If the annual Cornhusker Football Spring game is any indication, Benkelman’s Phalen Sanford could have a standout senior season come Fall.
Phalen, a 2018 DCS graduate, said it’s hard to believe that he’s about to finish his fifth year in college and will be playing as a sixth year senior for the Huskers next fall. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Nebraska in December of 2022.
Sanford went through the Cornhusker Senior Day ceremonies at the final home game of the season against Wisconsin last November 19. With the hiring of a new coaching staff and physical toll that Division 1 college football takes on your body, Sanford was undecided whether he would play another season.
“After meeting with coaches, seeing what they were about and reevaluating where I was health wise I thought it was the right decision to come back and play one more year.” Sanford he felt he had a great opportunity to play for a new coaching staff and get the resources of the new staff, especially the new strength coaches considering he wants to go into strength and conditioning as a career. “It’s another five strength coaches that I can learn from and take from them and have in my contacts going forward.” Phalen says after his senior season he hopes to be a graduate assistant strength and condition coach at a college at which time he will work on gaining his Masters Degree in Nutrition and Health Science. “I want to be a college strength coach, that is the final goal,” he said.
Phalen has been playing organized team football since he padded up with his class mates at DCS in the Wray Elks Pee Wee Football league in Elementary School. He’s reaching the pinnacle of his college career and playing with his final football team. He said knowing that helps him focus his efforts on the field even more. “Knowing it’s going to be the last time, I think it is a lot easier stay motivated when you know that everything you do is the last time doing it,” he explained “Going into the Spring game I knew it was the last Spring game I would ever play in so, I tried to make the most out of everything I did.”
Sanford, playing on the White team’s defensive backfield, had a great game. Even though his was not playing with the Red Team defense, considered to be the first team starters, Sanford stood out among both defenses. Sanford forced a fumble by the running back in the first quarter. He intercepted a pass in the third quarter. Sanford also tallied four tackles, three of which were solo, and nearly got a quarterback sack. For those watching the game on the Big 10 Network, the interception came at the time when the broadcast was focused more on an interview with former coach Frank Solich then on the game. The play was missed by the announcers, otherwise it would have likely received more attention. The coaches and the crowd at the stadium didn’t miss the play.
Sandford said with the new coaching staff came a new defensive scheme to learn and it is a much different than what they have played. “We have five defensive backs on the field at al times. We can stunt and blitz from so many different ways,” he said. “I think it causes a lot of different problems for offenses trying to figure out which way the offensive line should protect and which way to keep their coverages. It causes a lot of confusion.” Sanford said it was a challenge in Spring practice to learn the new system. He says they learned a lot during Spring football. “The first couple of weeks looked pretty ugly, and then we all stared to understand what everyone else was doing,” he said. “At the beginning of Spring and learning the defense you are just trying to do your job right and don’t have time to think about what everyone else is doing, but as the weeks went by your started to understand why I am doing this and where my help is at. Once you know your job and your teammates job yo can start looking at the offense and trying to guess and calculate what they are going to do.”
Sanford said with Spring practices over they had meetings on Monday morning, but otherwise the players have the rest of the week off. The only mandatory things the players have the rest of the week are school obligations, tudors, and study halls. They have mandatory workouts next week and then they are off till the end of the semester. They go back the first week of June for summer conditioning weight lifting.
Sanford says he is going to continue to work as a trainer at the Hybrid Human Performance fitness center in Lincoln. Phalen says his time in college has gone by fast. “It’s shocking when I have to tell people that this is my sixth year of playing. It shocks me every time that I have actually been playing college football for six years. It doesn’t feel like that at all.”