Leading by example

Published 8:39 pm Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nansemond River junior running back Latrell “Vegas” Sandifer received 376 votes to become the Suffolk News-Herald’s Player of the Week.

Warriors’ Sandifer breaks out of the pack

Nansemond River junior running back Latrell “Vegas” Sandifer won the Player of the Week poll this week with 376 votes after rushing for 136 yards and four touchdowns against Indian River.

Sandifer deflected the credit for his outstanding performance to the teammates who helped pave the way — his offensive line.

“It’s unbelievable the way these guys work the whole offseason, so I feel like if I wouldn’t have put up a performance like that, then I would have been short-falling these guys, like I wouldn’t have been giving them my all like they’ve been giving me every play,” he said.

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Warriors head coach Tracey Parker Sr. pointed to the unique contribution that the 5-foot-3-inch Sandifer brings to the team.

“He does bring a specific skill-set at the running back position that’s kind of conducive to what we do,” he said. “He’s got those big guys in front of him (and) he kind of disappears, and (then) he pops out.”

Football has been Sandifer’s main sports focus ever since his father introduced him to it at the Pop Warner level.

“I think I was probably like 8 or 9, and my dad just got me into it,” he said. “Then, ever since then, it’s just been my favorite sport. I never really found basketball my thing to be, so I just stayed with football.”

Many of the names voting for Sandifer via email had a rank in front of them, illustrating a strong military presence that was spearheaded by his father, Lt. James Sandifer.

“He is growing up right before my eyes,” Lt. Sandifer said. “I couldn’t be more proud of him. Besides football, I’m mostly just proud of him as far as his grades, his maturity level, and just certain things that normal parents worry about that I don’t worry about with Latrell.”

Lt. Sandifer is the Physical Readiness Control Officer assigned to the USS Harry S. Truman, which requires him to be a long-distance supporter of his son at times.

“He’s on deployment right now and he’s been gone for like the last two or three weeks, and he hasn’t really been able to see me play,” Latrell Sandifer said. “So, I just keep him in mind, and I just send him stats every time I do something good.”

His father’s military background has meant Sandifer is well traveled. He was born in Puerto Rico, has lived in Indianapolis, and most recently lived with his other inspiration, his mother, in Las Vegas, a residency that earned him his nickname.

He moved to Suffolk last year and now is focused on climbing the ladder of Virginia football, starting with the goal of rushing for more than a thousand yards this season.

“I would like to make the all-region, all-junior, all-district, everything,” he said. “I would like to go (a Division I college), probably receive a scholarship from Old Dominion University.”

“Whatever he puts his mind to, he’s 100 percent dedicated to it, and that’s what I just try to teach him — leaders by example and not exception,” Lt. Sandifer said.

Coach Parker affirmed that Sandifer’s family is an important factor in developing his character.

“They make sure he’s doing what he needs to do,” he said. “He understands when we’re coaching him up, those coachable moments, because that’s what’s going to be affording him the opportunity to play beyond Nansemond River.”

“He just upholds our family morals, so I couldn’t be more proud of him,” his father said.