The letters come to Bob Sanders by the dozens. They come from kids, mostly undersized, all with the same type of message:
Bob Sanders, you are my hero.
At 5-feet-8½ and 204 pounds, Sanders, a safety for the Indianapolis Colts, is the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. In a league where size truly does matter, Sanders is the patron saint for all those kids out there who have been told they are too small or too slow.
|As Titans tight end Bo Scaife says, 'You know when you play Bob it's going to be an all-day battle.' (Getty Images)|
Simply put, he knows what it's like being forced to overcome the odds.
It's a role he relishes. In a league full of look-at-me players, Sanders hopes that's the case for more than self-gratification. He wants to inspire.
"I was always the smallest guy on my team," Sanders said. "I was always one or two of the guys sitting in the front of the team picture with my legs crossed and everybody else got to stand up. That was me. I know what it was like. I think I give kids hope. Because you're small and not fast enough and people don't think you can jump high enough, it doesn't matter. If you have the will, if you have the heart, if you have the vision and the mindset that you can do it, you can do whatever you want to do."
There you go, kids. Take the last sentence of that paragraph, copy it on your computer, blow it up big and put it on your wall. No coach, no father, no teammate could have said it any better.
That's the Sanders motto, the small-guy credo.
When he was in high school in Erie, Pa., no college wanted Sanders. The recruiters would come to his school to look at other players, not Sanders. He was not only too small, the recruiters said, but he also wasn't fast enough.
So when they came, his coach would tell him to hang around the office. Maybe he could introduce him to some of the recruiters and Sanders would maybe find a college home. He got one of the last scholarships at Iowa and went on to start four years.
"My high school coach would parade me around when the recruiters came," Sanders said. "Just hoping I could get a chance."
It was that way his whole life, which is why it's so amazing to see him as one of the NFL's best players. For size to production value, he's the best.