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BEA’s Sanders uses respite to prep for playing college football

SURE CATCH — Blue Earth Area receiver Caelan Sanders (21) catches a throw from Buc quarterback Gavin Storbeck (not shown) for a touchdown against Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton’s Karson Lindsay (3) during their Section 2AA semifinal football game Oct. 26 at Wilson Field in Blue Earth. Sanders is using the current moratorium on high school baseball to prepare for his collegiate football playing days at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in the fall. (Photo by Greg Abel/Sentinel Archives)

BLUE EARTH — Caelan Sanders is no stranger to dealing with adversity throughout his outstanding four-year varsity athletic career at Blue Earth Area High School.

Every time the Bucs’ three-sport senior standout suffered a physical setback, he has listened to his doctors and physical trainers, put the required time into his rehabilition and emerged even stronger than prior to each injury.

No complaints. No excuses. Just hard work paved the road to each of Sanders’ three recoveries from injuries — with one occurring during his sophomore, junior and current senior sports seasons.

So where did Sanders find the inner strength and tenacity to bounce back from each and every obstacle?

“My family has always supported me through both the good times and the tough times,” said Sanders. “I always have looked up to my two older brothers (Calvin and Chris), and they taught me how to play sports the right way and develop a love for the game.

“Of course, my mom (Krista Blair) has always been there for all four of us (including eighth-grade sister Madison). She’s the rock that keeps us together and helps us battle through any adversity in life.”

Now, after battling back from a torn ligament in his thumb that caused him to miss his sophomore baseball season, returning from a sprained MCL that created a three-game absence from the gridiron as a junior, and making a miraculous comeback from a distal fracture of his leg that created a 20-game void on the basketball court this season, Sanders faces a hurdle that even he cannot clear with his work ethic.

“The (COVID-19) virus is something we have no control over, so we’ll just do the best we can to cope with it,” said Sanders.

In an ironic twist of fate, Sanders acknowledges there is a small silver lining to his situation during the state’s and the Minnesota State High School League’s current moratorium on spring sports.

“I’ve gotten to spend quality time with my family during the quarantine, so that’s a plus,” said Sanders. “I’ve been able to stay in shape by going to my brother Chris’ place 15 miles outside of town and working out.

“He’s big into cross-fit training, so he transitioned a barn on his place into a workout center. It’s got a squat rack, bench press, elipitical, free weights, etc. — everything you need to get in a good workout.”

And staying in top physical shape will be vitally important to Sanders as he will get prepared to play football at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in the upcoming fall.

“I’ll definitely miss being around my buddies from baseball, but it’ll be nice to get an early start on getting into a football mindset,” said Sanders, a two-time Sentinel All-Area football selection and a two-time all-South Central Red District choice in 2017 and 2019.

Sanders is scheduled to report to collegiate football training camp on Aug. 12, with hopes of competing for playing time as a true freshman.

“The River Falls coaches talked about me being a coverage corner or free safety on defense, but after they had a receiver go down with an injury, they might want me to play some offense at receiver,” said Sanders, who garnered a team-best 45 catches for 660 yards and eight touchdowns to help guide Blue Earth Area to its second Class AA state football bid in the last three seasons. “Now I just have to continue rehabbing my leg, stay healthy, and most likely, we’ll have to finish the rest of our final semester of classes online through our e-learning system.”

Three more hurdles for Sanders to clear before graduating from high school in two months, but anyone who knows him is cognizant that he’ll use hard work, determination and inspiration from his family to make the best of a difficult situation — even one as unprecedented like the current COVID-19 pandemic.

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