Veteran safety returns to help anchor '99 Irish secondary as leading returnee in interceptions from a year ago . . . joins senior free safety Deke Cooper and cornerbacks Deveron Harper and Brock Williams to give Irish solid returning cast in defensive backfield . . . boasts 13 career starting assignments spread out over last three seasons . . . part-time starter each of last three years heads into final campaign as first-team strong safety in '99 as fifth-year player . . . has noteworthy experience playing strong safety and versatility to play anywhere . . . headed into sophomore campaign in dead heat with Benny Guilbeaux for starting job at strong safety and ended up starting first three games . . . followed that up with two starts at end of '97 regular season and seven more at free safety in '98 . . . made great strides to compete for that starting role in spring of '96 despite fact he had not yet played in a game at collegiate level . . . top-flight athlete who proved that as MVP of Irish football team's '96 spring intrasquad basketball tournament . . . gives Irish flexibility of having safety who can handle man coverage . . . excellent leader who takes coaching well . . . fifth-year player who was granted extra season of eligibility since he did not play as a rookie in '95.
AS A JUNIOR: Irish team leader in interceptions for '98 with three . . . Notre Dame starter at free safety to start '98 season and then in final five regular-season contests plus '99 Gator Bowl vs. Georgia Tech . . . split time with Deke Cooper at that spot . . . played in 11 games overall in '98, starting vs. Michigan, Baylor, Boston College, Navy, LSU, USC and Georgia Tech . . . ranked sixth in total tackles with 58 . . . made 47 regular-season special team appearances with kickoff team, then nine more in Gator Bowl . . . missed Michigan State game after spraining an ankle vs. Michigan . . . leading Irish tackler vs. Michigan with 14 and also forced a fumble . . . returned to play off the bench vs. Purdue and made seven tackles . . . intercepted a pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown vs. Arizona State for 14-0 Irish lead and also added five tackles . . . intercepted a pass in final minute vs. Army to seal Irish victory . . . returned to starting lineup vs. Baylor, Boston College and Navy . . . came off the bench to intercept a pass and record a tackle for loss vs. LSU . . . his third-period interception set up Irish TD drive that cut deficit to 21-20 . . . had seven tackles (six solo) and a pass broken up vs. USC . . . had five tackles vs. Georgia Tech in '99 Gator Bowl.
AS A SOPHOMORE: Irish backup at strong safety to start the '97 season ended up starting last two regular-season games . . . played in all 13 games in '97, including vs. LSU in '97 Independence Bowl . . . made six tackles vs. Purdue, then eight vs. Michigan State . . . had career-high 10 tackles vs. Boston College, two on special teams . . . had two interceptions in regular-season matchup vs. LSU, one of them setting up Notre Dame's second touchdown . . . started vs. West Virginia, after Benny Guilbeaux pulled a hamstring vs. LSU, and made four tackles . . . also started vs. Hawaii and made five tackles . . . made two tackles vs. LSU in '97 Independence Bowl reserve appearance . . . ranked third on team with 168 regular-season team appearances.
AS A FRESHMAN: Made first career appearances in starts at strong safety vs. Vanderbilt, Purdue and Texas in '96 . . . returned to starting lineup at free safety vs. USC in season finale . . . . caused late Vanderbilt fumble that cemented 14-7 Irish victory . . . had four tackles and broke up two passes vs. Purdue . . . suffered knee ligament injury on first series vs. Texas and missed three games before returning to play briefly off the bench vs. Navy . . . had been slated to return to starting lineup vs. Boston College until death of his mother earlier that week . . . made three tackles off the bench vs. Pittsburgh . . . made six tackles vs. USC . . . did not see varsity action as rookie defensive back in '95.
HIGH SCHOOL AND PERSONAL DATA: A SuperPrep prep All-American, ranking 28th nationally among defensive backs . . . Prep Football Report All-America selection . . . earned three letters in football as tailback and free safety at Northbrook High School in Houston, Texas . . . unanimous all-district defensive back and first-team all-district tailback . . . made 99 solo tackles, 86 assists and four interceptions as senior in '94 after 92 tackles, four sacks and three interceptions as junior in '93 . . . rushed for 640 yards and eight TDs in '94, also catching 30 passes for 408 yards and eight TDs . . . had eight career interceptions and seven blocked punts . . . selected for Greater Houston all-star game . . . earned two letters in basketball, one in soccer and three in track . . . has run 10.8 in 100 meters and 4.5 in 40 . . . averaged 10 points and eight rebounds in basketball . . . captain of basketball team as senior . . . full name is A'Jani M. Sanders . . . born 10-31-76 in Houston . . . fifth oldest of eight children . . . brother Jelani plays football at Sam Houston State . . . enrolled in College of Arts and Letters with major in sociology . . . had 3.5 grade-point average in '99 spring semester.
G-GS Time Solo Asst. Tot. TL-Yds. PBU FC Int.-Yds. 1996 8-4 73:31 12 6 18 0-0 3 1 0-0 1997 12-2 185:43 42 16 58 0-0 1 1 2-26 1998 10-6 166:34 34 24 58 2-11 2 1 3-29 TOTAL 30-12 425:48 88 46 134 2-11 6 3 5-55
The A'Jani Sanders File
- The Irish offensive player who will surprise people this year is Tony Fisher
- The Irish defensive player who will surprise people this year is Anthony Denman
- The sports teams I followed when I was younger were The Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers
- A word to describe me on the field is Hitter
- A word to describe me off the field is Real
- Other than Notre Dame Stadium, my favorite college stadium in which to play football is Memorial Stadium (Austin, Texas)
- The area I would like to improve as a football player is Speech
- If I could play another position on the other side of the ball it would be Quarterback
- My greatest personal athletic moment was Signing my scholarship to attend Notre Dame
- The most stimulating class I ever took at Notre Dame was They were all equally stimulating
- If I could compete against any Notre Dame athlete (non-football), it would be Marshaun West (men's track & field)
- The people who have helped me the most since I've been at Notre Dame are Friends and family
- The top team in college football this year will be Notre Dame