Saunders has had a love for football every since he first started watching the San Francisco 49ers. Ronnie Lott was his favorite player and credits Lott as his inspiration to play safety. Watching the 49ers overcome a deficit against the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII as a team sparked a love for the game.

Pike Red Devils
Pike Red Devils

An active kid, young Saunders played multiple sports before high school; soccer was the first but basketball took over for most of the early years. It was until junior high school when Saunders was allowed to play football. At Pike High School, he actually spent more time playing offense at running back and wide receiver but his instincts eventually lured him to defense where he played cornerback and safety.

Indiana State Sycamores
Indiana State Sycamores

In college, Saunders went through the walk-on process at Indiana State University and was slated as a cornerback. A fractured ankle put a sudden end to a college career that never really got started. Saunders hung his pads up for what he thought was the last time.

In 2011, just before his 30th birthday, Saunders joined the Indianapolis Tornados. After not playing organized football for over a decade, he was now playing semi-professional football after moving back from Nevada. With an appetite to hit rather that intercept passes, he learned to play at linebacker as well as safety. Saunders spent the majority of his first season strictly on special teams.

Saunders with the Indianapolis Tornados in 2011
Saunders with the Indianapolis Tornados in 2011
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Indiana Nighthawks

Saunders left the Tornados for the Indiana Nighthawks in 2012. In a new defensive system, he started at safety and linebacker for the new team. When asked about his time with the Nighthawks, Saunders says “it reminded me of college. There weren’t many wins but we always went into battle together and it felt like family.”

Indianapolis Matrix
Indianapolis Matrix

In Spring 2013, Saunders signed and played for the Indianapolis Matrix — an independent indoor football team. This was his first experience with arena football and quickly learned that the arena game is quite different from outdoor football. Saunders started at middle linebacker but also played safety and wide receiver for the Matrix.

MSFL All-Star with Indiana Mustangs
MSFL All-Star with Indiana Mustangs

The Indiana Mustangs signed Saunders for the 2013 season a few months after the Nighthawks folded. He took on more than just roster spot with the Mustangs; he was brought on to also assume a leadership roll and eventually replace the current general manager. Saunders dedicated this season to the memory of Patricia Gauly — mother of his close friend Kristen Gauly — who passed away a few months before opening day due to brain cancer. The inspired play earned him a spot on the MSFL 1st All-Conference team.

For the 2014 season, Saunders had taken his talents to the Marion County Crusaders. He was looking to continue playing but he received the call to serve his community from the Indianapolis Fire Department and decided to retire from playing.

Saunders still has a strong desire to play football but has expressed his interest in coaching. “Coaching high school kids would be the best situation for me. That’s the age when football is just so pure and beautiful to watch. Working with kids has always been a desire of mine and doing that through the sport that I love the most is the perfect scenario.” Saunders had a brief stint with the football staff at Lawrence Central High School as an assistant working with the Bears’ defensive backs and wide receivers. If left up to him, Saunders will be involved with football for the rest of his remaining days and hopes to get back into coaching in the future.

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