When last seen by Rice fans in a helmets and shoulder pads, Andrew Sendejo was throwing his body all over Rice Stadium, racking up 17 tackles, 15 of the solos, against Navy last season. One week later, the four-year starter suffered a season-ending high ankle sprain at East Carolina, short-circuiting his drive to break the Rice career tackle record and leaving him tied with Dan Dawson for second.
On Saturday afternoon at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Sendejo will pull the pads back to play his first game since that October afternoon in Greenville when he makes his professional debut as a member of the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League. Sendejo will start at strong safety after beating out several players with past NFL experience.
"I am very fortunate to have been given this opportunity and I am going to make the most of it," Sendejo said in a text message in the middle of the Mountain Lions cross-country trip to Hartford.
After surgery to repair is ankle, Sendejo attacked his rehab with the same signature intensity that was the hallmark of his Owl career. When no NFL team deemed him draft-worthy last April, he set out to earn a training camp spot. He spent a few days in camp with Tampa Bay, but was not offered a contract. He continue to pursue his dream of playing professionally, and was a constant presence at Rice's summer workouts.
Finally, an offer came to compete for a spot with Sacramento, and now Sendejo is on the verge of playing his first professional football game.
The New England Sports Network will televise Saturday's game, with Mike Logan (play-by-play), Scott Zolak (color), John Chandler and Tony Terzi (sidelines) on the call, in case you are home on Saturday afternoon and want to take look before heading over to Rice Stadium for the Owls and Northwestern.