Zack Sanchez finding a home in Commanders defense
By Cole Thompson, San Antonio Commanders Team Reporter
San Antonio — Zack Sanchez understands the pressure of playing at the highest level. Selected in the fifth round out of Oklahoma in the 2016 NFL Draft, the 5-foot-11 cornerback was hoping to become an elite cornerback under the likes of defensive coordinators Sean McDermott and Steve Wilks with the Carolina Panthers.
Injuries however derailed the former All-American defender and he was waived following the 2017 NFL season. Now healthy, Sanchez is hoping to earn a roster spot for the San Antonio Commanders’ final roster.
The Alliance was formed to help players continue their playing careers. For Sanchez, the league is a great tool for players to earn a roster spot at the next level while also competing for a chance to start for their respective organization.
“It’s definitely an opportunity because once you’re out that loop, it’s really hard to get back in there, like incredibly hard,” Sanchez said. “I think this is like the best thing to happen. Better than the CFL, better than the other leagues that are trying it because it’s a ton of homegrown talent here and a lot of guys don’t get the look that they may need.”
Known for his ability to create turnovers, Sanchez excelled in the Sooners defense. A three-year starter, the Fort Worth, Texas, product collected 134 tackles, 28 pass deflections, 15 interceptions and scored three touchdowns while helping the Sooners become one of the most complete teams in the Big 12 Conference.
Several scouts worried about Sanchez’s longevity due to his frame and ability to make tackles. Through the first week of training camp, the cornerback has thrived in the open field, making clean hits to help stop wide receivers in their tracks.
“Coach [Bill] Bradley is doing a great job working in the tackling techniques for us to get better,” Sanchez said. “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for this group of guys that we have here. We have a lot of aggressive guys, especially at cornerback so I think we’re all in the same page on that aspect.”
Sanchez is just one of five defensive backs who has been on a NFL active roster in his short career. Pressure is on him to succeed but so is a level of leadership. Vocal in drills, Sanchez is not just a student, but also a teacher to help the Commanders’ younger secondary members transform into one of the top units for the league’s inaugural season.
For the Carolina Panthers, Sanchez played in five games, collecting eight tackles and one pass deflection. Along with safety Kurtis Drummond (Michigan State), the former Sooners cornerback can see the Commanders defense soar to new heights during training camp.
“You’re here for a reason,” Sanchez said. “I don’t think you’d be here this league was trying to find just a random person on the street. My job is to help remind the younger guys they’re here for a reason and that they’re talented. They’re helping me out and having someone like Drummond in the back end and myself at corner, helps out a lot.”
While attending Oklahoma, Sanchez reached out to a younger cornerback during his sophomore year. The pair became close friends as veteran would teach the rookie techniques to make him a versatile player in coverage.
Reunited again, Jordan Thomas (Oklahoma) and Sanchez are once again inseparable. Paired in drills, the duo push each other to become better and hopeful starters for the Commanders defense. Sanchez could not be happier to have his teammate donning the same colors as him once again.
“He’s been like a little brother to me since he got to OU in 2014,”” Sanchez said. “It’s just good to see him grow into the man he is today. I love seeing him excel and seeing him turn into the player he wants to be.”