TAMPA, MAR 23, 2018 – Sometimes the end of the journey seems like such a long ride from the beginning very few could foresee. That’s the way it appears Auggie Sanchez will remember his time playing for the USF Bulls, stepping away knowing he did things right… and with heart. However, getting onto the field for the Bulls was quite a journey indeed… or does anyone remember Auggie Sanchez, USF FULLBACK?!
Yes, you heard that right… Fullback. But then again, just getting a scholarship to his “hometown school” (Sanchez is from St Petersburg as a matter of accuracy, but I digress) wasn’t a given. Sanchez played all over the field at St Pete’s Northeast High – QB, DE, WR, MLB, OLB, garnering 1st and 2nd Team All-Conference Honors during his High School career. Sanchez wished to follow in his brother’s USF football footsteps, but it didn’t look like it was in the cards.
“Skip Holtz was there (Head Coach) at the time, but he didn’t offer me (a scholarship). But when Willie Taggart got there, my coach (Northeast’s Mike Jalazo), Gibbs’ coach, Lakewood’s Coach Moore got me in the door. Coach Taggart offered me a scholarship as a Fullback.” And so began Sanchez’ career with the Bulls.
Auggie’s first year with the Bulls, he waited for his opportunity. Just when it appeared he would get his first start against Louisville, Coach Taggart pulled him aside. “We’re not going to waste your red-shirt. We’re going to let some other guys play.” Although upset at the time, Sanchez put it best as he related this to me afterward.
“It turned out to be the best decision ever made for me at USF. I got red-shirted and went into the spring. I was pretty miserable… didn’t like playing fullback. I thought about transferring… But Coach Taggart believed in me, and I believed in myself. I went into his office and asked ‘Hey Coach, how do you feel about me playing linebacker?’ He said, ’We talked about it. You’re going to be one of the most bad-ass players in the country.’ “
Sanchez continued, “Spring practice came and I got my first chance… 9 on 7 drills… shot the gap and made two TFLs (tackles for loss). After a week off for Spring Break, we came back, and I was the starting MIKE (Middle) Linebacker. From then on I didn’t miss a game at USF.”
Sanchez could’ve walked away from the Bulls after he graduated with his Communications Degree, but he decided to come back for his fifth year of eligibility. Not only did he wish to give another year for the Green and Gold on the field, but he worked towards his Master’s Degree in Physical Education, which he’ll finish within two months.
Sanchez said it best, ”I think I’ll be successful, with or without football, because I took that extra step (of getting his Master’s Degree).” As for his on the field success, he added,” If our WILL (Weak side Linebacker) got hurt, I could play a few snaps until somebody else could step in… This year we would walk the MIKE down on the line like a SAM (Strong side Linebacker). I feel like I could do it all.”
Sanchez continued, “This year was memorable when we beat Cincinnati, as I had a big interception, a 50yd return and cut across the field. It was a big play in the game in that it swung momentum. (The Bulls won 33-3). Going back to our Temple game (in 2015) when they were ranked and we beat them (44-23)… the crowd stormed the field and I was like ‘Wow… I’m in college football!’ That was a tremendous moment.”
But Sanchez’ stated his biggest moment at USF was a defeat to Memphis. “It’s such a cliché talking about a loss, but it was such a good moment in that program because it turned the culture around there. You finally saw kids care… kids crying. That game drew a line in the sand, and after that the USF program was on the up and up. We went on to go 8-4 that year, then double digit wins the past two seasons. That loss brought life back into the program”
Sanchez holds the USF record for tackles, breaking the previous mark set by Kawika Mitchell – a Super Bowl XLII winner for the Giants. For his Bulls’ career, he finished with 387 tackles (29 TFLs), 8.5 sacks, four interceptions, and three touchdowns – one ‘scoop and score’ fumble recovery and two ‘Pick-6’s.’ He also is a three time All American Conference player, tied with teammate Marlon Mack for most in school history, along with being a two-time team Captain.
You would think that would garner Sanchez an invite to either the Senior Bowl or the NFL Scouting Combine, but no, Sanchez received no such call to attend. I asked him, didn’t you take that as being slighted for participation? “Yes… that drives me now. Not many linebackers in the country had close to 400 tackles in their career. It leaves that ‘chip’ on my shoulder.”
Sanchez will be tuning into the NFL Draft during the Saturday broadcast, harboring no delusions of grandeur watching Thursday evening’s First Round. “It’s not about the ‘Combine Guys’… it’s about the best football player. When it comes to football I’m one of the better people in this draft… when it comes to competing and being ‘football smart,’ knowing a defense, running the show and putting guys in the right place, I don’t think there’s anyone in the country who can do it better than me…
“When it comes to ‘Football IQ’ I think I’m up there with some of the best. I don’t say that arrogantly. I put a lot into preparation… a lot into the film… a lot about knowing the game. I’m always asking ‘Why Why Why?’ It drives coaches crazy. That’s just who I am as a player.” Sanchez started all his 50 games at USF. The film is out there on him, showing all interested teams what they’ll get in this determined defender. If there’s any doubt, Sanchez’ USF Pro Day is on March 26th, where he’ll be available for further interviews and physical construct by the NFL scouts.
Sanchez could see himself coaching after his career in football. “My 15-20year goal is to be Head Coach at USF because I love that place so much… it’s done so much for me… It deserves alumni to come back and give it what it deserves. My heart’s always with USF.” However, coaching is years away, and we turned back to the immediate future and this April’s upcoming NFL Draft.
“When you look at linebackers in this draft, you have a LOT of really good players… I know that coming into this, but I’ll tell you one thing about me. I’m a COMPETITOR. I compete all the time. I came into USF as a fullback and left the school’s leading tackler… It shows when I believe in something I go after it… I’ll go into a facility and work.”
No further convincing is necessary. Auggie Sanchez WILL be playing on Sundays this upcoming year, with whichever team who acquires his services knowing they’ll be getting a workaholic poised in making its defense their strongest asset. Opposing NFL quarterbacks best beware.
Jay “Captain Jack” Levy, BCP Contributor