Alan Dell

Commentary | Sandberg leads Canes with a steady hand

BRADENTON

The comparison is inevitable.

Tim Tebow and Cord Sandberg. Or should we make it Cord Sandberg and Tim Tebow?

For all those who missed Tebow when he was in high school, catch a Manatee High football game and you will see a newer version.

Sandberg and Tebow are left-handed big guys who happen to play quarterback.

That might be where the comparison ends, which is arguably in Sandberg’s favor.

Tebow is the excitable guy with the questionable arm, who willed his way to victories at Florida and has become a national spectacle with the Denver Broncos.

He wears his emotions all over his uniform, and it’s infectious.

Sandberg is a cool, collected guy who never rattles. If you are heading into a high-stakes poker game you want him on your side.

And by the way, he throws a pretty good pass.

“Cord has the perfect demeanor for a quarterback and he doesn’t have to work at it,” Manatee quarterbacks coach Chris Conboy said Friday after watching the junior carve up the Venice defense in the Canes’ region semifinal.

“He has that lefty personality. Everything rolls off his back. He doesn’t get too high or too low. He takes success and failure the same way. You can never tell with him.”

The Manatee football team is loaded with talent, but Sandberg makes it all come together. When things are breaking down, as they were at times in the Canes’ 34-21 victory over Venice, he never lets things bother him.

“You have to have an even keel because good things are going to happen and bad things are going to happen and the next play is always the most important,” Sandberg says. “The coaches said (Friday) I will have to run a little because that was what the defense was going to give us so I did it a little (Friday).”

The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder ran through the Venice defense for 113 yards and sliced up the Indians secondary throwing for 191 yards and two touchdown passes.

He was Indians’ personal nightmare and did it without malice.

Every time Venice looked as if it was going to close the gap on Manatee, Sandberg made a play. At the end, when Manatee had things locked up and things were getting testy from an unruly Venice team, Sandberg kept his cool. He took some shots when he ran the ball; you could never tell what he was thinking.

Sandberg knew things wouldn’t be as easy as they were the first time these teams met and Manatee rolled over the Indians 52-19.

This was just another day at the office.

“You go into the first game with a plan and things work, and you score and they don’t have time to adjust. Now they kind of know what you are trying to do and you have to make adjustments, which we did,” Sandberg said.

If this were basketball you would call Sandberg a gym rat. His dad, Chuck, is a receivers coach at Manatee and they talk football all the time.

Chuck is what might you call an excitable guy, which would be an understatement of epic proportion. Cord’s mom, Kelsi, is on the calm side and it seems as if he has taken the right amount from each to mold his personality.

“My dad can be excitable sometimes and I can be like that, but I would say I am a little less like my dad and more like my mom. It’s pretty good balance I have,” Cord says.

As far as that Sandberg-Tebow comparison, Cord considers it an honor, though a lot of people would say right now he is a better passer.

His deliveries are quick and on the money, and he doesn’t have that windup motion that Tebow goes through before he releases the ball.

“Tebow is a great player and to be spoken in the same sentence with him is an honor, but I am just trying to be the best player I can be,” Sandberg says. “A lot of people tell me I am a little Tim Tebow. He is an awesome guy to look up to. If you can accomplish half the things he did you would be all right.”

A lot of people are saying Cord Sandberg is pretty all right right now.

Alan Dell, Herald staff writer, can be reached at (941) 745-2112.

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