Emmanuel Sanders
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Emmanuel Sanders

Emmanuel Sanders
refer to caption
Sanders with the Broncos in 2019
No. 17 - San Francisco 49ers
Position:Wide receiver
Personal information
Born: (1987-03-17) March 17, 1987 (age 32)
Bellville, Texas
Height:5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight:180 lb (82 kg)
Career information
High school:Bellville (Bellville, Texas)
NFL Draft:2010 / Round: 3 / Pick: 82
Career history
Roster status:Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of Week 11, 2019
Player stats at PFR

Emmanuel Niamiah Sanders[1] (born March 17, 1987) is an American football wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at SMU, and was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft.

High school career

Sanders attended Bellville High School in Bellville, Texas, where he was a four-sport star in football, basketball, baseball, and track.[2] In football, in which he was most notable, Sanders was a first-team All-District performer at running back, wide receiver, and safety. As a senior, he rushed for 499 yards with six touchdowns, hauled in 24 catches for 414 yards and a score while also throwing for a touchdown. On defense, he recorded 49 tackles and three interceptions. He was named Team MVP and Tri-County Offensive Player of the Year following his senior season. In all, he earned seven All-District honors during his high school career.[3] Regarded only as a two-star recruit by both Rivals.com and Scout.com, Sanders chose SMU over scholarship offers from TCU, Kansas, Baylor, and Houston.[4]

College career

After graduating from high school, Sanders was a three-year starter at Southern Methodist University.[5] He was awarded All-Conference honors his final two seasons. As a freshman, Sanders had 46 receptions for 605 yards and nine touchdowns.[6] As a sophomore, he had 74 receptions for 889 yards and nine touchdowns.[7] As a junior, he had 67 receptions for 958 yards and nine touchdowns.[8] As a senior, he had 98 receptions for 1,339 and seven touchdowns. In addition, he averaged 13.8 yards on 20 punt returns with an additional score.[9][10]

College statistics

Emmanuel Sanders Receiving
Year Team GP Rec Yards TDs
2006 SMU 12 46 605 9
2007 SMU 12 74 889 9
2008 SMU 10 67 958 9
2009 SMU 13 98 1,339 7
College totals 47 285 3,791 34


Professional career

Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt Arm length Hand size 40-yard dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert jump Broad BP
5 ft  in
(1.80 m)
186 lb
(84 kg)
32 in
(0.81 m)
(0.23 m)
(1.00 m)
10 ft 6 in
(3.20 m)
All values from NFL Combine[12][13]

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Sanders in the third round (82nd overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft.[14] He was the seventh wide receiver selected and was the first of two wide receivers the Steelers selected in 2010, along with Antonio Brown.[15]

2010 season: Rookie year

On June 15, 2010, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Sanders to a three-year, $1.80 million contract that includes a signing bonus of $586,000.[16][17]

Throughout training camp, he competed for the fourth wide receiver position on the depth chart against Antonio Brown and Tyler Grisham.[18] Head coach Mike Tomlin named Sanders the fifth wide receiver on the depth chart to begin the regular season, behind Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, Antwaan Randle El, and Arnaz Battle.[19]

He made his professional regular season debut in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 15-9 season-opening victory against the Atlanta Falcons.[20] He missed the next three games (Weeks 2-4) as a healthy scratch after the Steelers' coaching staff elected to use Antonio Brown instead due to his added special teams abilities.[21] On October 17, 2010, Sanders caught a 22-yard pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the second quarter to mark his first career reception. He finished the Steelers' 28-10 win against the Cleveland Browns with two receptions for 37-yards.[22] After Week 9, Sanders received increased playing time after he surpassed Antwaan Randle El on the depth chart and became the No. 3 wide receiver.[23] In Week 10, he caught five passes for 41-yards and scored his first career touchdown in the Steelers' 39-26 loss to the New England Patriots. His first career touchdown reception came on a six-yard pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger in the fourth quarter.[24] On December 19, 2010, Sanders caught a season-high seven passes for 78-yards in a 22-17 loss to the New York Jets. In Week 17, he earned his first career start in place of Hines Ward after head coach Mike Tomlin elected to bench the majority of his starters to avoid injury and rest for their upcoming playoff appearance. Sanders finished the Steelers' 41-9 victory at the Cleveland Browns with only one reception for 16-yards. Sanders finished his rookie year with 28 receptions for 376 yards and two touchdowns in 13 games and one start. He also had 25 kick returns for 628-yards and logged ten combined tackles on special teams.[25]

