CHURCH HILL — Volunteer High School’s opponents should be wise to the ways of Jordan Sandidge by now.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior is the cornerstone of his team’s defense. Opponents pay the price when they invade the middle linebacker’s zone.
Sandidge, a third-generation player, has the size, quickness, strength and determination to play at the next level.
He has started 21 consecutive varsity games and notched 206 tackles. He made a team-high 128 stops last season while leading the Falcons to the TSSAA Class 4A playoffs.
“Jordan is a good ambassador for Volunteer football,” coach Scott Rider said. “He’s a great leader for us on and off the field. He carries a 3.75 grade point average and does some good things in the community.”
Just how high he is on college recruiters’ lists isn’t known, but Rider isn’t reluctant to label him an ideal prospect.
“The key for Jordan is how well he does as a senior and what kind of season our team has,” Rider said. “Whoever signs him will get a good player. He’s a mighty good boy.
“He’s got what you can’t teach as a linebacker. Jordan has a knack for finding the ball and getting to it. He is kind of like the quarterback on defense. Jordan is a very physical, tough player. He calls the defensive signals. An opponent may fool him once but cannot continue to do so.”
His speed in the 40 is in the 4.8-second range. The weight room is Sandidge’s second home. He ranks as the team’s top lifter, with marks of 315 in the bench press, 450 in the squat lift and 265 in the power clean.
“It’s obvious how much his body has matured because of the time he’s spent in the weight room the last three years,” Rider said. “His work ethic is such that he would overdo it if I didn’t hold him back at times.”
Sandidge also plays offensive tackle and does the deep snapping on punts as well.
“We ask him to do so much defensively that we try to limit him on offense,” Rider said. “I had a Virginia Tech coach tell me he could play defensive end in college if he gets a little bigger. Some people think he’ll be a linebacker. I can see him as an offensive lineman. He’s flexible.”
Sandidge will be searching for the right fit.
“I’m going to look at the town, the program, the coaches and the people in general when I visit a campus,” he said. “I’d feel more at home in Boone, N.C., than I would in Louisville, Ky.”
The 17-year-old Sandidge is a proficient blocker. Playing offense for the first time last year, he didn’t give up a sack.
Growing up in a family of stars guided him toward the gridiron.
His grandfather, the late Lyle Sandidge, was an all-state athlete in basketball and football. He quarterbacked Church Hill to an undefeated season in 1956. Lyle’s career at East Tennessee State was cut short by a knee injury.
Jordan’s father, Mark, received honorable mention on the all-state team as a tackle at Church Hill. He got a full scholarship to the University of Tennessee in 1977 but his collegiate career was aborted by a hip injury.
“I learned to like football by being around them,” young Sandidge said. “They definitely influenced me. I like to hit people — that’s what it is all about.”
He feels comfortable at the middle linebacker position.
“I like being inside where I can move to either side of the field,” Sandidge said. “I don’t have to wait for a ball carrier to come to me.”
Sandidge intends to concentrate on improving his speed.
“Division I schools look for players who can run,” he said. “If I had a choice, I’d prefer playing defense. I’m interested in pursuing a career in pharmacy or sports medicine.”
His mother, Valerie, is a teacher.
Jordan Sandidge will be serving as one of the Falcons’ team captains for the second year in a row.
“I want to see us get to the playoffs again,” he said. “I’d like to go a couple of rounds, at least.”