West Virginia's Jock Sanders' Long Road to Redemption

Michael CarvelliContributor INovember 11, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 27:  Trimane Goddard #31 of the North Carolina Tar Heels misses a tackle on Jock Sanders #9 of the West Virginia Mountaineers during the Meineke Car Care Bowl on December 27, 2008 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Last season, West Virginia wide receiver Jock Sanders was named second team all-Big East after leading the team with 53 catches and seven touchdowns, while adding 462 yards (which was second on the team behind Alric Arnett's 466). Things were really looking up for the rising junior as the 2009 season approached.

At least it was until one February night, when his Dodge Charger was pulled over in downtown Morgantown. After being pulled over, the 5'8" slot man failed three out of four field sobriety tests and had a blood alcohol level of 0.125. Jock was arrested for DUI, his second arrest of the year; prompting head coach Bill Stewart to suspend him from the team indefinitely.

As far as many Mountaineer faithful were concerned, WVU would have to try winning another Big East title and a fifth straight bowl game without one of their most dangerous pass catchers for at least a good chunk of the season.

This, however, was not a thought that went through Jock's mind.

He continued working hard to stay in shape and in March he entered himself into a university-sponsored substance abuse education program.

"He received glowing remarks." Stewart said. "He did a tremendous job and for that we're appreciative, as is the university."

At the beginning of August, West Virginia opened summer training camp, with a reinstated, more dedicated than ever Jock Sanders.

And when the Mountaineers took the field for their season opener against Liberty, Sanders was out there with them. "I was happy to see 60,000-plus fans screaming and that gets you excited;" Sanders said, "and when the game starts you tune that out and play the game and that's what I did."

Up to this point in the season, it looks like the February suspension and eventual second chance was the extra motivation the versatile Sanders needed to bring his game to the next level.

"My son plays baseball where he was training and when I would go to watch, people would come to me and tell me that he was maximizing every amount of effort anyone could." Stewart said.

He has already surpassed his career highs for catches and yards in a season, hauling in 58 catches for 555 yards and with 20 more catches this year, he will pass David Saunders and Shawn Foreman's record for most catches in a season in Mountaineer history. He also had a career game against Auburn this year, catching 12 passes for 115 yards in WVU's loss to the Tigers.

One thing that has always made Jock Sanders such a dangerous player is his versatility.

The past three years, he has been a prominent factor in the West Virginia running game, as well as the passing attack. As a sophomore, he carried the ball 48 times for 250 yards and before the Louisville game last week he had 12 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Then, late in the first half of the game last Saturday, running back Noel Devine came out of the game with an ankle injury.

Do I really need to tell you who came in for him?

Great guess. It was Jock Sanders.

Sanders had 12 rushes for 66 yards (both career highs) to help WVU preserve their 17-9 win over the Cardinals.

"We've got so many dimensions on this team that things can go either way." Sanders said. "I'm just happy to be back to help this team in any way that I can."

Friday night, the No. 25 Mountaineers are travelling to Cincinnati to take on the No. 5 Bearcats in a game that could have a lot to do with who will receive the Big East's BCS bowl bid at the end of the season.

Coach Bill Stewart has said that if Devine is not able to go on Friday, it is likely that Sanders will handle the bulk of the load at running back.

With this week's huge game against Cincinnati, Jock Sanders has a chance to continue what has already been an unbelievable season on his road to redemption.

When asked about Jock's journey back to the team after his suspension, coach Stewart said, "It's very nice to see in life when you get the opportunity to correct a situation that you work hard in it and with it and things turn out good."