Q&A: Jasper Sanks knows exactly how Isaiah Crowell is feeling

Q&A WITH JASPER SANKS

Jasper Sanks rushed for 1,651 yards and 12 TDs at Georgia but never lived up to the tremendous expectations that came with him from Columbus.

Jasper Sanks rushed f0r 1,651 yards and 12 TDs at Georgia but never lived up to the tremendous expectations that came with him from Columbus.

If there is one person on the face of this Earth who knows what Isaiah Crowell is going through this week it’s Jasper Sanks. Both of them are from Columbus, both of them were Carver High graduates, both were five-star running back prospects and both came to Georgia pulling a freight train of expectations behind them. Crowell will play his first college football game on Saturday against No. 5 Boise State in the Georgia Dome. Sanks played his first game with the Bulldogs 13 years ago. But their circumstances are eerily similar.

For Sanks, there was no storybook ending. Though he had a solid college career — 1,651 yards, 12 touchdowns — he was never able to live up to the grandiose expectations placed on him. And he made plenty of mistakes along the way. He failed to gain freshman eligibility, showed up overweight and out of shape, got arrested (though charges were later dropped) and struggled with ball security. And the NFL career that was practically assured for him never materialized.

Jasper today with his baby, Savannah.

Jasper today with his baby, Savannah.

But through it all, Sanks says he has no regrets. The experiences he had at Georgia, he said, made him the man is he today. He met his future wife at UGA — volleyball player Kristine Keese — and the two had their first child, Savannah, this past March. He also received the bulk of his education at Georgia. After graduating with business management degree from the University of Phoenix last December, Sanks, 33, now works in the oil business in Houston. So as Sanks cheerfully proclaims, there is a “happily ever after” to his story.

We caught up with Sanks in a telephone interview this week to see what he had to say about Crowell and to reflect on his four years in Athens. . . .

Q: So has Isaiah Crowell been on your mind lot lately?

A: “Oh yeah, absolutely. I was just talking to my wife about this young guy. I definitely feel what the guy is going through. Being a tailback at the University of Georgia and coming in as one of the top running backs like I did, that’s a lot of pressure. It’s hard to describe but it’s a lot a pressure, man. You’ve got a lot of fans that are pulling for you to come in and be that impact player right away. They don’t have time to wait for you to grow or get experience. They want you hit that field running at top speed. So, yeah, it was pressure. I can’t deny that man. That’s probably why I went bald and lost my hair [laughs].”

Q: You and Isaiah are both Carver High grads from Columbus and certainly kindred spirits. Do you know him personally?

A: “Yes, I’ve gotten to speak with him a few times. Mostly we’ve just sent a lot of text messages back and forth. Nothing really about football. I told him that’s going to take care of itself. The only thing I’m trying to pop into his head is mainly to stay focused and leave home at home.”

Q: What do you mean “leave home at home?”

A: “It’s so hard when you’re a high-profile player like that. You’ve got so many people who are pushing you. They think just because they’re pushing that’s something good. It’s not. I want him to be surrounded with people who are pulling for him, not pushing him. If you let them they’ll push you off a cliff. My main concern is the supporting cast he has. When I was coming through, I had a lot of people saying, ‘yes, yes, yes,’ when they should have been saying ‘no, no, no, no.’ So I’m real worried about the people he’s surrounding himself with. I’m more worried about that than I am about the football for him. The game will take care of itself. He has God-given ability. We all know he can play the game. It’s the small stuff outside of the football I want the young man to think about.

“I know what he had to go through coming from Columbus, Ga. There’s a lifestyle down there in the inner city that you’re fighting. There’s a lot of demons that you’re fighting with. It’s a situation where it’s kind of hard to cut off some of these people you grew up with. But it’s for the best. It’s hard because you don’t want to be labeled as somebody who has changed or who has a big head. There are so many different elements involved that fans don’t see that he’s dealing with. And I know it because I’ve been there.”

