Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A Conversation With Todd Sandroni

By Lakin Huseth
IMC student

Todd Sandroni. Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

Todd Sandroni started his football career playing in high school at Indianola Academy in  Indianola, Miss. Football was not the only sport that Sandroni played. He was a four-sport athlete who played football, baseball, basketball and ran track as well.  

When Sandroni was being recruited in high school, there were plenty of schools that wanted him to play football. He was offered a scholarship to play football at Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Southern Miss and was also looked at by the University of Arkansas. Since Sandroni was such a great athlete in high school, football wasn’t the only sport he was recruited in.  

The Delta State Fighting Okra recruited him to be a three-sport athlete playing baseball, basketball, and football. He chose to play football over the other sports.  

“When playing baseball in the mid-’80s you only played 13 games, and it wasn’t as big of a deal as it is now… football was king, especially back then… and you were getting recruited by your bigger schools,” Sandroni said. 

When going through the recruiting process, Sandroni was being recruited by the secondary coach Ron Case for the Rebels, which played a major factor in him committing to Ole Miss. The two struck a strong bond and still talk to each other to this day. Both of Sandroni’s siblings were also at Ole Miss at the time.  

When Sandroni arrived on campus, he was redshirted his freshman year. During that year, they switched him to quarterback to run the scout team. That spring he was moved back to defensive back to play under the coach he was recruited by, Coach Case.  

Fast forward to the next year, Sandroni was able to earn a starting spot as a redshirt freshman. How was he able to work his way up the depth chart?

“You got to get a little lucky to get a shot and if you get a shot a have to take advantage of it,” Sandroni said.  

The two players ahead of Sandroni on the depth chart were moved down due to an injury and academic issues, therefore, he was able to get a lot of reps at safety during that spring.  

Sandroni had some incredible stats leading the team and the SEC in interceptions with seven. The following year he was also able to lead the Rebels and the SEC again with seven interceptions. 

Obviously, the SEC has always had great football. Sandroni looked forward to playing against those teams. He said, “There were a lot of them, but LSU was a big one because if I could go back and play at one stadium besides Ole Miss, it would be LSU. Also, since Coach Billy Brewer played at Ole Miss that was their big rival, so he made a big deal out of it.”  

When playing at Ole Miss, Sandroni was able to create some strong bonds with his teammates. John Darnell, who was the quarterback, was his roommate. The two still have a great relationship. Both of the former players live in Tupelo and have kids that go to Ole Miss.  

In 1989 and 1990, the Rebels were able to go to two bowl games. The first was the  Liberty Bowl, which was a very special game for Sandroni and his teammates. Chucky  Mullins was brought from the hospital to the game.  

Mullins, who was the starting defensive back for the Rebels, had suffered an injury during the homecoming game against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the season.  After plunging head-first into a tackle of the Commodores fullback Brad Gaines, the impact shattered four vertebrae in Mullins’ cervical spine, immediately paralyzing him.  

The Rebels were able to overcome this tragedy and pull out a win against Air Force, but what the team remembers most was Chucky was there to watch his team. A very surreal moment for Sandroni and all of his teammates. 

Sandroni’s senior year and his final game the Rebels took on a team led by Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard’s Michigan Wolverines in the Gator Bowl. In 1990, the  Gator Bowl was a New Years Day bowl, and Michigan had one of the best teams in the country. Sadly, the 9-2 Rebels were not able to secure a win, but playing in such a big game was an amazing experience for Sandroni and his teammates.  

So what is Sandroni’s favorite memory of playing football at Ole Miss?

“My favorite memory was beating Bama my sophomore year,” Sandroni said. “We were the first Ole Miss team to go to Alabama and win.”

Ole Miss, who were considered underdogs, were expected to lose by a lot. Instead, they went to Tuscaloosa and won 22-12 during their homecoming game.