Alex Sanford, committed to Arkansas football, showed early on that he was an SEC player

Oxford manager Chris Cutcliffe remembers seeing Alex Sanford as a standout player in his first year. The linebacker was wreaking havoc on the freshman team early in the season and was called up to college.

It was then that Cutcliffe got a close-up view of Sanford’s thirst for improvement.

“Obviously part of the game at this level is a God-given ability,” Cutcliffe said. “A lot of times you can see that. Alex was a dominant player in our college program, but you have to see the work ethic and the drive to go with it. This is the most important thing.

“We saw his production on the pitch in freshman football. Watching him when he came in and joined the varsity team the second half of the season as a rookie, he immediately adapted to that level of play and work.

Sanford is No. 12 on the Clarion Ledger’s 2022 Dandy Dozen, a collection of Mississippi’s top college football prospects for the Class of 2023, as chosen by the newspaper.

MHSAA REGION RANKING PREDICTION:Where Every Mississippi High School Football Team Will Finish in the 2022 Regional Rankings

BURNING QUESTIONS:50 questions, 50 days until the 2022 Mississippi high school football season

Sanford’s work ethic — which has seen him lead the Chargers in tackles for the past two seasons — began long before he became the No. 15 rookie in the state and No. 63 linebacker at the level. national, according to the 247Sports Composite ranking. Sanford finished with 120 tackles, 17 for loss, five quarterback pressures, three sacks and one fumble recovery in 11 games.

Arkansas’ commitment credits his uncles Donell, CJ, and T-Bone Chapman with helping him develop his competitive spirit, practice habits, and willingness to watch movies.

Oxford High linebacker Alex Sanford, left, and quarterback Mack Howard, right, pictured in Oxford, Mississippi on Tuesday, July 19, 2022, are members of the Clarion Ledger 2022 Dandy Dozen.

“They wanted me to be the best version of me I could ever be,” Sanford said. “These guys want to see me succeed so badly, more than they want to succeed for themselves.

“So when I got into football it was like ‘Hey man, if you wanna do this, let’s do this for real. I can’t explain how important they were to me in this game and in general.

Sanford’s uncles led the groundwork, but former Oxford linebacker Kiyon Williams as well as four-star rookie and Ole Miss tight end JJ Pegues helped him progress with the Chargers. It’s part of the culture that Cutcliffe cultivated in Oxford.

The one who helped Sanford get offers from Ole Miss, Jackson State and Tennessee, among others. Sanford is looking forward to doing that for the next generation this season.

“Alex was lucky to see Kiyon’s example and he took it and ran with it,” Cutcliffe said. “We had guys before Kiyon who came in and laid the groundwork. It’s a good thing when you can pass that on from one generation of your football program to the next.

MHSAA CLASS 6A OVERVIEW:Mississippi Class 6A High School Football Preview, 2022 Predictions

BEST IN THE ‘SIP:Mississippi’s top high school football linebackers head into 2022 season

Sanford’s physicality, effort and versatility prompted SEC schools to recruit him heavily, according to Cutcliffe. His ability to be a mic linebacker and stop the run and provide a rushing pass from the edge will translate to the next level.

The three-star rookie has two goals for his senior season: breaking Quentin Wilfawn’s single-season tackle record (171) and leading the Chargers to their first state championship since 2019.

“The Oxford Chargers as a team are going to have all of me,” Sanford said. “All of me to win this state championship.”

Comments are closed.