Q: What are your recollections of your first year at Georgia?

A: “I tell you, man, it was almost like it wasn’t real, with all the attention and the speed of the game and trying to learn that complex offense than [Jim] Donnan was running at that time. It was so much different than it was in high school. In high school I was just so much bigger, faster, better than everybody I came up against. Once I got to college, it was so competitive, it was really overwhelming.”

Q: I think most people would describe your career at Georgia as somewhat tumultuous on and off the field. How would you analyze it?

A: “I think I came into a situation where I was kind of caught in the crossfire. Coach Donnan didn’t originally recruit me; it was actually Ray Goff who first recruited me. And coming in from Marshall, I think Coach Donnan had a lot on his plate with the job and alumni and everything. I felt like I kind of got caught in the crossfire. It was just an unfortunate situation.”

Q: Did you feel like you were a better player than you get credit for?

A: “I definitely felt like I was an All-SEC-caliber tailback. But you come in with a guy like Quincy Carter, who demanded to throw the ball 40 times a game. And Coach Donnan liked those small scatbacks. I was a prototype SEC-type tailback, run between the tackles. Coach Richt was the same way. He liked those Warrick Dunn-type backs.They just didn’t cater to my style. So it was just bad timing on my part. Nothing against those coaches; I thought both of them were great coaches. I just think during my era I just came at the wrong time. I was a between-the-tackles, clock-management type of back. That’s not what they were looking for.”

Q: So how would you describe your time at Georgia?

A: “Oh, it was a happy time. It was a learning experience. I’m a spiritual person and I believe if it was meant to be I would have made it to that next level. I wouldn’t take anything back. It was a life-learning experience. If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t have persevered and went on and got my degree and been successful like I am now. I’m very happy. It was great for me in that it made me the man I am now.”

Q: How did you end up in the oil business, by the way?

A: “I actually met the vice president of this company, The Wood Group — GE bought us and now we’re GE Oil & Gas — when I was working at Enterprise. I was a branch manager with Enterprise Rental Car and the guy had a corporate account with us. He came in and we had about a five- or 10-minute conversation. We hit it off and he told me I should send in a resume. About a week later, he brought me in for an interview and they hired me right away. It was like a dream come true.”

Q: I’m assuming you’ll be tuned in for Saturday’s game?

A: “Oh, yeah, I can’t wait. I’ll be watching. . . . When I see that guy run out there on the field with that No. 1 jersey on, it’s going to give me chill bumps, because I know exactly what he’s going through.”

144 comments Add your comment

jaglaw

September 1st, 2011
12:22 pm

EW

September 1st, 2011
12:22 pm

Good Stuff, thanks for the article.

jaglaw

September 1st, 2011
12:22 pm

LHarding Dawg

September 1st, 2011
12:24 pm

Great interview!!!! Good for you Jasper.

CovingtonDawg

September 1st, 2011
12:25 pm

Awesome write-up Chip. Great to hear that Jasper is doing well after college.

bugsquacher

September 1st, 2011
12:27 pm

georgia wins a tight one this weekend…. by 3 pts. …… it will come down to the defense in the 4th qtr…..

tighten your chin strap…..

hey jasper, enjoyed the round of golf this summer…. good luck in your new job….

Cville Dawg

September 1st, 2011
12:28 pm

Good for Jasper. I’m glad to hear he’s been successful after football and that his time in school was a good chance for the rest of his life! Go Dawgs, Go Jasper, and Go Isiah.

chilidawg

September 1st, 2011
12:32 pm

More glass is half empty stuff, huh?

outkasted

September 1st, 2011
12:34 pm

let me get my positive on before it turns negative…. nice article thats one thing as fans we don’t know whats going in these young men lives away from the football field so we really don’t know what ’s going on to make it the right situation or the wrong situation but regardless of how it turns out i’m with them dawgs no matter what…. i’m encourage that nne of these guys have been getting arrested and the talk has been all about the team from all the guys…. 2 days away from the start of our football season and like u Jasper I too will be tuning in and when them DAWGS run out of that tunnel i will have my chills b/c i’m ready to shut some of these pessimistic fans the hell up….
GO DAWGS

Dawg_Mike

September 1st, 2011
12:36 pm

It still wasn’t a fumble, by the way…..

