BRADENTON -- Meet Cord Sandberg, the artist.
The star quarterback of Manatee's football team has already passed the core courses he needs to graduate. So he's taking ceramics this semester, which if nothing else, takes care of most of Sandberg's holiday shopping.
"Ceramics is huge," he said, "as far as Christmas, birthdays and Valentine's Day."
Sandberg has made a Hurricanes candy bowl, a vase and a box-shaped, beach-themed candleholder of which he is extremely proud.
"That's going to be somewhere visible, I'm making sure of that," he said, "because I put a lot of work into that."
Meet Cord Sandberg, the man of many routines.
Just before he puts on the red helmet adorned with Hurricanes pride stickers, Sandberg spins it in his hands and taps it on his forehead three times.
His right shoe has to go on before the left one. He has to put his play card on his right wrist before he puts his sweatband on his left one.
"You should watch him tie his shoes," said Chris Conboy, who coaches Manatee's quarterbacks.
There are many doors inside Manatee's fieldhouse. Sandberg touches every one, along with a vent, before games and practices.
"I'm really superstitious," he said.
Meet Cord Sandberg, the football player.
This is the one everyone knows, the dual-threat quarterback who leads Class 7A Manatee into its fourth straight regional final Friday night on the road against Fort Pierce Central.
This Cord Sandberg has gone 38-3 as a starter, helped Manatee win its fifth state championship last year and verbally committed to Mississippi State over the the summer. He has also lived up to expectations this fall, throwing for 2,205 yards, 29 touchdowns and one interception for a Hurricanes team ranked No. 1 nationally by ESPN, MaxPreps and USA Today.
"He grasps what we do," said Manatee coach Joe Kinnan. "He rarely makes mental mistakes, he reads the right reads. Each year, he's gotten better and better."
"He doesn't make right decisions all the time," Conboy said. "But like I told somebody, he's the kind of kid you go, 'No, no, no, yes, yes, yes,' because when he does make a bad decision, he usually makes it work out."
Meet Cord Sandberg, homebody.
Given his run of success on the football field, Sandberg has myriad reasons to celebrate. He chooses not to, however.
Instead, he sleeps until about 10 or noon on Saturdays, watches college football all day and maybe heads over to his girlfriend's house to have dinner with her family. Then there's church on Sunday followed by, as Sandberg puts it, "absolutely nothing."
"Outside of football," he said, "I'm pretty boring. I know what I want to do, I know what I'm passionate about. I want to do something in sports, whether it's football or baseball. You've got to be willing to give stuff up. On the weekends, I just give my body a chance to rest and relax."
His biggest addiction is TiVo, which allows him to catch up on episodes of "Psych," his favorite show.
Meet Cord Sandberg, music video star.
Cord and his older brother, Chase, a two-sport athlete at Manatee who is now a freshman baseball player at State College of Florida, routinely record themselves dancing and singing to whatever comes out of their iPod.
"Anything upbeat," Cord said. "(The videos) never go viral. That'd be terrible if someone got their hands on it."
The brothers sometimes go solo. But where is the fun in that?
"Me and Chase, we'll go to a family event or a friend's house, and if there's music on, me and him are somewhat entertaining as far as dancing goes," Cord said. "It's not your typical dance moves ... nothing choreographed."
That's why Sandberg enjoys it so much.
"You just go where the music takes you," Cord said. "It's not structured. You just go with it."
Meet Cord Sandberg, the star quarterback who dates a cheerleader.
Sandberg and his girlfriend, Kelly Johnson, have been dating since freshman year. Baseball brought them together -- Cord hit a home run one night against Saint Stephen's while Kelly watched from the bleachers.
"She didn't know I played football," he said, "I didn't know she was a cheerleader."
A few months later, Sandberg was a sophomore in the midst of helping Manatee clinch its first perfect regular season in 20 years.
"Sophomore year, two or three games in, I was the quarterback," Sandberg said, "and we took a picture after a game. I looked at the picture and was like, 'She's the blonde cheerleader, I'm the quarterback. This is kind of cliche right here.'
"But she's a sweet girl and it's worked out."
During halftime of this year's win over Class 8A Weston Cypress Bay, Sandberg was named homecoming king. Johnson was named homecoming queen.
Meet Cord Sandberg, a guy who lives life his way.
Sandberg's pride stickers form the shape of a cross on the front of his helmet, and he goes to church each Sunday. He plans on staying abstinent until marriage, and his deep faith has helped paid dividends on the football field.
"It takes a lot of the pressure off," said Sandberg, who attended Bradenton Christian from kindergarten through third grade. "He's in control, and I'm just trying to play hard and glorify Him with the talent He's given me."
Sandberg's touchdown celebrations are simple -- a quick point toward the sky followed by a brisk jog to the sideline.
"My dad always said I need the team, the team doesn't need me," said Sandberg, whose father, Chuck, coaches Manatee's receivers and has been on Kinnan's staff for nearly 30 years. "I'm just glad to be a part of it, and try to win games. ... He's given me the talent, and I'm just trying to shine through Him."
Sandberg sports the highest grade-point average on the team, and according to Conboy, is the same well-spoken, well-mannered kid who talks into a bunch of video cameras and digital recorders after every Manatee game.
"You never hear anything bad about Cord. His mom and dad did a great job raising him," Conboy said. "What you see is what you get. He's not an Eddie Haskell. It's legit. It's not a show."
It comes with the territory. Sandberg plays the highest-profile position on the area's, and one of the country's, most highest-profile teams. It's not uncommon to see Sandberg and his teammates signing autographs for kids following a Friday night game.
"I try to be that role model guy, I try doing the right thing," he said.
Meet Cord Sandberg, the kid with a decision to make.
Football or baseball? Yes, Sandberg has committed to play football with the Bulldogs. But he's also gearing up for baseball season, his fourth year as a varsity starter, and ready to man centerfield for a Hurricanes team looking to win its third straight district title.
He was selected to play in last summer's Perfect Game All-American Classic in San Diego, and Baseball America ranked Sandberg 46th in its list of its top 50 prospects for the Class of 2013.
If he's a high draft pick next summer and the money is right, Sandberg may take a stab a professional baseball.
"In my heart, I really do want to play baseball," Sandberg said.
For now, Cord Sandberg is, among other things, a football player.
Tuesday evening he stood on Manatee's empty practice field. To his right was Hawkins Stadium, where he lost once in three years as a varsity starter.
On the final pass he made inside the venerable stadium, Sandberg connected with Ja Juan Pollock for a touchdown during last week's Region 3 semifinal against Venice.
It was a graceful exit. And Sandberg can't wait to see what he'll be next.
"It's flown by. But it's time to try new things," he said.