By Joseph Gunther
Jamarca Sanford, SS #33
Hometown: Batesville, MS
Experience: 4 years
Sanford became a starting safety for the Minnesota Vikings in 2011, but lost that spot to Mistral Raymond during the 2012 preseason. Just three weeks later, he returns to the starting lineup following an injury to Raymond.
“It’s not the way I’d like to get in, but it’s football so things happen,” he told Bob Sansevere of the Pioneer Press after the Vikings beat the San Francisco 49ers Sunday at Mall of America Field. “You have to be prepared at all times. Got in and it was moving pretty fast. After the first couple of series, it slowed down and I just started playing football. It felt good to be out there with this defense.”
The severity of Raymond’s injury is unknown at this point and the team does not know when he will be able to return.
Sanford is listed as the second free safety behind rookie Harrison Smith, but was the first backup at both safety positions.
“It’s been tough on me,” Sanford also told Sansevere about beginning the season as a backup. “I worked my rear end off this offseason. I dedicated my body to coming back to start. Things don’t always work out the way you plan them to work out. It didn’t work out like I expected. I knew at some point my number was going to be called and I had to be ready.”
Sanford recorded career-highs in games played (15), games started (15), tackles (75), solo tackles (46), passes defensed (five), interceptions (two) and fumble recoveries (two) in 2011. He has developed a reputation as a good tackling safety that excels on special teams. He was working toward the Pro Bowl as the NFC special teams selection.
He spent the offseason working improving his pass coverage, but until he proves he can make plays against the pass, he will be targeted by opposing quarterbacks and offensive coordinators.
Sanford majored in criminal justice at the University of Mississippi while starring on the Rebels defense.
No player in the SEC made more tackles than Sanford did during his collegiate career (2004-08). He led the Rebels to a win over the eventual-National Championship Florida Gators in 2008 with 11 tackles. That performance earned him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
He comes from a football family that has produced two other NFL draft picks (both first rounders), including cousin and collegiate teammate defensive tackle Peria Jerry and 1997 Vikings selection linebacker Dwayne Rudd. His relationship to Rudd was not provided by the team’s official website.
He was the second safety selected by the Vikings in the 2009, and was selected in the seventh round while former Viking teammate Tyrell Johnson was taken in the second round.
Sanford and Johnson were both given opportunities to be long-term starters for the Vikings, but neither was able to stick. Johnson is no longer with the team and Sanford has been relegated to a reserve and special teams role.
Sanford has stayed in the team’s good graces with his ability to play special teams, and he has become a dependable player that the Vikings will now count on to do more than cover kicks and punts.
Leslie Frazier said during his regular Monday press conference that Sanford will get more snaps on defense and his number of special teams reps will need to be tempered.
For more Local Football Bloggers and the latest Vikings news, see CBS Sports Minnesota.
Joseph Gunther is an avid fan of Minnesota sports, including football, hockey and baseball. He covered a wide variety of sports while attending Hastings College in Hastings, Neb. While at Hastings College, he was a part of the first collegiate media group to broadcast a national tournament via television, radio, internet and newspaper at the 2004 NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament. He grew up in the Twin Cities playing three years of varsity football in high school. His work can be found on Examiner.com.