116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — The word seventh-year Northern Iowa football senior Korby Sander uses to describe his unprecedented tenure with the program is the same word many might use to describe the last couple years we’ve all been through.
“The word crazy is the first thing that comes to my mind,” the defensive back said. “I’ve had the opportunity to play with people that are 30 years old now and I’m also playing with people that are 18 years old now.
“It’s kind of crazy just to think about that.”
A redshirt his freshman season in 2016, then a medical redshirt in 2019 after a serious knee injury — and the extra year of eligibility granted in 2020 due to the pandemic — paved the way for Sander’s stay at UNI that began three U.S. Presidents ago.
Adding to the oddities of his prolonged career has been the opportunity to be on the same team as his younger brother, Tate.
Tate Sander, a 2021 UNI commit who starred at Belmond-Klemme High School just like his older brother, has helped Korby keep himself from feeling too old as he approaches the backside of his 20s.
“I got a younger brother who’s six years younger than me, so, I kinda trip around with the freshmen a little bit and mess around with them,” Korby Sander said. “It’s definitely a lot different, but it’s different in a good way. I can be more of a role model for those guys and (tell) them everything that I’ve gone through and give them that insight as they go through their journey, too.”
While the old man jokes are frequent from teammates, Sander said his body has held up well this season and his knee injury from 2019 is completely healed and behind him.
His veteran status also provides perspective that provokes the super senior to not mince his words when asked about the case for UNI (5-5, 4-3 MVFC) and any other Missouri Valley Football Conference team that will be on the FCS playoffs bubble at 6-5 if the Panthers get a win at South Dakota (3-7, 2-5) this Saturday.
“We’ve been at 6-5 before and have beat those teams that are 7-4 or 8-3 that aren’t from the Missouri Valley or the Big Sky (conferences),” Sander said. “We’ve proven (MVFC strength) is a thing and I just hope that it’s taken into consideration. I just know that there’s a lot of dangerous (MVFC) teams that could be getting in there at 6-5.”
A win against the Coyotes at 1 p.m. Saturday at the DakotaDome (ESPN+) won’t come as easy as their 3-7 record may indicate, though.
Two of South Dakota’s three wins have come against MVFC foes Southern Illinois and Missouri State, both upsets.
Headed into what could be the last game of his seven-year career, Sander said he isn’t letting himself think too much about what’s next. Instead, he’s focused on what it’s going to take in a must-win game to give himself and his teammates a chance to keep playing.
“They have a senior running back who’s going to be playing his heart out for his last game, so I think if we can shut down that run game and force them out of their comfort zone a little bit I think that’s going to help,” Sander said. “I promise you not a lot of teams want to play us (in the playoffs).”