Cord Sandberg faces big decision

Shortly after Brandenton (Fla.) Manatee suffered a 21-14 loss to Tampa (Fla.) Plant in the 2009 Class 5A state championship game, coach Joe Kinnan was talking about the future.

"I'm real optimistic about the players returning, especially our young quarterback," Kinnan said. "He's the son of one of my assistant coaches and he's going to be on all of the recruiting services in a few years."

So far Cord Sandberg, who will be heading into his third year as the starting quarterback for Manatee this fall, has been as good as advertised.

Through his first two seasons Sandberg has thrown for 5,042 yards and 44 touchdowns. He's added 1,396 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground.
In December, he led the Hurricanes to their first state championship in 19 years with a 40-0 victory over Jacksonville First Coast and was named Class 7A Player of the Year.

"Cord's exactly the type of player that I expected him to be," Kinnan said. "You could see it early in his career when he was our JV quarterback. He has the talent, the leadership and he has the respect of his teammates and his coaches."

Sandberg also has some major decisions to face in the next several months.

As good as the 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior is on the gridiron, he's equally talented on the baseball diamond. A standout centerfielder for Manatee, Sandberg helped the Hurricanes reach the state semifinals for the first time in school history last year.

And he hasn't ruled out the possibility of leaving football behind if an opportunity to play baseball professionally presents itself.

"It's something I would definitely have to think about," Sandberg said. "It's not a decision you can jump into one way or another because there are so many variables involved.

"Football is the glamour sport, especially at the high school level and with all the recruiting and the media attention and the coaches that call. But in baseball you can get drafted out of high school and have the opportunity to play professionally."

Sandberg's father, Chuck, was a baseball player at the University of Florida and with the Boston Red Sox organization until his career was cut short by injury. And although he's been a longtime assistant coach with Manatee's football program he will not push his son in any particular direction.

"No, my father has told me this is going to be my decision one way or another," Sandberg said. "He knows how I feel about both sports.

"When people ask me what my favorite sport is I tell them it depends on what season we're in. In the fall I'm doing everything possible to be the best football player I can be and once the spring begins I'm fully focused on baseball."

Sandberg is over a month into baseball season and continued his positive progress in the sport with a victory Tuesday night against Miami Sunset.

"I went 2-for-3, I actually laid down a bunt for a single and then I took another pitch to the opposite field for a hit," Sandberg said. "I'm totally in baseball mode right now."

And he admits it's hard to be in baseball mode when he continuously gets calls regarding his future in football.

Sandberg has over a dozen offers to play quarterback in college. Auburn and Clemson offered when he was a sophomore. West Virginia, Illinois, Ole Miss, Western Kentucky, UCF and several others have followed

"The recruiting in the two sports is so much different," Sandberg added. "Football seems to be year round and someone's always trying to get in touch with you whether it's a coach trying to get you on campus or someone from a website.

"Baseball it's a little more complicated because they only have 11 scholarships for 27-28 players and the whole process is based on different criteria."

In terms of football recruitment Sandberg says he has no favorites although he admits Auburn has made an impression.

"Auburn has been in contact with me since I was a sophomore and I definitely know that coaching staff well," Sandberg said. "Even the new offensive coordinator, Scot Loeffler, has been in contact with me.

"I talked with Mississippi State and Coach [Dan] Mullen as well. I like his offense. I am going to probably narrow things down to three or five schools after the summer and take official visits to those programs."

Sandberg says there's little chance he'll play both sports in college and concedes that the likely decision will come down to where he gets selected in the baseball draft next year.

"My baseball coach, Dwayne Strong, has a lot of connections in the sport and has always been honest with me about where I stand as a baseball prospect," Sandberg said. "He knows a lot of scouts in the pro game and coaches at the different levels so I trust his opinion."

Luckily for Sandberg the final decision is far enough in the future that he can enjoy another full season of both sports as a senior. Manatee's football team is expected to be ranked nationally and will travel outside of the state for the third straight year to play Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline.

"One thing I never expected in high school football was this opportunity to go so many places," Sandberg added. "When I was a sophomore we went to Pennsylvania and last year we played in the Washington D.C. area.

"Now my teammates and I are headed about as far as you can go to play a football game without going to Alaska or Hawaii or something. It's really amazing and it shows the support that this community has for the program. I would have never thought I'd be playing a high school football game some place outside of Florida."

And soon we will all know if high school is where Sandberg's football career will end.