Q&A With Assistant Coach Matt Sanders

Coach Matt Sanders was one of four new UAB assistant coaches to start Fall Camp on Tuesday.

Aug. 7, 2013

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- UAB special teams and assistant secondary coach Matt Sanders, who is one of four coaches entering their first season on the Blazers’ staff, sat down with UABSports.com to talk about his coaching experience, his relationship with head coach Garrick McGee and his expectations for the upcoming season, among other topics.

Sanders, a native of Louisville, Ky., comes to UAB from Lehigh University, where he coached inside linebackers this past season after coaching outside linebackers from 2008-09. Sanders was a middle linebacker at Louisville and was a member of the Cardinals’ team that won the 2004 Conference USA Championship. 

The following is a brief Q&A with coach Sanders as he prepares for fall camp. 

How did your experience and success as a player at Louisville help prepare you for coaching? Is that how you met other members of the UAB coaching staff?
“I was fortunate that I was there at Louisville when we had a ton of success. I was there with coach (Reggie) Johnson, who is the defensive coordinator here. He was my coach at Louisville, and I played linebacker when he was the linebackers coach. I played with coach (Brandon) Sharp. I played with coach (Richard) Owens, and we had a lot of success in Conference USA. I think us all being from the same pedigree and having similar coaching backgrounds, it helps us understand what it takes to be successful at a place like UAB and in this system.” 

How important was it for you to have that familiarity with the current UAB coaching staff before you accepted your current position?
“I have known coach Reggie Johnson now for 11 years. He was my position coach when I was a player. He is a great man, and has been great to me the whole 11 years that I have known him. He came to my wedding when he was at Arkansas and he has always been somebody who I can truly trust and count on. So, this opportunity to come here and work for him and coach McGee, to work with coach Sharp and coach Owens  and the rest of the staff here – this was an opportunity that I could not pass up.” 



What has it been like to switch from coaching linebackers at Lehigh to now coaching special teams at UAB?
“This is my first go-around being in charge of all four phases. As an assistant coach you are always coaching a player on a special teams unit, but this is the first time I will be in charge. Everybody has staff input, and I think I have learned from some guys in the profession and it has really helped me, not just in the scheme phase, but in the preparation and teaching the fundamentals – which is really the most important thing. If we get them to play with great fundamentals and great effort then the scheme takes care of itself.” 

What is it like to coach talented players like Lou Groza Award nominee Ty Long and Ray Guy Award nominee Hunter Mullins?
“Those guys have been absolutely fantastic to work with. They are guys that are self-motivated. They are going in on their own, they are kicking and doing everything right during the summer. Both of them have the ability to change the game. We feel with Ty that anytime we cross the 40 yard line we are in field goal range. And the same thing with Hunter – we can win the field-position battle. We can pin our opponents deep and give our defense a chance to be successful when the opposing offense is in a bad situation. So, those guys are going to help us win games and they are a huge asset to our program.”

For you personally, what is the most rewarding thing about being a coach?
“Seeing these young guys grow. Not just as a football player, but seeing a guy who tells you when school starts that he wants to have a 3.0 this semester and goes and gets a 3.1, or a guy that gets involved in community service. Something I always tell when we recruit is if all I can tell you is your son is going to be a good football player then I have let you down. I promise you he is going to be a great football player, but he is also going to be a great student and grow and be a great young man. He is going to leave UAB with a great opportunity to succeed.” 

What has been the best advice you have received in your career?
“Coach to your personality. I have a lot of energy, I am excited, so I coach that way all the time. Within that, you have to understand that you can’t coach every player the same. So, being able to tailor my upbeat coaching style to make sure that I am motivating each of my players in the right way, because they are all different.” 

After spending all those long hours at the office, what is something that you and your wife Abby like to do away from work?
“I love to read. I am always looking for a new book to read and some way to always learn. As far as me and my wife, we can have fun just sitting on the couch together. We have a dog and love to take it to the park and go on a walk. One thing my wife and I do is have a mandatory date night once the season starts. It can be something formal or we can just grab a pizza on the way home, turn the TV off and just talk. During the season you don’t get a lot of time to spend time with your family, so you have to make time.”