Spencer Sanders Q&A (Part 2): On Leadership, Growing Up as a Running Back and Mike Gundy

Written by Kyle Porter

This is Part 2 of our Q&A with Spencer Sanders. In Part 1 we talked KD, OU, handing off to Justice Hill and his connection to Watonga, Oklahoma. You can read that here. We will run Part 3 on Tuesday.

Kyle Porter: Mike Gundy was very complimentary of your leadership style and what you brought to the table when he talked about you on national signing day, what kind of leadership role do you feel like you’ve taken on with the incoming freshman already?

Spencer Sanders: Not that I’m better than anybody, not that I’m just that guy that everybody has to turns to. I’m not the captain. No, I’m just a guy that’s going to be here to help everybody and try to lead everybody in the right way, and just kind of push everybody and be there for everybody.

I want to be that guy that’s on the team that everybody can go to, that everybody likes, and says ‘hey he’s a good guy.’ You go ask a random person, ‘yeah he’s a good guy, he’s helped me, he’s helped my brother that’s on the football team.’ I just kind of want to be that guy that helps everybody. I don’t have to be that single, individual leader. I don’t want to stand out. I just want to be that guy that’s known just helping and make people better, not only for himself but for other people.  

KP: I was reading about your recruiting process and you talked a lot about Mike Yurcich and Mike Gundy and the offense that they’ve implemented at Oklahoma State. How much did you discuss offensive philosophy with those guys as they were recruiting you and how much did that play into your decision to go to OSU?

SS: It played a big part. I feel like I can step in, and I’m kind of familiar with it. Here at Denton Ryan maybe it’s called ‘ham’ and up there it’s called ‘turkey.’ It’s just a different name so I feel like I can  jump in and be real confident with it so I don’t come in and just not know much about it and then I’m going to screw up. I’m probably still going to screw up, but I’m still going to be confident with it. I know base offense. I know common sense about offense. I know my reads, my coverages and stuff like that, so I feel like it’ll really fit me probably as well as any other offense would.

KP: You said in one interview that you were the quarterback at Denton Ryan because you raised your hand in seventh grade when nobody else would. Why did why did you do that and how glad are you that you did?

SS: Well I played receiver, and I don’t really want to put it like this, but I didn’t want to catch the ball from someone who couldn’t throw the ball.

KP: *Laughs*

SS: So I grew up as a running back and a middle linebacker and so I’ve just had that beast inside of me knowing that I can do anything. I always volunteered for the hardest job, and I feel like middle linebacker and running back was one of those jobs. So when quarterback came up I said, ‘why don’t I try it?’ So I tried in the 7th grade, and I did pretty good and in the 8th grade I got better.

Then my 8th grade summer, my coach taught me everything I do now, everything I know now. I was a running back and receiver. I knew nothing about it, no coverages, didn’t know what an X or a Z was, nothing.

KP: And that was your middle school coach that taught you that or the high school coach?

SS: It was my high school coach.

KP: One of the things I think is a big reason people are excited about you on Oklahoma State is your game is multi-faceted. You can run a little, you can throw it, you can go deep, you can do all these different kind of things. Which part of your game do you think translates best to the college level with how much faster it is and how much more violent it is?

SS: Well as I see nowadays it’s just escaping the pocket and still launching the ball down the field maybe 60 to 70 yards, and just having that ability to do that without restricting myself saying, ‘hey I can’t throw that ball, I can’t throw it to him even though he’s open.’ No, in my head if he’s open he’s getting the ball.

KP: Is there anybody in college or at the professional level that you look at and you’re like ‘wow that guy does things the way that I want to do them’ or that you try to emulate?

SS: Now that I’ve started to watch college more as I’ve got older, Mason Rudolph is really good at getting out of the pocket and still looking down field and delivering deep balls. But I really look up to Aaron Rodgers. He does it more than anybody that I know of, and watching him do that in the NFL makes me feel like I can translate that into college and still be good. If he can do that in the NFL, I feel like I can do it in college.

KP: What’s your relationship with Mike Gundy like?

SS: It’s pretty good. We speak on each other as we know each other. I mean, we walk past each other, we speak, we have a conversation. He’s always asking how I’m doing and he keeps that brotherhood ‘I got you, I’ll watch over you’ type of relationship with me. I really respect that.

There was a lot of colleges that I went to, or when I was a freshman, and nobody really even knew my name or who I was. Then when I started getting better they kind of changed their mind. So the first time I met Mike Gundy and he knew my name and everything about me, it kind of just popped out to me because he knew me before I even spoke to him.

KP: Gundy has a thing about how he likes people who don’t talk very much, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but he mentioned that when you came to his house during a recruiting period that he liked that you kind of just took things in and didn’t talk, have you noticed that with him?

SS:  Yeah I kind of picked that up, and honestly too I’m not a big talker. If I’m occupied, I’m occupied. I’m sorry I’m like this, but if I go on a date I don’t like to just sit down and talk. It’s not me, but if it’s something important or somebody needs to talk about something, yeah I’ll sit down and talk to you. I listen to you talk, and I take it in and I’ll remember it, but if it’s not important to me it goes in one ear and out the other.

KP: So you don’t like to sit down and talk on a date, what would you rather do?

SS:  I’d rather go do something fun like go fishing, or hunting, or something; just something occupying, something fun. I don’t like to just sit at a table and just talk because I don’t feel like I’m getting actually you. I’m getting (the) you that you’re trying to impress me with. I want to see what you can do and how you are when you’re having fun and how relaxed you are around me instead of being like ‘oh maybe he doesn’t like this so I shouldn’t do this.’ No I want you to be yourself around me.

KP: This is the theory of going on a road trip right, if you go on a road trip you really get to know somebody and you feel more connected than if you just sit and hang out with them for like seven nights in a row and played video games or whatever.

SS: Yeah, I just feel like that’s that just plays a bigger role to me than sitting and talking.

KP: Okay, I’ve got a couple more here. You talked about Gundy and Mike Yurcich’s purpose for Oklahoma State and you like that they had a purpose. What was that and what was kind of behind behind you saying that?

SS: They’re not here to just say ‘well hopefully we make it to the playoffs, hopefully we win the Big 12 championship.’ No, it’s always that top mindset. Say they win the Big 12 Championship, it’s not ‘oh well we’re just glad we made it here now we feel like we’ve done what we needed to do and are successful.’ No, it’s always one step higher, another step higher it’s always pushing to be something that they’re not and something that’s going to make them better as a team, as coaches. It’s not even about making them better players on the field, but also off the field too.

It’s not just stripped down to football it’s have fun, have a social life too. Football doesn’t last forever, it’s just a game that you’re going to play for fun and hopefully, for some people, you make it to the next level you get to play a little longer. But after that it’s still not forever.

They’re not so (pushy) on you’ve got to have your mindset on football, and football this and that and first priority. They’ll still probably say its first priority and stuff like that, but it’s not as important as as your family at home and stuff like that. There are still other things that are important. It’s not just football that you have to keep your mindset on. But also too they always want the best out of everything so whether that’s just running during practice or warming up or hitting targets during routes on air or something like that. It’s always striving to be better.

And I like their background and who they are off the field too. I like Mike Gundy, I like his whole house, his background, his country life and so is Coach Yurcich, kind of country life background and just being straight up with me. If I messed up and you’re mad, tell me. If you want to rant and go off on me then tell me instead of just saying ‘hey you’ll get it right this time or you’ll get it right next time.’ No, I’d rather take the more negative (approach) that’s going to push me more to do better. And so I feel like they’re just more straightforward.