BRADENTON, FL - This is Tracy Sanders’ favorite time of year.

“It’s just a way of life,” said Sanders after a morning practice at Manatee High School. “Just really passionate about living and sleeping football.”

More specifically, Manatee Football.

“I get extremely excited about Manatee football, said Sanders, an alum. “The mention of Manatee football is like drinking coffee in the morning.”

Sanders has spent most of his life around the Hurricanes program. In 1983 he led Manatee, and legendary head coach Joe Kannan, to their first state championship as the team’s starting quarterback.

“It’s that history and tradition that gets me fired up about Manatee and making our kids aware of that,” said Sanders.

“He tells us stories all the time and we’re just watching him and listening to what he has to say and what’s he’s done so we can be like him and be better,” said senior defensive back Vomari Welch.

Sanders has been an assistant at Manatee since 1998. He coaches the defensive backs. It’s a position he’s known well since his days at Florida State.

“I went in as a quarterback and I switched positions,” recalled Sanders. “I initially became a free safety and they told me that was like being the quarterback of the defense, so I bought into that.”

Soon after, he switched to cornerback, playing opposite to future Pro Football Hall of Famer Deion Sanders.

“I had a great deal of success with it and from there I just kind of took it and ran with it, so to speak,” said Sanders.

Sanders played professionally, with brief stints in the NFL, World League and Arena Football League.  These days, he’s molding the next group of elite Hurricane defenders.His old school candor is welcomed by new head coach Jacquez Green.

“Tracy does a tremendous job with our secondary,” said the first year coach, who played at Florida and in the NFL. “He coaches the kids hard, so he makes the kids very accountable for their play on the field and he makes them accountable off the field as well.”

“With the groups of kids I am working with, I found that if you’re extremely direct with them and point out exactly what it is you’re looking for and expect from them, you tend to get a better result from them,” said Sanders.

“That position is going to be taken care of, they know what they’re doing on Friday nights,” said Green. “Their technique is going to be fine, and they’re going to play hard for you.”

Tracy Sanders demands perfection from his players. In doing so, he hopes to instill an appreciation for what it means to be a Hurricane. You’re representing every player who has ever set foot on Joe Kinnan field, including Coach Tracy.

“Whoever comes through the program should always remember that they were part of something special,” said Sanders.