Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Lanier's Marty Sanders grabbed 46 passes for 1,022 yards this season helping the Longhorns to a 5-5 finish in their first full varsity season.
Aside from a season as a defensive end when he was 10, Marty Sanders didn't play any organized football growing up.
Well, at least football organized by grownups.
In his neighborhood in Selma, Ala., Sanders joined his friends for pickup football games at a local church. They didn't have pads, but they still tackled. As Sanders tells it, they mostly tried to tackle him.
"They couldn't get me, I was really fast," Sanders said.
These fields helped Sanders find his identity and cultivated his love for football.
He didn't play any other sports, even in his two years at Southside High School (Ala.) before he came to Sugar Hill and joined the Lanier program.
"No one knew me until I started playing football," Sanders said. "They started calling me spark plug because I have an ignition in me."
He showed that ignition this season with the Longhorns, catching 46 passes for 1,022 yards and eight touchdowns. He caught most of his balls on screens and hot routes and used his size and speed to break tackles. He loves breaking tackles.
"I try to never let one guy stop me," he said. "I think it's easier if you stay up as (long) as you can. If you let one guy stop you it's not going to be good for you."
And that mentality worked well for Lanier and for Sanders.
Sanders came to Sugar Hill to escape what he calls "a bad situation" in Alabama. He moved to Georgia alone at first and lived with his aunt. His mother and two sisters soon followed. He arrived at Lanier with little expectations. He grew with the Longhorns program, the two benefitting from each other.
"If the coaches know you can do better, they are going to keep pushing you and pushing you," Sanders said. "And from last year, we just tried to get better and better."
In the team's first full varsity schedule, the Longhorns finished 5-5, at one point ripping off three straight wins and ending the season winning two straight.
Sanders played a big part in the quick success, and just like in his old neighborhood used football to make his statement.
"Everybody at the school are really nice," Sanders said. "We talk smack to each other, just like a family. It's been easy and it's been really good."
A self-described "comedian" away from the field. Sanders brings a different attitude when he straps on a helmet. It's how he doesn't let one player bring him down.
"When I am on the field, I am more aggressive. Off the field, I joke around a lot," Sanders said. "I don't know what it is, I have a lot of ambition and it helps a lot. You can't go up against someone begin scared. You have to have a lot of ambition."
Sanders wants to play football in college, but is still weighing his options. But he knows how to make a name for himself and football always plays a role.
"I just want to play football," he said.