During the 2010 season, Sanders, Wallace, and Brown became collectively known as the "Young Money Family" or "Young Money Crew," inspired by rapper Lil Wayne. Within the group, Sanders was sometimes referred to as "Easy Money" since his first initial is "E."[26] The wide receiver trio also dubbed the nickname "Bugatti Boys" for themselves, also after a rap group.[27]

The Steelers finished the 2010 season atop the AFC North with a 12-4 record and clinched a first round bye in the playoffs.[28] On January 15, 2011, Sanders appeared in his first career playoff game and caught four passes for 54-yards in the Steelers' 31-24 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional round.[29] They went on to play in the Super Bowl after defeating the New York Jets 24-19 in the AFC Championship game.[30] On February 6, 2011, Sanders played in Super Bowl XLV and had two catches for 17-yards before leaving in the second quarter after suffering a foot injury while making a 13-yard catch. He was immediately carted off the field and was unable to return.[31] The Pittsburgh Steelers went on to lose 31-25 to the Green Bay Packers.[32] It was discovered that Sanders had fractured his foot during the game.[33]

2011 season

On April 4, 2011, Sanders underwent surgery on his foot after he continually had issues after he fractured it during Super Bowl XLV.[33] Sanders entered training camp competing against Antonio Brown and Antwaan Randle El for the No. 3 wide receiver position.[34] He was unable to play in the first three preseason games after developing a stress fracture in his foot.[35] He was named the fourth wide receiver on the depth chart to begin the regular season, behind Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, and Antonio Brown.[36]

On October 23, 2011, he made a season-high five receptions for 46-yards and a touchdown during a 32-20 victory at the Arizona Cardinals. In Week 8, Sanders recorded a season-high 70 receiving yards on five receptions during the Steelers' 25-17 win against the New England Patriots.[37] He missed the next two consecutive games (Weeks 9-10) after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.[38] Sanders missed three more games during the season (Weeks 14-16) after developing inflammation in his left foot.[35] He finished the 2011 season with 22 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns in 11 games and zero starts.[39] On January 8, 2012, Sanders caught six passes for 81-yards during a 29-23 overtime loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Wild Card Round.[37]

2012 season

Sanders in 2012

The 2011-2012 off-season saw the retirement of Hines Ward and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians after the Steelers' opted to not extend him a contract offer.[40] Sanders entered camp as the third wide receiver on the depth chart, but began competing to be a starting wide receiver after Mike Wallace held out due to his contract.[41] Head coach Mike Tomlin named Sanders the No. 3 wide receiver on the depth chart to start the regular season, behind Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown.[42]

On October 21, 2012, Sanders earned his second career start and caught two passes for 40-yards during a 24-17 win at the Cincinnati Bengals. During the fourth quarter, Sanders went down with a leg injury after quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was sacked with 6:04 remaining in the game with the Steelers leading 24-17.[43] Although the Steelers had a timeout, it was thought that Sanders had faked the leg cramp to stop the clock.[44] On November 9, 2012, the league fined Sanders $15,000 and the Steelers $35,000 for the incident.[45] NFL Vice President of Operations Ray Anderson used video evidence of Sanders out-sprinting his teammates, just one play after sitting out from his injury, as proof that the injury was fake.[46] This was the first time in league history a player has been fined for faking an injury. In Week 9, Sanders caught two passes for 20-yards and caught a four-yard touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger to mark his only touchdown of the season during the Steelers' 24-20 win at the New York Giants.[47] On November 18, 2012, he made three receptions for a season-high 82 receiving yards during a 13-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The following week, he caught a season-high five passes for 75 receiving yards in the Steelers' 20-14 loss at the Cleveland Browns. He finished the 2012 season with 44 receptions for 626 receiving yards and one touchdown in 16 games and seven starts.[48] The Pittsburgh Steelers finished 8-8 in 2012 and did not qualify for the playoffs.[49]

2013 season

On March 12, 2013, the Steelers assigned an original rounder tender to Sanders as a restricted free agent. The tender gave them a third-round pick from any team who signs Sanders or the option to match any contract offer by any teams attempting to sign Sanders.[50] On March 15, 2013, Sanders attended a private visit with the New England Patriots and received an offer sheet.[51] On April 10, 2013, Sanders officially signed his offer sheet from the New England Patriots and the Steelers were given five days to match. On April 14, 2013, the Steelers matched the Patriots' offer sheet, retaining Sanders for the 2013 season.[52]

