Jason Caesar Consolacion
When sophomore Ketric Sanford first put on a UH Cougar football uniform, he was one of the most highly recruited tailbacks in the country.
The success, however, didn't change his attitude toward the sport. He was still was just a young man who loved to play football.
Sanford wasn't interested in his statistics or playing in the NFL.
It didn't matter to him that he rushed for 100 yards in his first game as a Cougar or that he totaled 744 yards on 146 carries in his first season at Houston.
Not even after helping the Cougars to the Conference USA championship last year and being named the C-USA Freshman of the Year did he change his unselfish ways.
All that matters to Sanford is that he goes into every game playing as hard as he can to help the Cougars win.
"Not only is Ketric a great athlete," UH coach Kim Helton says, "but he makes other players on the team better.
"He's a leader. He's not a 'get-in-your-face' leader. He leads by example. He's going to play in the National Football League."
Sanford started playing football in seventh grade. He played on the varsity team at Corsicana High School for three years and led his team to the state championship game.
He presents himself as a soft-spoken, quiet person, though his play on the field does not match that description. Sanford is one of the most effective tailbacks in the history of UH. He leads the Cougars in rushing and kick returns and finds himself on top of almost every C-USA statistical board. But his modesty is probably his most recognizable attribute.
"I don't really pay attention to my numbers," Sanford explains. "Getting caught up in that can affect your game in a bad way. I just want to go out there and play my best."
Recently, Sanford tackled his most difficult task. On Sept. 23, he underwent an emergency appendectomy that sidelined him for several weeks.
"The first game I sat out, I watched on TV from a hospital bed," Sanford recalls. "It was a terrible experience for me, but at least we won that one (a 45-43 win against Minnesota).
"The second game (a 66-10 loss to UCLA) was worse. Watching (fellow Cougars) Jay (McGuire) and Vaughn (Inniss) get beat up over there was very hard for me. I really wanted to go out and help."
After sitting out for three weeks, Sanford returned to practice the week prior to the Oct. 18 conference opener against Cincinnati. He entered the game in the first quarter, carried the ball four times for four yards and had one kickoff return for 19 yards.
"I felt very tired after that first quarter," Sanford said. "I thought I was ready to play, but it was probably my overall anxiety to get back on the field."
He then returned to all-out practice the next week to prepare for the game against Louisville. Feeling much better and more confident about himself, Sanford decided it was time for him to get back on the field.
"Last week," he said before the Louisville game, "I really thought I was ready to come back. Now, I feel I'm ready. I got a few hits (at practice) and I feel fine. I'm ready to play."
So what does Sanford do in his first start in four weeks? He rushes for 62 yards, records 38 receiving yards and picks up a kickoff return for 19 yards, totaling 119 yards for the game.
Sanford is back, along with his timing, strength and speed. He says he is back to the mental state he was in before the appendectomy and wishes to put the injury behind him.