Dwayne Sanders is 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds ... and he's just a baby.
In football terms anyway. The junior defensive end for Washington State is still learning to walk on a football field, having only played the game for four years.
He did not play his first game until he was a junior in high school at Dorsey High in Los Angeles, and even then, it was only at the urgings of his friends and some of the coaches.
"I just had no interest in the game," Sanders said. "I guess it just wasn't meant to be for me to play until the eleventh grade. My friends all pushed me towards it, and the coaches tried to get me into it. It wasn't until twelfth grade that I realized that I was any good and that I was wanted."
Sanders received first team all-state honors and received the maximum 10 votes in the Long Beach Press Telegram's Best in the West voting (the highest ever by a WSU recruit), all while leading his team to the L.A. City 4-A football title with 70 tackles and 13 sacks in his senior year.
He continued his dominance during his two years at Snow (Utah) Junior College, earning all-conference honors during his sophomore year with 55 tackles and 11 sacks.
"It makes me feel good," Sanders said about his meteoric rise to football fame. "I've worked hard on and off the field and accomplished more than I thought I would. A lot of people say I have a lot of potential, and it's helped that I've played the same style of defense in high school, junior college and here."
Now with five full Division I games under his belt, Sanders has 12 tackles, including five tackles for a loss and three sacks. He has quickly become a major force on a line that includes All-America candidate DeWayne Patterson and has helped the Cougars to the No. 1 ranking in rushing, scoring and total defense in the nation.
"He's adjusting really well to major college football," said Gary Emanuel, Cougar defensive line coach. "He can be as good as he wants to be, he has unlimited potential."
Sanders, who picks his schools based on the style of defense they play, has reaped the rewards of being surrounded by the top-quality defensive players the Cougars possess, especially Patterson.
"He's kind of like an older brother," Sanders said of Patterson. "When I came here I didn't know a lot of the defense. He showed me the footwork and his pass rushes. I look up to him."
At the rate he has been progressing, and with another year and a half of eligibility remaining, Sanders will soon have people looking up to him.
"I'm right at the position I dreamed of last year," Sanders said. "Last year I would dream about playing in Division I. I want to be better, but for now I'm happy at where I'm at."
Sanders potential, and his youth, are not lost upon his teammates, who see him as being as dominant as Patterson in days to come.
"He's a baby waiting to burst open," WSU left cornerback Torey Hunter said. "He's great now but he's only going to get better."
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