Head coach Mike Tomlin named Sanders and Antonio Brown the starting wide receivers to start the regular season, after Mike Wallace signed with the Miami Dolphins during free agency.[53] He started the Pittsburgh Steelers' season-opener against the Tennessee Titans and caught a season-high seven passes for 57-yards during a 16-9 loss. In Week 6, Sanders recorded three receptions for 70 receiving yards and caught a 55-yard touchdown pass during a 19-6 victory at the New York Jets. On October 27, 2013, he caught seven receptions for a season-high 88 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Steelers' 21-18 loss at the Oakland Raiders.[54] He finished his last season with the Pittsburgh Steelers with 67 receptions for 740 receiving yards and six touchdowns in 16 games and ten starts.[55]

2014 season

Sanders became a free agent after 2013 and was a highly sought after player. He received offers from the New England Patriots, Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers and also had a visit planned with the San Francisco 49ers.[56][57] The Pittsburgh Steelers did not extend an offer to Sanders.[58]

Denver Broncos

Sanders with the Denver Broncos in 2014

On March 15, 2014, the Denver Broncos signed Sanders to a three-year, $15 million contract that includes $6 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $3 million.[16][59] The next day, executives representing the Kansas City Chiefs complained that Sanders' agent, Steve Weinberg, had accepted a deal with the Chiefs in principle.[60]

2014 season

Sanders was signed to replace Eric Decker, who departed for the New York Jets in free agency. Head coach John Fox named him the starting outside wide receiver alongside Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker in the slot.[61]

Sanders started in the Broncos' season-opener against the Indianapolis Colts and recorded six receptions for 77 yards in a 31-24 victory.[62] In Week 3, Sanders caught a season-high 11 passes for 149 receiving yards in the Broncos' 26-20 overtime loss at the Seattle Seahawks.[63] On October 19, 2014, Sanders caught three passes for 41 yards along with his first touchdown as a Bronco as they defeated the San Francisco 49ers 42-17.[64] The following week, Sanders caught nine passes for 120-yards and a career-high three touchdown receptions in the Broncos' 35-21 the San Diego Chargers.[65] On November 16, 2014, he suffered a concussion after being hit by Rams safety Rodney McLeod during the Broncos' 22-7 loss against the St. Louis Rams.[66] In Week 9, Sanders made ten receptions for a season-high 151 receiving yards during a 43-21 loss at the New England Patriots. Sanders finished the 2014 season with a career-high in receptions (101), receiving yards (1,404), and touchdowns (nine) and started all 16 games.[67] As a result of his successful 2014 season, Sanders made his first career Pro Bowl.[68]

The Broncos finished atop the AFC West with a 12-4 record and received a first round bye.[69] On January 11, 2015, Sanders started his first career playoff game and caught seven passes for 46-yards as the Broncos lost 24-13 to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Divisional round.[70]

2015 season

On January 12, 2015, the Denver Broncos and head coach John Fox agreed to mutually part ways, concluding Sanders's one and only season under Fox and offensive coordinator Adam Gase.[71] On January 19, 2015, Denver Broncos' General manager John Elway announced the hiring of Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak as the Broncos' new head coach.[72]

Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison named Sanders and Demaryius Thomas as the starting wide receivers to begin the regular season. Sanders was inactive for the Broncos' Week 11 victory at the Chicago Bears due to an ankle injury.[73] On December 20, 2015, Sanders made ten catches for a career-high 181 receiving yards and a touchdown in a 34-27 loss to his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers.[74] Sanders finished the 2015 season with 76 receptions, 1,135 receiving yards, and six touchdowns in 15 games and 15 starts. This was also Sanders only season as the Broncos' backup punt returner, as he finished with 17 punt returns for 103 return yards. Pro Football Focus gave Sanders an overall grade of 86.2, with his grade ranking 13th among all wide receivers.[75]

The Broncos finished atop the AFC West with 12-4 and were the No. 1 seed in the AFC heading into the playoffs with a first-round bye.[76] On January 17, 2016, Sanders started in the AFC Divisional round and recorded five receptions for 85-yards during the Broncos' 23-16 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The following week, the Broncos defeated the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship by a score of 20-18. On February 7, 2016, Sanders led all receivers in both teams with six receptions for 83 yards as the Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10 to win Super Bowl 50.[77][78] He was ranked 74th by his fellow players on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.[79]

2016 season

On September 7, 2016, the Broncos signed Sanders to a three-year, $33 million contract extension that included $20 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $10.75 million.[16][80]

