Dominick Sanders clearly has a high pain tolerance.
Georgia’s starting safety experienced multiple injuries a year ago, most notably to his knee and shoulder. The shoulder injury, which occurred in his right arm, was a bit more serious and lingered through the entire 2016 season.
Sanders initially came out of Georgia’s loss against Mississippi with the shoulder injury. A week later against Tennessee, Sanders recalled hitting running back Alvin Kamara with his right shoulder, which tweaked the injury and caused him to exit the game.
But like he did against the Rebels, Sanders returned to the game and fought through the pain.
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“I pretty much tell myself that if it doesn’t need surgery, I’m on that field,” Sanders said.
The pain worsened through the 2016 season, which led to a decrease in statistics. From 2015 to 2016, his tackles declined from 48 to 34 and his interceptions dropped from six to three. Sanders went from being a first-team All-SEC selection as a sophomore to zero recognition as a junior.
Sanders had a chance to use the injury as an excuse to the drop in statistical production. He elected not to do that.
“I’m not going to say I don’t have high expectations but the main thing is I didn’t have a year like my sophomore year,” Sanders said.
Sanders did note head coach Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff expressed concern about his health with the shoulder injury.
There was even a discussion as to whether he should be benched to heal up before returning to the football field. Sanders said he was adamant that he would play as long as he could put up with the pain.
“The shoulder was very critical. It was to a point they didn’t want me to play,” Sanders said. “I told Coach I’m going to play until they knock it out of place or until it’s hanging. My main thing is I’m not worried about injuries. I battle injuries all the time. But like I said, if it ain’t surgery, I ain’t sitting out.”
Sanders even had a response when asked if Georgia’s medical staff would have refused to clear him due to injuries.
“I’ll go to Coach Smart and tell him to clear me,” he said, cracking a smile.
Sanders admitted that every tackle he made with the afflicted shoulder hurt, drawing a noise out of his mouth each time. It sometimes would pop out of place as it progressively got worse. Even so, Sanders gutted it out and pushed through the pain.
Georgia’s coaching staff did manage Sanders’ snaps after the Tennessee game, which is something his stepfather noticed. Sanders informed his stepfather of the injury but said he would continue to play through it as long as he could.
“In my heart, I’m not hurt,” Sanders said. “I told Coach Smart that I’m going to fight through it all and that’s what he likes out of me. I’m not worried about these injuries. Surgery is going to stop me from playing, that’s the only thing.”
Sanders said he is completely healed from his injury-filled junior season, in which he still started in all 13 games. Knowing that he will soon enter his last season, Sanders expressed a desire to get back to the level he was playing at during his sophomore season.
“My main thing is this is my last year and I have to go out with a bang”" Sanders said. “I have to do it for my brothers and my coaches.”