Florida on former minor leaguer’s college list

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Sarasota Manatee High School quarterback Cord Sandberg attends practice on Tuesday. (Nov. 13, 2012) (Herald-Tribune staff photo by Dan Wagner)

By Dennis Maffezzoli, GateHouse Media Services

Cord Sandberg has not taken a hit on a football field since Dec. 7, 2012, when the former Manatee High quarterback played against St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale.

Just more than six months after the Hurricanes fell 35-18 in the Class 7A state semifinal, Sandberg hung up his helmet and signed a pro baseball contract that included a $775,000 bonus with the Philadelphia Phillies organization that made him a third-round pick in the 2013 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft.

But after 427 hits in the minors, none above the Double A level, in five-and-a-half seasons, and much deliberation with his family and friends, Sandberg decided to ditch baseball for one final shot at football.

He will be going from getting hits to taking them again.

The former four-star recruit will weigh his options for returning to school and play college football.

During the past few months, Sandberg has spoken to “five or six” coaches, including Florida’s Dan Mullen, who recruited Sandberg at Mississippi State out of high school, LSU’s Ed Orgeron and Auburn’s Gus Malzhan to gauge their interest.

“The conversations I had with them definitely made it easier to go ahead and move on knowing I was going to have A chance to either walk on and compete for a job and get in the football swing of things,” Sandberg said.

According to Sandberg, Auburn and the University of Central Florida have made him scholarship offers. LSU, Florida and a couple of other schools are offering preferred walk-on status with the potential of being a scholarship player his final three years.

“I just have to see where my best fit is,” Sandberg said.

With NCAA football currently in a dead period, Sandberg cannot take official visits until July 25. He plans to make no more than two or three visits and hopes to make a decision before Aug. 20, when most colleges begin classes.

“For me, my mindset is to get on a college campus sometime in August and throughout this football season be able to go to school and work out with the team,” Sandberg said. “Come next fall be in a situation where I can compete for a starting job.”

Sandberg does not expect to play this season, but wants to be part of a college football program.

“I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to get my football legs under me,” Sandberg said. “The best place to do that would be on a campus and be involved with whatever weight and conditioning program a Division I program will be on.

“When I get on campus, I’m going to do everything I can to get into football shape and whatever happens, happens.”

The 23-year-old Sandberg has not spoken with former IMG Academy football coach Chris Weinke, who played minor league baseball before joining Florida State University to play quarterback at the age of 25, or any other athletes who made the move from pro baseball to college football.

He does know, however, he wants to play quarterback. “All the coaches I’ve talked to so far want me to play quarterback,” he said.

The left-hander completed 70 percent of his passes during his senior year at Manatee High with 35 touchdowns and one interception. For his career, the dual-threat Sandberg compiled 9,820 yards of total offense, 7,829 through the air and 1,991 on the ground, and scored 110 touchdowns.

Yet, the baseball route was too inviting.

His best season was last year when he hit a combined .268 with nine home runs and 42 runs batted in for three different teams in the Phillies’ organization.

This season, Sandberg was hitting .231 with three home runs and 11 RBI in 54 games for Double A Reading.

“I played enough baseball to have an idea of where that was headed and what type of player I was to make a decision and move on,” he said.

The left-handed outfielder spoke with Philadelphia director of player development Joe Jordan along with some of his former professional managers and current and former teammates.

“They were very supportive of my decision,” Sandberg said. “I said the same thing to everyone. I understand I could have stayed in baseball, pursued that. But I know that a realistic possibility would be to be 28 or 29 and either still playing minor league ball or have been in The Show and bounced back down. To get released and have nothing on my resume other than baseball was something I didn’t feel comfortable with.”

Now the focus is to play college football with the hopes of reaching the NFL.

“For me to go ahead and make the decision to play football and hopefully have a chance to pursue a career in the NFL is the goal,” Sandberg said. “The backup plan to playing football is a four-year degree from somewhere and moving on with my life post-playing career. I would definitely feel more comfortable with a degree and the actions I could make with that.”

Currently in Ohio with his fiancé Haley Gray and her family, Sandberg plans to relax and do his homework on colleges and their teams before deciding where to visit.

“College football will dictate my next move,” he said.

Dennis Maffezzoli is a sports writer with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. He can be reached at dennis.maffezzoli@heraldtribune.com

8 COMMENTS

      • But the comparison is a natural. It was the first thing I thought of when the story first broke. I despise the school up north as much as the next Gator but I have not hate for the players.

        • I can see it, feel the same about athletes except for a couple over the years….I think it was the mention of Chris in the context of (a) former IMG coach, and (b) Sly’s recent comments about that institution. Uh-oh, there it goes again……

  1. Really cool fact about this guy, his Dad Chuck Sandberg was a stud Gator first baseman in 1978-9 season, and got drafted into the Red Sox minor leagues. I was a walk-on that year, where the 3 first basemen ahead of me all got drafted in the next 2 years…Tony Stevens and Dave Falcone were the others.

  2. Dang, McCaffery, you came along st a tough time to be a walk-on first baseman for the Gators. Do you stay in touch with Chuck Sandberg? What do you think Cord Sandberg is most likely to do? He says he wants learn for a year behind someone, then compete for the starting job as a sophomore. That sounds to me like Auburn with Jarrett Stidham. The chance he takes at Florida or LSU is that one of the younger QBs st either place gets well established ahead of him this year. Frankly, no pun intended, I doubt we’ll have such a situation at UF before 2019, so I like our chances of landing Cord. That he called Mullen first and will visit Mullen and Florida the first day after the July dead period seems encouraging, too.

  3. Hope you are wrong and that by next season we will know for sure who our starting QB is, it sucks to go through the same “open competition” every darn year. Auburn looks like a better fit for him if Stidman is done at the end of this season. Is that a fact that UF is his first stop after the dead period?

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