The off-season saw the retirement of Peyton Manning and the departure of Brock Osweiler in free agency. Sanders and Thomas remained the starting wide receiver duo with Trevor Siemian as their new quarterback. In Week 3, he caught nine passes for 117 receiving yards and two touchdowns during the Broncos' 29-17 victory at the Cincinnati Bengals. On November 27, 2016, Sanders recorded seven catches for a season-high 172 receiving yards and a touchdown as the Broncos were defeated 30-27 by the Kansas City Chiefs. On December 11, 2016, he collected a season-high 11 receptions for 100-yards and a touchdown in their 13-10 loss at the Tennessee Titans.[81] He finished the 2016 season with 79 receptions, 1,032 receiving yards, and five touchdowns in 16 games and 16 starts. This marked Sanders' third consecutive season with over 1,000 receiving yards.[82] The Broncos finished third in the AFC West with a 9-7 record and did not qualify for the playoffs.[83]

2017 season

On January 2, 2017, head coach Gary Kubiak announced his retirement due to health concerns.[84] New head coach Vance Joseph retained Sanders and Demaryius Thomas as the starting wide receivers to begin the regular season.[85]

On September 17, 2017, Sanders had six receptions for 62-yards and a season-high two touchdowns in the 42-17 Week 2 victory against the Dallas Cowboys.[86] The following week, he caught a season-high seven passes for 75 receiving yards as the Broncos lost 26-16 at the Buffalo Bills. He sprained his ankle during the third quarter of the Broncos' Week 6 loss to the New York Giants and missed the next two games (Weeks 7-8).[87] In Week 10, Sanders caught six passes for a season-high 137 receiving yards during a 41-16 loss to the New England Patriots. He was sidelined for the last two games of the season (Weeks 16-17) after sustaining another injury to his ankle.[88] He finished his eighth season with 47 receptions for 555 receiving yards and two touchdowns in 12 games and 11 starts. In his single season under offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, Sanders experienced career lows since arriving in Denver.[89]Pro Football Focus gave Sanders and overall grade of 70.7, which ranked 64th among all wide receivers in 2017.[90]

2018 season

Sanders in 2018

Sanders started the season off strong with 10 receptions for 135 yards and a touchdown in a victory over the Seattle Seahawks.[91] In Week 6, against the Los Angeles Rams, he had seven receptions for 115 yards and a touchdown.[92] In Week 7, on Thursday Night Football, Sanders threw a touchdown pass to Courtland Sutton and recorded six catches for 102 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum, in a 45-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals, earning him AFC Offensive Player of the Week.[93] On December 5, Sanders suffered a torn Achilles in practice, ending his season.[94][95] Overall, Sanders finished the 2018 season with 71 receptions for 868 receiving yards and four touchdowns.[96]

2019 season

Sanders returned from injury in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders on Monday Night Football. In the game, Sanders caught 5 passes for 86 yards and his first receiving touchdown of the season in the 24-16 loss.[97] In Week 2 against the Chicago Bears, Sanders caught 11 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown along with a two-point conversion as the Broncos lost 16-14.[98]

San Francisco 49ers

On October 22, 2019, Sanders was traded to the San Francisco 49ers along with a 2020 fifth-round pick in exchange for 2020 third- and fourth-round picks.[99] Sanders made his debut with the 49ers in week 8 against the Carolina Panthers. In the game, Sanders caught 4 passes for 25 yards and a touchdown in the 51-13 win.[100] During Thursday Night Football against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 9, Sanders finished with 7 catches for 112 receiving yards and a touchdown as the 49ers won 28-25.[101]

NFL statistics

Season Team Games Receiving
GP GS Rec Yds Avg TDs Long
2010 PIT 13 1 28 376 13.4 2 35
2011 PIT 11 0 22 288 13.1 2 32
2012 PIT 16 7 44 626 14.2 1 37
2013 PIT 16 10 67 740 11.0 6 55T
2014 DEN 16 16 101 1,404 13.9 9 48
2015 DEN 15 15 76 1,135 14.9 6 75T
2016 DEN 16 16 79 1,032 13.1 5 64
2017 DEN 12 11 47 555 11.8 2 38
2018 DEN 12 12 71 868 12.2 4 64T
2019 DEN 7 7 30 367 12.2 2 53
SF 2 2 11 137 12.5 2 32
Career 136 97 576 7,528 13.1 41 75

Personal life

Sanders' mother, Stephanie Sanders, died at age 41 in 2011.[102] He has two younger sisters.[102]

In 2013, Sanders married Gabriella Waheed. Together they have two children, Princeton (born 2014) and Zoie (born 2016).[103][104]



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