The remarkable rise of Georgia’s Dominick Sanders

Dominick Sanders at SEC media days on Tuesday.

HOOVER, Ala. – Dominick Sanders did radio row. He met the commissioner of the SEC. At one point somebody pulled him aside and asked casually if he’d like to tape a bit for ESPN’s SportCenter.

“That was pretty cool,” Sanders said later, though not sounding overly excited. “It’s all a learning experience, and for my first time to be able to do something like that, it’s very fun.”

There’s something remarkable and sweet about Sanders being one of Georgia’s three representatives at SEC media days, an honor that symbolizes the team and school’s trust in a player and his story.

It comes against the backdrop of the off-field problems at Georgia, the seven arrests since March, including one over the weekend.

And it comes against the backdrop of what happened to Sanders’ older brother at Georgia.

Chris Sanders had a promising career at Georgia cut short after just one season when he and two teammates, Nick Marshall and Sanford Seay, were accused of stealing from a teammates’ dorm room. All were dismissed from the team.

The problems didn’t stop for Chris Sanders, who was subsequently dismissed from Georgia Military College. He eventually got things together and ended up at Baylor, where he graduated and is now pursuing a career in the Canadian Football League.

UGA strong safety Dominick Sanders intercepts a pass intended for Georgia Tech wide receiver Brandon Oliver during the second quarter of Saturday’s 13-7 win. (AJC/Curtis Compton)

Three years ago, Dominick Sanders was a lightly-recruited safety out of Tucker High School, a late addition to Georgia’s 2013 recruiting class. But from the moment he stepped on campus it was clear he was a legitimate player – and a model teammate.

“Somebody asked me the other day: Who are some guys you’d go to battle with, when the crap’s hitting the fan? Dom’s one of those guys,” junior tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “He’s very loyal, he’s very honest, very hard-working. He’s a guy who if he has to get something done, he won’t stop until it gets done.”

Sanders wasn’t picked to attend SEC media days because of his quotability. He’s not going to be Richard Sherman. It’s also evident that he’s not going to be Chris Sanders, for good or bad.

Dominick Sanders said he never looked at his career as restoring the family honor. But he also wasn’t afraid to go to the same place, or play for the same head coach (Mark Richt the first two years) who had dismissed his older brother.

“I just told myself we’re two individuals, two different people,” said Sanders, a first-team All-SEC selection last year. “He made a mistake, and he bounced back from it, which had an awesome result, which was graduating from Baylor. But I didn’t let it reflect on me.”

Chris Sanders did impart some advice on his little brother.

Chris Sanders spent one year at Georgia, his first one limited by a shoulder injury. (UGA)

“The main thing he said was to stay focused, don’t let his incident reflect on me, and go in with an attitude of grinding, and staying on top of your books,” Sanders said. “We all know what happened to him, but he said to not let that take off of my grind.”

In two years at Georgia, he’s been a model citizen. He’s never even missed a class, though he once was late to an academic appointment.

“That wasn’t a good feeling, because I had a discipline run,” Sanders said. “But after that I never missed an appointment.”

Who deserves credit for Sanders? He points to his mother, for one, but also Damian Swann, the former Georgia cornerback who took Sanders under his wing when he arrived at Georgia.

Sanders is majoring in history, concentrating on American history. He was asked why.

“I felt like deep down inside I didn’t know much about it, so I wanted to go down that path, and get more understanding of that history,” he said.

Family history, on the other hand, didn’t matter. Dominick Sanders has made his own story.

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