collegiate sidelines
Former Morristown East and Tennessee football standout Randy Sanders shakes hands with the Boys and Girls Club’s Steak and Burger Dinner attendees at First Presbyterian Church Tuesday night. Sanders, an assistant coach at Florida State, has won two national championships as an assistant, first at Tennessee and last season at Florida State.
Sometimes life throws you lemons, and just like Randy Sanders, you have to make lemonade.
After spending 22 years at the University of Tennessee, which included helping the Vols to the 1998 national title, the former assistant coach was the fall guy.
During that era at Tennessee, someone had to take the fall.
Before Phillip Fulmer got the heave, it was Sanders, who left the program under the clamor of fan discontentment.
Fast forward nearly a decade, and Sanders is living the high life.
The former Morristown East and Tennessee standout now spends his days as the quarterback coach at Florida State. This past season, Sanders not only helped the Seminoles win the national championship, he also was the mentor to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.
On Tuesday night, Sanders was the guest speaker at First Presbyterian Church for the Boys and Girls Club’s Steak and Burger Dinner. I had an opportunity to talk with him before he took the stage and I was impressed. I saw a man who was not the same Randy Sanders that left Knoxville looking for a new start.
On Tuesday, I witnessed a coach who was energetic and composed. I got the feeling that Sanders was ready to start next season as soon as possible.
I remember interviewing Sanders numerous years ago when I was developing a story about former Tennessee wide receiver Kelley Washington. I walked out of the conversation seeing a stressed-out coach with a lot on his mind. However, Tuesday was a different story. This coach was refreshed and excited about his situation.
Sanders’ gig as quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator at Florida State has been a blessing to the veteran coach. Not only has the job helped increase the demand of Sanders, but it has also shaped a future NFL star.
Winston, who ran away with the Heisman Trophy this past season, says Sanders has become “like a second father” to him and he has molded his game tremendously.
This past season, the redshirt freshman quarterback threw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns. He not only led the Seminoles to a perfect 14-0 record, he also won the MVP Award in the BCS National Championship Game. Sanders helped bring the Seminoles to the Promised Land, just like he did in 1998 at Tennessee.
After leaving Tennessee, Sanders made an immediate impact at the University of Kentucky, were he was hired as quarterback coach and offensive coordinator. During his tenure there, the Wildcats won three consecutive bowl games for the first time in history.
Just like Winston at Florida State, Sanders helped build a powerful duo while at Kentucky.
Former Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson turned into an elite signal-caller under Sanders’ tutelage. He also helped develop the chemistry between Woodson and former Alcoa and Green Bay Packers star Randall Cobb. The Woodson to Cobb duo is still missed today in Lexington.
With Winston set to return for multiple years under center, Sanders’ knuckles may continue to get shinier. With another championship ring a possibility, the future remains bright for the former East High Hurricane.
He is already a walking trivia question and it doesn’t get better than that, does it? Yes, that’s right. Your very own Morristown hero is a Sports Jeopardy App question – Which NCAA Division I coach or player obtained a championship ring in both the first and last BCS National Championship Games?
Not bad for a guy from the 423.
-By Chris Ayers, Assistant Sports Editor