A few months before Steven Sanchez moved to Columbia to play offensive tackle for Missouri, he didn’t know which conference the Tigers played in.
That’s one reason Sanchez doesn’t understand how he ended up at MU.
“It was kind of a weird situation how it went down,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez transferred to MU, his third school, in the summer of 2002. After 1½ seasons playing for the Tigers, Sanchez (6 feet 4, 305 pounds) has leapfrogged incumbent Scott Paffrath on the depth chart at strongside tackle.
“He’s started coming on last year, and he’s improving every week,” offensive line coach Dave Christensen said.
An Unsure History
In 1999, Sanchez redshirted at UCLA. He played backup center his redshirt freshman year, but he didn’t do much else.
“Right away I just didn’t go to class,” Sanchez said. “The tutors would call, and I’d make an excuse about why I couldn’t go.”
UCLA dismissed Sanchez from school after the fall semester of his second year. He considered ending his football career, but instead decided to return to his hometown of Visalia, Calif., and play at College of the Sequoias, a junior college.
Sanchez was All-Conference his second year at College of the Sequoias, but his team went 2-8. Christensen was the only representative from a Division I program to call Sanchez.
MU coaches saw videotapes of Sanchez playing and considered him one of their top prospects. Christensen said the quality of the junior college program doesn’t hurt a player’s recruiting status.
“The less they win, the less likely people are to go seek him out,” Christensen said. “So we’ve just got to search high and low for players. That’s how we found Steve.”
To earn his starting position, Sanchez graded out highly for several weeks and played consistently, Christensen said. During the Kansas game, Sanchez said he went 26 plays without making a mistake.
“Last year especially, I was just kind of concentrating on the assignment instead of just going out there and doing what I had to do,” Sanchez said. “Now, I feel comfortable with my assignment.”
Sanchez started his first game against Nebraska on Oct. 11. Although MU’s reputation hadn’t made it to California when Sanchez was growing up, Nebraska’s had, so the win against the Huskers was special for Sanchez.
“It was huge; the crowd was going crazy,” Sanchez said.
Personality Past Football
Outside of football, Sanchez is known for clowning around.
“I call him the ‘little jokester’ because he jokes around a lot,” guard Tony Palmer said. “He makes me laugh every time I see him. He just comes up with different jokes and stuff. Just saying ‘Steve’, it just cracks me up.
“But when it comes to football, he’s really into what he does. He makes sure he gets his job done and his assignment done.”
Palmer, a sophomore, also competes weekly for his starting spot with junior Joe Gianino. Palmer said it is beneficial for the offensive line to have Sanchez and Paffrath contend at tackle.
“You know that whoever’s in there, they’re going to give it everything they have,” Palmer said. “That’s what you want in there.”