Oct. 19, 2000
Position: Long Snapper
Hometown: Reno, Nev.
High School: Reno HS
Career Highlights Snaps on punts, field goals and extra points...A three-time letterwinner.
"If you've got cleat marks going up your chest, you did your job."
It may sound like a nightmare, but for Stanford long snapper John Sande it is a dream come true.
Sande takes the previously mentioned advice from his father, John P. Sande III. The elder Sande is well qualified to dole out this advice. He was Stanford's long snapper starting center for the 1968-70 regular seasons and the 1971 Rose Bowl. The younger Sande played in the 2000 Rose Bowl and is finishing up his fifth and final season with the Cardinal this fall.
Sande admits he has never actually had his chest stepped on while long snapping, but it is a tough and mostly unappreciated task. Still, the job has given Sande the opportunity to be a part of Stanford football for the past five seasons.
Sande was an excellent offensive lineman and linebacker at Reno High School from 1992-95, good enough to earn all-decade honors as an offensive lineman by the Reno Gazette-Journal. The summer before his senior year he began to practice the task of long snapping extensively. He had to work out primarily on his own because finding someone to practice long snapping with was not an easy task.
"I was a really bad long snapper in high school," admits Sande, whose drills included snapping the ball into a fence 100 times a day. "I'd do the drills until I got bored."
Sande was set on coming to Stanford whether he was going to play football for the Cardinal or not.
"I've always grown up wanting to go to Stanford," recalls Sande. "I used to come to a lot of games and played tailgate football all the time. I have some very fond memories of Stanford from my childhood and when I received my acceptance, there was no hesitation."
The process of living out his dream of playing football for Stanford was just beginning.
Sande was recruited mostly by Division II schools, but had decided he was going to Stanford regardless of his football future. The fact that his father had played at Stanford with current Cardinal assistant coach Dave Tipton helped crack open a door.
"They asked if I wanted to walk on and I said yes," remembers Sande. "They told me they would have a locker ready for me when I report to camp. I was walking around on cloud nine for a long time because to play football at Stanford had been my dream. There are baby pictures of me with a double zero Stanford jersey on."
The realization of Sande's dream began with small steps.
Sande's first goal was simply to make it through the first practice. He then took on the task of two-a-day practices and made it through that. After reaching the goal of making it through his first year, he decided it was time to hit the field for one snap before his collegiate career was over. This was accomplished when he earned a spot as the team's long snapper in his redshirt freshman year of 1997. Sande's next goal was to make at least one tackle. He has done that on several occasions.
He has one more goal that he would like to reach and that is to get in a game as a linebacker. Sande has never seen action in that role in nearly five full seasons with the Cardinal, but he thinks it's still in reach.
"It would mean the world to me," says Sande. "I'm a guy who sets a lot of goals and it's been amazing to see the progression of my goals. Getting in a game as a linebacker is something I've wanted to do since I was a little kid."
Sande has participated in as many linebacker drills as he been allowed to by the Cardinal coaching staff.
"I have always tried to sneak into linebacker drills during practice," admits Sande. "But this year, Coach Willingham called me over and said 'I don't know if you remember the Rose Bowl that well, but I do.' We can't have you get hurt. We don't want to see you jump in there any more."
Sande's value as a long snapper was never more apparent than in last season's Rose Bowl. Sande injured his ankle on his first play of the game and spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find a way to play on the injured ankle. He and backup Anthony Gabriel split the duties for the rest of the game, depending upon Sande's status and both had sub-par snaps that may have cost the Cardinal an extra point and a field goal.
Despite the fact that the Cardinal can not afford to lose Sande with an injury, he holds out hope of seeing action as a linebacker before his collegiate career is over.
"There's still hope," continues Sande. "I go to all the meetings. I do all the drills that I can do in practice, and I'm just waiting for my opportunity."
How can you not root for him?
Even if the odds seemed stacked against him, it would not be smart to count him out. Sande probably never even dreamed that his unique football skill would earn him a full-ride scholarship. A walk-on player for all but two quarters of his first four years, Sande's scholarship status for a fifth season became a question after last season's Rose Bowl. He could have graduated after four years but decided to pursue a double major after he learned that he would receive a full-ride scholarship for his final year.
"I was pestering Coach Willingham for a couple of weeks," jokes Sande. "When he told me I would be getting a full-ride scholarship for my final year, it was exhilarating. Stanford is one of those places that you just don't want to leave - playing football and being around such talented and great people. I wasn't in any hurry to leave. I figured law school could wait another year."
Sande is hoping to go to law school next year. He is in the process of applying to Stanford, Northwestern, Texas, UC Davis, and UCLA or USC.
"Don't put that in the story," replied Sande when asked about going to law school at either UCLA or USC. "Well, you can use it as long as you say that they aren't my first choices."
Sande's immediate attention is focused on the one remaining goal of his Stanford football career. Still, whether or not he ever gets into a game as a Cardinal linebacker, he feels his time at Stanford has been everything he's ever dreamed it could be.
"It's made me the person that I am today," states Sande. "Your environment becomes a large part of the person you are. The experience I have had at Stanford is something that I'll carry with me for the rest of my life. The days I've lived here at Stanford have been so meaningful, and I've grown as a person so much in those five years - not just athletically, but socially and academically as well."
by Kyle McRae