McDawg

September 1st, 2011
12:38 pm

lets be honest-the real issue was the GT fumble (that never happened) and a little bit of a weight gain-and yes Quincy liked to dump the ball 3yds and let them run-highly prolific offense when they were executing

Frank Lane

September 1st, 2011
12:39 pm

I was very impressed by this article and glad to learn what a level person Jasper Sanks is. Like many alumni, I remember the fumbles at critical times instead of the good stuff. This re-framed the young man in my mind. Thanks

azdawg

September 1st, 2011
12:41 pm

Have to give JS credit and admiration. He was scrutinized a good bit while at GA but still remains loyal bulldog and fan now. Wish him the best.

kerryb

September 1st, 2011
12:43 pm

Glad to hear that Jasper has gotten things straighten out and is having a good life.

richie_rich1986

September 1st, 2011
12:44 pm

Great Article thanks!!!

Shawn

September 1st, 2011
12:45 pm

Very pleased to here from him. Good job Jasper. Proud to call you a Dawg for life.

Buckhead Dawg

September 1st, 2011
12:46 pm

Holy cow, I don’t know what to say…Jasper Sanks actually seems to have pulled himself together…

JT

September 1st, 2011
12:46 pm

Congrats to Jasper on a happy and successful life. More stories like this please.

FalconUGAFan

September 1st, 2011
12:50 pm

Great to hear about JS. Good luck in life and thanks for helping out Isaiah…

TXDawg

September 1st, 2011
12:50 pm

DAWG for life……good for you Jasper….I have a baby named Savannah too, how about that!

Randall "Pink" Floyd

September 1st, 2011
12:54 pm

Jasper must have been 11 or 12 when Goff was recruiting him. LOL.

PaulPaul

September 1st, 2011
12:56 pm

Excellent article Chip. We need to remember all these young men have a life after football. Wonder what he would have done if the offense had been different. I personally like the big backs who can ram it between the tackles and control the clock. Malcome and Samuels hopefully will do just that for us this weekend.
Thanks once again and keep these type articles along with the other great info coming.

Mark (another one)

September 1st, 2011
12:56 pm

To my college football is all about the players, and getting to see them develop into men. Mr. Sanks appears to have done just that. He wasn’t as successful as he wanted to be on the field but he took advantage of his situation and made something of himself. He’s a husband, a father, educated, employeed, and taking care of his business. No regrets. And he married another UGA athlete. I love to read these types of articles.

And for those who will take their shots at Jasper, remember that he isn’t bitter or looking back. Why are you? This is his life, not yours. Read his comments about those that pull and those that push. Which are you?

Skeeter

September 1st, 2011
12:57 pm

Nice interview, Chip! Sanks is really an insightful fellow.

1eyedJack

September 1st, 2011
12:58 pm

Hopefully this will put to bed those rumors the nerds are spreading that Jasper is a janitor. And it wasn’t a fumble!

BillS

September 1st, 2011
12:59 pm

A lot of kids never manage to grow up. Sounds as if Jasper did, and congratulations to him. Good story.

'94 UGA Alumni

September 1st, 2011
1:05 pm

good story. Glad to hear Jasper Sanks is doing well.

OMG

September 1st, 2011
1:09 pm

We have another dork who likes to put “First” at the top of a Message Board. Get a life!

Great interview! Glad to hear Jasper is doing well!

Go Dawgs!

