COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Manatee High grad Cord Sandberg goes from pro baseball to trying to become Auburn's next QB

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Former HT Preps Football Offensive Player of the Year starts over as a 24-year-old redshirt freshman

The only Auburn quarterback currently on the roster to complete a pass last season remembers it well. And fondly.

It was Cord Sandberg’s back-to-the-future awakening.

“It was pretty unreal because a couple months earlier I was in a batter’s box in Pennsylvania playing baseball,” he said. “And then to try to come here and be able to complete a pass and run the ball a little bit, it was unreal.”

The former HT Preps Football Offensive Player of the Year and Class 7A State Player of the Year in 2012 didn’t play a whole lot in Auburn’s 63-9 victory over Alabama State in the second game of the season.

Just long enough to complete one pass for 22 yards and rush three times for another 35. Sandberg didn’t take another snap the rest of the year as starter and senior Jarret Stidham led the Tigers’ offense.

It was merely a taste for the 24-year-old redshirt freshman, who abandoned his baseball career last July after six years in professional baseball with the Phillies during which he hit .243 and never advanced beyond Double-A.

“Toward the end of my baseball career, during that sixth year, I think I just felt like I had plateaued and feeling that this is as good a player as I’m going to be,” he said. “I could definitely feel me just kind of reaching the peak of my baseball abilities.”

But his brief game action against Alabama State was enough to convince Sandberg he had made the right decision to put down his baseball dream and pick up the football version.

“From last year to right now, I’m really happy with how I’ve developed and what I can do,” he said. “I’m definitely confident that if my number is called, I think I can definitely run this offense and be productive and give us a chance to win.”

A couple things have to occur for Sandberg to get his shot. He’s currently third on the Auburn quarterback depth chart, behind redshirt freshman Joey Gatewood and true freshman Bo Nix.

The first, obviously, is for the quarterbacks in front of Sandberg not to perform to the satisfaction of head coach Gus Malzahn.

“As far as the first game, it’ll be one of those two guys,” Sandberg said. “From then on out, it’s all about production. Whoever gets the nod and is able to get the job done and the offense is playing well, I would assume he would stay there.”

The second is just as obvious. Should Sandberg get a chance to run the Auburn offense, he has to make the most of it.

“For me, when I came back to college, I knew that I was a pretty good high school player, but a lot of guys produce at the high school level,” he said. “It’s a different animal (in college).

“The windows are tighter, the reads are different. After going through this spring and kind of having a full (2018) season to throw the ball and see, I was definitely confident with my ability to do things.

“I still feel like I’m getting better and better. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to just be 100 percent football. I know I don’t have absolutely the best arm. Not Dan Marino slinging it around, but I know if I can play within myself and just read a defense and kind of anticipate, I know I have a good enough arm.”

Once school begins Sandberg will return to the familiar routine of classes followed by practice. But right now his day starts with a 12-minute drive to the Auburn complex for an 8:30 a.m. meeting.

When the day’s practice film has been reviewed and corrections made, Sandberg will get back around 10:15 p.m. to the apartment he shares with his wife of five months, Haley.

“Then go to bed and wake up and do it all over again,” he said.

At 24, Sandberg isn’t the oldest Auburn player. The ex-Manatee Hurricane has a 26-year-old teammate.

“I feel like I’m still pretty young at heart,” he said. “The hairline is kind of going though.”

He has yet to declare a major, but Cord said he wants to somehow remain in the game and coach. His love of Auburn doesn’t supercede a desire to get under center and consider the offense his to run.

“I definitely would do everything I can to try and find a place to play for one year, regardless of what that is,” he said. “Where there is an opportunity.”

The Sandberg bank account is doing fine as well. The Phillies gave the 89th overall pick in the 2013 draft a $775,000 signing bonus. After taxes and his agent’s fee, and after buying vehicles for his mother, brother and himself, Cord had roughly $500,000 left.

He invested the rest in mutual funds and a life insurance policy, into which Sandberg has added about $20,000 each year.

“I’m doing more than fine.”

And as for his biggest possible regret, it doesn’t exist. Sandberg spent six years pursuing something that never fully materialized. He won’t look back. Never will.

“I’m comfortable with the decision I made,” he said. “For me, at that point of my life, it was the best decision to go ahead and play baseball.”

Cord Sandberg made a ton of life-long friends and met his future wife through baseball.

Now another friend has reentered his life.

Football.

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