Former Callaway star Braylon Sanders looks back on high school, college and his first year in the NFL

Published 8:45 am Saturday, April 8, 2023

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Braylon Sanders has come a long way from trying out for the Callaway football team nearly a decade ago. The Cavaliers’ pride and joy graduated in 2018 and has only been on an upward trajectory since and is currently a member of the Miami Dolphins. 

“Coming in as a rookie, there is a learning curve,” Sanders said. “Whatever the team asks you to do you have to be willing to do it.” 

After turning into a star for Callaway over his three years suiting up in red and black, Sanders excelled at Ole Miss for five years, a time that he looks back on very fondly.

“My last two years with (Lane) Kiffin were the best two years of my college career,” he said. “He is an offensive genius, and he knew how to put offensive players in the best position to make plays.”

Now, Sanders is navigating the choppy waters of NFL life. After accumulating 69 catches for 1,453 yards and 10 touchdowns during his time as a Rebel, Sanders made the jump to the next level in 2022. He had to sit and watch three days of the NFL Draft go by without his name being called. It was a humbling experience for Sanders that only made him hungrier to prove his doubters wrong. 

“Whenever you enter the draft, you want to hear your name called, but I know God had something else in store for me,” Sanders said. “It put a chip on my shoulder, and I knew I was going to have to get to work.”

It did not take long after the draft for Sanders to attract suitors and the Dolphins felt like the perfect fit for him. After working with those aforementioned offensive-minded coaches in high school and Kiffin at Ole Miss, Sanders jumped at the chance to be coached by fellow-offensive minded coaches like Miami head coach Mike McDaniel and wide receiver coach Wes Welker.

“Being around Wes and seeing the things he did in the league, you have to be a sponge and soak in all those things,” Sanders said. “Mike is an offensive genius and, he has an offense I wanted to be a part of.”

Sanders looked for any chance to impress in year one with the Dolphins. He was activated for three games and got a chance to play in a regular season game for the first time on Oct. 30 when the Dolphins took on the Detroit Lions. Sanders finished the game with two catches and 17 yards and got a taste of the intense speed of the NFL.

“It was a surreal moment to be out there on the field and help the team as much as possible,” Sanders said. “It was a great achievement for me and a blessing.”

Sanders is making sure this is not a one and done for him. He has his eyes on carving out an even bigger role in the receiving room next season, which will be a difficult task with stars like Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle leading the way. Sanders has never run from a challenge and this is no exception as he works to perfect his game in the offseason.

“I have to hone in on details and whenever the coach asks me to do I will do it to the best of my ability,” Sanders said. “I want to perfect my route running. I’m getting stronger and faster. It’s perfecting those little things, and I feel like I will be just fine.”

While Sanders is gearing up for year two in the NFL, Callaway is still close to his heart. His legacy lives on through the halls for what he accomplished there and what he has accomplished since, but his legacy also lives on in the form of his younger brother, Bryceton Sanders, who is following a similar route as Braylon. The younger Sanders also did not play his freshman year before trying out his sophomore year and turning into one of the top wide receivers for the team. The elder Sanders got a chance to see his brother play in one of the playoff games last fall, and it was truly a special occasion for him.

“Watching him is surreal. As a big brother, you want to show your younger brother the ropes and watch him pick it up and run with it,” Sanders said. “I think it is going to be a big year for him.”

Callaway will always hold a special place in Sanders’ heart. It is where he learned to love the game of football and the people who helped mold him at a young age are second to none.

“Coach (Pete) Wiggins and coach (Matt) Napier are the best in the county,” Sanders said. “They coached together for 15 years, and it was special to be a part of that offense.”