ace sanders


Last November we traveled to Charlotte, N.C. to watch the Denver Broncos humiliate the Carolina Panthers. The Broncos’ 36-14 win was a big one for our founding editor’s longtime “man crush” Peyton Manning – who moved into a tie with Hall-of-Famer Dan Marino for career wins and touchdown passes (Manning has since passed Marino in both categories).

But while Sic Willie was obsessing over Manning’s exploits, we felt an uneasiness in the pit in our stomachs as we watched Broncos’ return specialist Trindon Holliday take a Panthers’ punt 76 yards to pay dirt on the first play of the second quarter.

Why did we feel an uneasiness in the pit of our stomachs? Because we knew University of South Carolina return specialist Ace Sanders was probably watching the former Louisiana State University star thinking to himself, “hey, I can do that.”

Holliday – who returned both a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in last week’s AFC divisional game – is 5-foot-5, 169 pounds. Sanders is a little bit bigger – 5-foot-8, 175 pounds – but he’s every bit as fast (both players have been clocked running the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.3 seconds).

Don’t believe us? Check this out …

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Accordingly, we weren’t surprised to learn this week that Sanders will forego his senior year of eligibility at USC and enter the 2013 NFL draft. The Bradenton, Florida native initially indicated he would return for his senior season, but apparently thought better of it. And who can blame him?

Sanders – the MVP of USC’s thrilling 2013 Outback Bowl victory – ranked first in the SEC and fourth in the NCAA in punt return yardage last year,¬†returning 28 punts for a school record 429 yards and two touchdowns. Not only that he was the team’s leading receiver with 45 receptions for 531 yards and nine touchdowns.

One of the indispensable talents who has led South Carolina from chronic mediocrity to back-to-back 11-win seasons and Top Ten finishes, Sanders finishes his USC career with 1,230 receiving yards, 594 return yards, 79 rushing yards and 19 passing yards in forty games. He caught thirteen touchdowns, returned three punts for touchdowns and threw for another two scores.

“We’re all for Ace and we wish him the best,” USC head coach Steve Spurrier said.

We also wish Sanders the best as he takes his skills to the next level. He provided Gamecock fans with some truly electrifying moments during his three years in Columbia, and we suspect he will provide whatever team drafts him with similar fireworks.


Pic: Travis Bell, Sideline Carolina