Chandler senior running back Eli Sanders, one of the most electrifying playmakers this past season, has committed to play football for Iowa State University.
“Ever since the offer I felt like they’ve really reached out to me and made a bond with me,” Sanders said. “The whole coaching staff, Matt Campbell, he’s a great head coach and the rest of the coaches on staff are wonderful. What I bring to the table, I feel like I can fit in the offense well.”
Sanders first burst onto the Arizona prep football season as a sophomore at Mountain Pointe in 2018. Due to injury, he was quickly thrust into a lead-back role toward the end of the season and into the playoffs, where he helped lead the Pride to the 6A quarterfinals.
Following his sophomore season, Sanders transferred to Chandler where he was forced to sit the first five games of the season due to the Arizona Interscholastic Association transfer rules. Once eligible, he established himself as the clear-cut No. 2 back in the Chandler rotation, behind only Dae Dae Hunter, a senior at the time who signed with the University of Hawaii after one season with the Wolves.
Despite limited opportunities due to his transfer, Sanders still opened the eyes of college coaching staffs across the country. He began picking up scholarship offers after his junior season, including from Boise State where he committed last summer.
When schools officially got the go-ahead for a condensed football season due to the coronavirus pandemic, Sanders quickly established himself as one of the best backs in the state. He finished his senior season with 1,377 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns, which helped the Wolves capture their fifth straight title, second straight Open Division state title and finish as the No. 5-ranked team in the nation, according to MaxPreps. He was also a finalist for the 2020 Ed Doherty Award.
“He’s in the line of great tailbacks at Chandler, and we’re going to miss him,” Chandler coach Rick Garretson said of Sanders after the Wolves’ state title win this past season. “And he’s just a phenomenal player. He’s a reason we won this year.”
Sanders’ breakout year helped him earn scholarship offers to the likes of Iowa, Iowa State, San Diego State and Hawaii. When former Boise State coach Bryan Harsin was announced as the next head coach at the Auburn University, Sanders announced his decommitment.
He visited Iowa and Iowa State Saturday, the day before his announcement, and ultimately settled on playing his college career in Ames.
“It felt like home when I stepped on campus,” Sanders said. “I love the campus layout and how they go about things within the facility and program. The field was amazing and the new facility they’re building was amazing.”
Sanders becomes the latest Arizona high school star to sign with the Cyclones.
Former Perry quarterback Brock Purdy announced he would return to Iowa State for his senior season after leading the Cyclones to a win in the Fiesta Bowl. Joey Ramos, a former standout offensive tackle at Deer Valley, will also return along with long snapper and former Desert Ridge linebacker Koby Hathcock and former Perry wideout D’Shayne James.
The Fiesta Bowl win capped off the Cyclones’ best season in program history, in which it finished second in the Big 12 and will undoubtedly be among the favorites to return to the conference championship in 2021.
Sanders plans to sign his National Letter of Intent on Feb. 3.
“I’m crazy excited. Taking this year to learn behind Breece (Hall) is huge,” Sanders said. “He’s a great running back and does things I want to learn how to do.
“It’s a huge weight off my shoulders and I’m happy with my decision.”