Big Earl

September 1st, 2011
1:10 pm

Good stuff Chip. Great to hear JS is doing well. Cute little girl too.

phil

September 1st, 2011
1:10 pm

Mark (another one) – You’re an idiot but thanks for the sermon…

Proud of Jasper. Did the best he could, basically, playing for a coach in over his head….

anotherdawg

September 1st, 2011
1:11 pm

Neat column. Often, we only see a name and a number. We don’t realize there’s alot more to a player than how many yards he gains, or how many times he turns the ball over. I guarantee that the average fan would have a different perspective if he put in the work and effort these young men do. There’s alot more to it than just the glory moments during a game.

phil

September 1st, 2011
1:12 pm

anotherdawg – No there isn’t. All these overpaid guys do is show up on Saturday and play a little ball….very little actual “work” goes into any of it.

I’m kidding. But thanks for pointing out the obvious to us all….

AltamahaDawg

September 1st, 2011
1:13 pm

eeirily similar? I got that they had the same zip code on thier mama’s mailbox, but playing in thier first game is pretty much every player in Georgia history isn’t it?

DawginLex

September 1st, 2011
1:16 pm

Way to further rip the stereotype to shreds Mr Sanks.

you sir are a DGD!

and a smart one too!

phil

September 1st, 2011
1:19 pm

Vampire Bill

September 1st, 2011
1:21 pm

That is a great article. Thanks

NCDAWG

September 1st, 2011
1:21 pm

DAWG MIKE!! YOU ARE SOOOOO RIGHT!!! IT WASN’T A FUMBLE! Karma paid Tech back BIG TIME for that victory by the refs! Too bad they didn’t have the instant replay rule back then.

Dbalcer

September 1st, 2011
1:32 pm

Great article and insightful look into how things are for a highly recruited tailback. I am glad he is trying to mentor to Isaiah. We named our dog after Jasper it is nice to read about how well he is doing now.

@Phil

September 1st, 2011
1:35 pm

Thanks for being the arbiter of good taste and reason, D-bag.

secdawgs

September 1st, 2011
1:35 pm

It would have been real easy for Jasper to fold up the tent and given up on life, his brother was killed here in Columbus not too long ago and he had a real hard time with that. Glad to hear he has gotten all that behind him.

Paul Akridge

September 1st, 2011
1:35 pm

I love this interview, and the positive comments from Jasper. Jasper had a lot of bad comments thrown at him; we sometimes forget these are very young men. I’m sure his contact with Isaih will have a positive impact.

b

September 1st, 2011
1:36 pm

Great article!
If everyone could read this about how hard it is for freshmen, then maybe they wouldn’t
be so critical. There’s enough to worry about for all frosh, much less becoming a star
that some people expect out of them.
I hope Sanks showed some perspective to some of us, unfortunately, the ones who need
to read this article won’t bother to read it.
san

rlinaug

September 1st, 2011
1:37 pm

that’s a great story. wonderful. all that will make him a good father to that little girl.

Milton

September 1st, 2011
1:37 pm

I’m from Columbus and saw Jasper play in highschool, he was a one heck of a football and basketball player! It’s obvious God had a plan for Jasper, his time at Georgia was to mold him into the man he is today – it wasn’t about touchdowns or playing time! Crowell is a stud, maybe a better running back. But Jasper was one of the best athletes to ever come out of Georgia. Go Dawgs!

Win P

September 1st, 2011
1:50 pm

Great article and points out the importance of the academic side of the Student/athlete.

Old School

September 1st, 2011
1:54 pm

Great to hear things are working well for Jasper. God Bless you and your family.

WDE

September 1st, 2011
1:56 pm

Jasper best of luck going forward! DGD!

dawg from a distance

September 1st, 2011
1:57 pm

I’m thankful for Jasper. He recieved a lot of un due flack. He was kind of a back out of place.

I am confused a bit. Was he on CMR’s first team in 01?

I knew he was with Donnan but my memory fails me. Loved the article and praying for blessings and favor for the Sanks family.

Go DAWGS!

AlanW

September 1st, 2011
1:58 pm

Very nice article. Wish continued success for Mr. Sanks.

Ringleader

September 1st, 2011
1:59 pm

A Dog for life………………