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Know Your KU History: Tony Sands

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Everyone around Jayhawk nation knows the names Allen, Williams, Talib, and Chalmers. But there is a sizeable chunk of names that we know in passing - we know of their greatness but not necessarily what made them great. This column is intended to shed some light on past KU greats.

Jamie Squire

First off, I have to admit that Tony Sands was my first-ever favorite Jayhawk football player. In just about every way, he was the lone bright spot on those 1988-1991 teams that went a combined 14-29-1 in Tony’s tenure at Kansas. But besides the fact that the result was pretty much inevitable before you even stepped foot inside Memorial Stadium, you at least knew you were going to get a show from "Tuxedo" Tony Sands. And given his size, his accomplishments are even more impressive.

At five feet six inches tall and only 175 pounds, it’s hard to imagine Tony Sands thriving in today’s college football landscape, but he managed to do just that in the late 80’s and early 90’s. He amassed 3,788 rushing yards over his four years at KU and one can only wonder what kind of receiving threat he would be out of the backfield if some of today’s modern offenses were in play back then. In his four years, Sands only caught 12 passes. You’ve got to believe that he would have significantly more yards from scrimmage if he were utilized like today’s running backs are. And despite his one catch for seven yards in 1991, he still led the Big Eight in total yards from scrimmage with 1449. His 1442 rushing yards also led the league, as did his 273 rushing attempts. For his efforts, he was named Big Eight Offensive Player of the Year for the 1991 season and made the All-Big Eight First Team and All-America Third Team. Sands will forever stay in the Big Eight record books as his 3,788 career rushing yards rank eighth all-time while his 777 rushing attempts land him fourth on the all-time list.

Of course, Sands is best known for his final performance in a Jayhawk uniform. On November 23, 1991, Tony had a game for the ages against bitter rival Missouri. Tony rushed 58 times for 396 yards and 4 touchdowns in the 53-29 victory over the Tigers. The 58 attempts is still a BCS record for carries while his 396 yards set the record for most yards in a game, a record that stood for eight seasons and has only been topped once. By the way, if you were wondering the players on either side of Tony’s 396 yards, wonder no longer. When he broke the record, he topped some guy named Marshall Faulk. The player who broke his record is none other than LaDainian Tomlinson. Not bad company to hold in the NCAA record books, eh? And if you consider the competition, the accomplishment looks even better. Sands ran up his yardage against a historic adversary in a major conference game. Faulk set his record against Pacific while Tomlinson ran over UTEP while setting the new record. Plus, at that point these guys were considered future pros who would make an impact at the next level. Because of his size, a great pro football career was never in the cards for Sands.

After a stint on the KU coaching staff, Tony now runs his own speed and conditioning program in his hometown of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Along with the necessary physical skills, Sands instills his trainees with the same attitude that powered him through four great seasons at Kansas.