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Working his way to the top

AUBURN – Craig Sanders hears it when he goes to class, to the store to restaurants.

Sophomore Craig Sanders' work habits are legendary.

As a true freshman on Auburn’s national championship team last season, Sanders became a fan favorite because of kamikaze style covering kickoffs.

“It was awesome,” Sanders said. “I had a little role in it, on kickoffs. I loved it. I took a lot of pride in being a little part of it. I’ve had a bunch of people say ‘You can’t gain too much weight. We want to see you on the kickoffs.’

“I love it. It’s awesome. It’s like a big family.

With the start of preseason practice just more than a month away, kickoffs aren’t Sanders’ main focus. He’ll get his chance at defensive end, and sometimes at defensive tackle.

Sanders, who committed to Alabama and switched to Auburn in time to enroll in January 2010, arrived weighing 224 pounds. He played multiple positions at little Ariton High School. He even punted and kicked. He weighed in Thursday at 268 pounds, and he wants to get to 275 by the start of the season.

That means lifting weights and eating, eating and lifting weights. The lifting comes easy for Sanders, whose work habits are legendary. Not even strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall’s demanding regimen keeps him from getting more on his own.

“It all goes back to high school,” Sanders said. “I played a bunch of positions. You never came off the field. I was punting and kicking. I guess it just carried over. It all goes back to high school. I played a bunch of positions. You never came off the field. I was punting and kicking. I guess it just carried over.

“Me and my friends back home, we would go in the morning before school and lift. Then we had a period during school when we would lift. Then we would stay after practice and lift, too.”

The eating requirements are another matter. As Sanders talked, he grimaced at the thought of going to eat lunch. Here is what he described as a typical day’s food intake:

Before 6 a.m. workout: Milkshake.

Breakfast: Bacon, egg and cheese biscuit from Hardee’s.

Lunch: Frozen pizza from Wal-Mart.

Afternoon snack: Spaghetti-o’s or sandwich.

Supper: Various foods.

“I get so sick of eating,” Sanders said. “Right now, I have to go eat lunch, and I really don’t want to.”

But Sanders says all the work and all the effort will be worthwhile when another Auburn season opens against Utah State on Sept. 3 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Part of Auburn’s youth brigade, Sanders says he doesn’t buy into widespread predictions of a season of misery.

“I think it’s reloading,” Sanders said. “There are still a lot that came back. The people that were second team are just as good as the people that were first team.”

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