WAXAHACHIE

Standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 225 pounds, Joshua Sanders is every bit the prototypical frame for a Division-I football program. He fulfilled that potential by signing with Florida International University Wednesday, Dec. 20 in the gymnasium of Life High School Waxahachie during the first NCAA early signing day held since 1981.

Sanders said he is excited about the "new beginnings and new experiences" that will come when he joins the 21-member Panther class of recruits.

"I picked Florida International because I felt like it was the best fit for me and somewhere that I could see myself spending the next four years," he said. "It's just somewhere that I can call home. I love the environment. I love the atmosphere and I love the coaching staff, as well.

"[...] I feel like it will be good. I'll definitely make the most of it."

During an FIU press conference, Panther head coach Butch Davis applauded his coaching staff for putting together an early-signing class with six of the 21 players hailing from outside of the Sunshine State.

"Our coaches went through the country and built relationships with high school coaches and programs, and identified and evaluated who could come in and be a part of this program, and I think our coaches did an absolutely phenomenal job," Davis said. "We actually signed someone at every position, thus far. We have signed offensive linemen, defensive linemen, linebackers, wide receivers, running backs, kids in the secondary. I think that was good for us this year because some of these kids are going to come in and be an immediate help to this football program."

Sanders finished his senior season with Mustangs posting teams highs in total tackles (75), solo tackles (32) and tackles per game (7.5). He also recorded 5.5 tackles for loss, 10 quarterback hurries, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and one sack.

Life Waxahachie head football coach Heath Blalock said he is "excited" for the school's second DI signee and couldn't be prouder of Sanders' accomplishments on and off of the football field.

"Josh has done so many things for our program and has been a tremendous leader for the last couple of years. It has been an honor to coach a kid like Josh," Blalock said. "He's a really easy kid to love, and I am proud of him for everything he has accomplished."

Blalock added that Sanders' signing further reinforces the work ethic of the Mustang football team as a whole.

"It just says a lot about our program. These kids are putting in the effort and are doing great things here, maybe when some people don't think that our school is able to do that. The kids are able to prove them wrong, and our coaches work their tails off to help these young men get to college," Blalock explained. "All we are is an assistance to them because they earn the right to go play. It is great for our program that they are able to go do things like this."

The Mustangs finished the season with a 3-2 mark in District 4-4A and 5-6 overall. Though they ultimately fell to Iowa Park in the bi-district championship, 51-14, Sanders said he was proud of the way they battled.

"I am very proud of my team this season," he said. "Even though we didn't go as far as we wanted, they worked hard, gave it all up for the team and left it all out on the field. That is all any of us could ask for from the team."

He added, "I'll miss the family atmosphere. I'll miss the people around me that have been with me since middle school and some of those close relationships I have made with teachers and faculty here. It has been a great place and I will definitely miss it a lot."