LEXINGTON, Va. – Virginia Military Institute safety Greg Sanders was named the 2017 Defender of the Nation Award recipient Wednesday morning in an announcement released by the Charlotte Touchdown Club.
This year’s award, which is presented by the Independence Fund, honors a defensive football player from the nation’s service academies and senior military colleges including: Air Force Academy, The Citadel, Coast Guard Academy, Naval Academy, Norwich University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Tech, VMI, and West Point. The recipient was selected based on academic, athletic and community achievements, but most importantly on exceptional leadership qualities on the football field, in the classroom and in the community. The recipient selected must have also exhibited a high standard of integrity by leading through example.
Sanders, a first classman (senior) economics and business major from Cordova, Tennessee, who plans to commission in the United States Air Force after graduation from the Institute, will be presented the award at the Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet on Monday, Dec. 4, at the Charlotte Convention Center.
A three-year starter at safety for the Keydets, Sanders is serving as one of six team captains in 2017 and has posted 79 tackles in 2017 for the third-highest mark on the team. He also leads the Keydets in pass breakups (five) despite playing six games with a club on his right hand that was fractured in season opener against Air Force on Sept. 2.
Through games of Oct. 28, Sanders is currently fifth in the SoCon in tackles per game in conference contests (9.8) and has posted four double-digit tackle games in 2017, including a career-high 16 tackles at Furman on Oct. 14. Other double-digit tackle games include contests against Mercer (13), No. 19 Western Carolina (12) and Catawba (11).
Sanders was voted to the 2017 preseason All-SoCon second team at DB and was previously named 2016 second-team All-SoCon (media team) and named 2016 second-team all-state by the Virginia Sports Information Directors Association. His career stats through Oct. 28 include 43 games, 266 total tackles, 155 solo tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss (32 yards), five interceptions, 21 passes defended, one fumble recovery, and four forced fumbles. In 2015, Sanders returned a kickoff 99 yards for a TD against Wofford at Foster Stadium/Alumni Memorial Field – the second-longest in facility history.
Sanders has earned SoCon Academic Honor Roll honors for three consecutive years.
“Greg Sanders is the leader of the VMI football team in the classroom, on the military drill field and on the football field,” said VMI head football coach Scott Wachenheim. “We have a helmet star reward system that recognizes outstanding academic, military, strength, conditioning and leadership performance. Greg is one of the few student-athletes in the history of our program to earn all five stars. Greg leads by example. He is a hard worker and has played exceptionally this season despite a broken hand that has been wrapped in a club. His leadership was recognized by our coaching staff and Greg was selected a permanent team captain for the 2017 VMI football team.”
For more information on the Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet, go to www.touchdownclub.com .