Trey Sanders thanks Nick Saban for helping to return from car wreck: ‘He gave me hope’

During a month in which five-star colleague Evan Neal from 2019 is expected to become a top-10 NFL draft pick and sign an eight-digit contract, Trey Sanders will spend the next two weeks still smashing his shoulder pads on Alabama’s training grounds.

But Sanders, the overall No. 6 national recruiter three years ago, does not seem to mind.

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Just attending spring training is something Sanders cannot take for granted after missing his entire freshman season due to a foot injury and then sustaining internal injuries and a pelvic fracture in a November 2020 car accident.

“You appreciate everything much more,” the red-shirted junior admitted on Tuesday at his first press conference since joining the team.

Now Sanders is 17 months away from the wreck and in an unusual place – and benefits from being healthy when others in his position return from injury. With juniors Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams recovering this spring after the season-ending knee surgery last fall, Sanders has been given some first-team options along with Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs.

Nick Saban said Sanders won 73 yards in Saturday’s scrimmage, while Gibbs had about 55. The school does not release official statistics from scrimmage or allow reporters to watch, but Saban said the goal was to get each about 10-12 carries, with early -enrollee freshman Jamarion Miller also part of the backfield.

“Both of those guys did really well,” Saban said of Sanders and Gibbs. “I think we’re running the ball a little more consistently than at this point a year ago, so hopefully we’ll continue to build on that.”

Saban spoke passionately on several points last season about Sanders’ resilience, and Sanders returned service Tuesday.

“I think coach Saban was one of the key people who kept me going throughout the process because those were times when I felt like I could not do it,” he said. “There were times when I was in a wheelchair and I just rolled around the facility and went out to practice, saw other guys train and stuff like that. I was not able to go out there and practice, and coach Saban would call me to meetings and he would talk to me and he would give me hope for the future.

“Every time he talked to me, he gave me hope and just gave me a better view of how I would get out of my injury and get out of my car wreck. I wanted to have coach Saban on my side, it has “helped me a lot, for sure. That was the main role he played a big role in.”

Alabama’s football rehabilitation director Jeremy Gsell said last year that Sanders’ injuries were rare for professional athletes to overcome, and “it was something if he did not return. [from it]we would all understand. ”

Sanders returned to run after his first collegiate touchdown in last year’s opening game against Miami, where Gsell met the runner-up on the field to embrace him afterwards. Sanders became the primary ball carrier behind starter Brian Robinson after McClellan and Williams lost for the season and found mixed results. His highest total came in the Cotton Bowl when Alabama’s race-oriented game plan saw Sanders win 67 yards on 14 carries.

Sanders’ successes, however, did not come without reminders of what his body endured in the past.

“Those were moments where I felt [back to normal], of course, because it was only a year after my wreck, so I felt that as soon as I made a play or I scored a touchdown, I felt like I was automatically back, ”he explained on Tuesday. “But that was not always the case. It is always only a step forward. So I did [would] have a touchdown or I’m playing a good game and I’m coming back to training and I may not be able to make movements like I was last year just because my body is sore.

“It’s just steps every day and it just gets better. That is my main focus right now. ”

Expectations were high for Sanders when he arrived as one of three five-star recruits in Alabama’s hit-or-miss 2019 class. One of them, Neal, will soon be drafted by an NFL team along with John Metchie and Christian Harris. But the class’s second five-star recruit, Antonio Alfano, has long since left the program along with Pierce Quick, Ishmael Sopsher, Shane Lee, Scooby Carter, Brandon Turnage, Kevin Harris, Marcus Banks, King Mwikuta, Taulia Tagovailoa, Keilan Robinson, Jahleel Billingsley and Paul Tyson.

Sanders is one of a handful of red-shirt juniors or seniors from that class – including several defensive starters with Jordan Battle in mind – who still need to finish writing their stories in Tuscaloosa.

“Without them the last few years, I would not be the man standing in front of you today,” Sanders said. “I feel like it’s helped me a lot to go through adversity, come back and see what I was capable of myself, mentally and physically. I feel that at this point right now, I’m much more ready than I am. was my first year. “

Sanders, who said he wants to be the leader in a misdemeanor that could use veteran votes to join Bryce Young this season, also has plans for when his football career will end.

“I would say that since I have been through this process of not playing football, I actually learned a lot about myself outside of football and realize what I want to do one day after I finish playing the game,” he said. han. “And hopefully when I finish playing football, I’m able to do the same thing I was when I played the game – inspire people. That’s the main vision I’ve had the last few years.”

Mike Rodak is an Alabama beat reporter for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mikerodak.

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