Sands help­ing Howard more now than ever

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS - Stephen Har­gis

Like any good son, when Terdell Sands vis­ited his mother on her birth­day, he brought flow­ers. Sadly, when Sands de­liv­ered the bou­quet of red roses and white lilies, all he could do was place the vase next to Tan­dra Sands’ tomb­stone and hope the af­ter­noon breeze could some­how carry his words to her.

“I told her that not a day goes by that I don’t miss her and think about all the things we would be do­ing to­gether,” Sands said. “And I told her that if she could see her sons now, she would be tick­led pink. She would be so proud of the men and fa­thers and lead­ers we have be­come and that we are giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity just like she would have wanted.”

Not only would his mom be proud, but the en­tire com­mu­nity should ap­pre­ci­ate the men­tor Sands has be­come. Once the for­mer Howard all-state de­fen­sive line­man fin­ished his NFL ca­reer with the Raiders, he re­turned home and im­me­di­ately be­gan help­ing his alma mater.

It be­gan with do­nat­ing enough money to have the weight room re­mod­eled and up­graded, but his con­tri­bu­tions since John Starr ar­rived as head coach last year have been even more sub­stan­tial.

“When I got the job, Sands was one of the first peo­ple I called, be­cause I knew we needed help to bring the pride back into the pro­gram,” Starr said. “He said, ‘What do you need me to do?’ and was at prac­tice the first day ready to help. He’s got a pas­sion for his school, his com­mu­nity and the kids.”

So for the past two sea­sons Sands has been a vol­un­teer coach with the Hustlin’ Tigers, do­nat­ing some­thing more valu­able and needed than his money — his time.

“A lot of peo­ple on our team are miss­ing a pos­i­tive male fig­ure to help guide you in the right di­rec­tion,” said Howard sopho­more de­fen­sive line­man Davon­tay Smith. “He builds that bond and takes time to lis­ten to any of us who need to talk. He’s some­body we can look at as an in­spi­ra­tion, be­cause we know that he walked the same halls and played on the same field, and he made it.

“He doesn’t just talk about foot­ball. He told us to find our mo­ti­va­tion, a rea­son that pushes us to want to be bet­ter play­ers and in class. My mo­ti­va­tion is my mom. I see what she goes through for her fam­ily, and I want some­thing bet­ter for her and for my­self.”

Not only for the player he was on the field while at Howard, but for the ex­am­ple he is set­ting off it, Howard should con­sider re­tir­ing Sands’ No. 77 jersey along­side another for­mer Hustlin’ Tigers de­fen­sive line great — Reg­gie White.

Af­ter work­ing with the team last year, Sands re­al­ized

the Hustlin’ Tigers needed more depth to com­pete, so it wasn’t un­com­mon to see the mas­sive 6-foot-8 fig­ure walk­ing the halls, in­ter­act­ing with stu­dents and en­cour­ag­ing some of them to come out for foot­ball.

Not only are over­all ros­ter num­bers up no­tice­ably from last year, but Sands found sev­eral young men he felt had the size to be able to be­come im­me­di­ate con­trib­u­tors. Nei­ther of Howard’s start­ing de­fen­sive ends played foot­ball last year: One was in the band, and the other was just hang­ing out.

Early this week, long af­ter the rest of the team and coaches had left the prac­tice field, Sands and a cou­ple of de­fen­sive line­men were putting in over­time, tak­ing a few ex­tra reps as he in­structed them on how to shed blocks and pres­sure the quar­ter­back as Howard pre­pared for tonight’s re­gion game at Hix­son.

By the time he walked wearily across the school park­ing lot to­ward his blue Ford F150, he no­ticed the truck’s cab and bed al­ready were filled with play­ers wait­ing to catch a ride home with their fa­vorite coach.

“I’m the school bus,” Sands said with a chuckle. “I take them home af­ter prac­tice or to get some­thing to eat or back to my house to hang out. I could be do­ing any­thing I want with my time, but this is all I want to do, be­cause even if I just help one or two kids it’s worth my time to be out here. Bless­ings don’t work by be­ing self­ish: You have to give your time and give your­self.

“To see the kids push them­selves on the field and over­come or achieve some­thing they didn’t know or be­lieve they could, that can set them up to push them­selves in class or in col­lege or at their job. That’s how they can be a suc­cess and make a bet­ter life than the sit­u­a­tion a lot of them are in right now. I know foot­ball isn’t the only way to make their sit­u­a­tion bet­ter, but maybe this game is the way they get to go to col­lege and make a bet­ter life for them­selves and make our whole com­mu­nity bet­ter.”

Those words and his ac­tions are enough to make any mama proud.

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