Land of 10 has embarked on a series of Next Generation articles, a project that aims to bring our readers greater insight into the Class of 2018 signees. Land of 10 Wisconsin writer Jesse Temple is visiting members of Wisconsin’s incoming freshman class to show you more than 40-yard dash times and recruiting rankings. What follows is a sneak peek at our upcoming profile on 4-star linebacker Jack Sanborn.
HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — On a quiet, crisp Saturday morning inside a nondescript building in the northern Chicago suburbs, Jack Sanborn already had a light sweat dripping off his shirt. Sanborn was wrapping up a taxing circuit training weight workout as hip-hop music blared from the speakers at EFT Sports Performance — and he was loving every minute of the experience.
Sanborn, a 4-star inside linebacker who has signed as part of Wisconsin’s 2018 recruiting class, could not have participated in the workout only a few weeks earlier. He underwent surgery Dec. 14 to repair a labrum tear in his left shoulder, which he played with during his entire senior season at Lake Zurich High School.
Sanborn was not fully cleared to begin any upper-body weight workouts until Feb. 28, and Saturday represented a significant step in his recovery. It marked the first time he lifted upper-body weights during a monitored full training session at his gym.
The strict doctor’s orders through the winter provided Sanborn with a new appreciation for his ability to work out.
“It’s what I love to do,” Sanborn said. “I don’t like just sitting around doing nothing, watching TV. That was the toughest part about the whole surgery was not physically being limited, but it was just mentally. I feel all right but I know I can’t do this. I have to just sit here and have it rest. That was what was hard.
“You really learn not to take it for granted. I love going and working out. I think it’s better than to sit here and do nothing during the day. I want to always be doing something.”
Sanborn is the highest-rated player in Wisconsin’s 2018 class as the only 4-star prospect in the 247Sports composite rankings. He put together a spectacular senior season despite the injury and recorded 120 tackles to help lead Lake Zurich to the Class 7A state championship game. Sanborn said he expects his labrum to be fully healed by May or June, which would position him to arrive on campus for summer workouts with no restrictions.
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Sanborn is a gym rat and had to be told not to come back for nearly a month after his surgery. When he did return, a sling was still wrapped around his shoulder, so Sanborn only participated in leg workouts.
— Jesse Temple (@jessetemple) March 11, 2018
After going through stretching Saturday, as well as speed and agility drills on a green turf located in the middle of the room, Sanborn moved on to weight training. He began with multiple sets on a banded bench press, which adds resistance and difficulty at the top of the lift. What followed was a circuit workout that featured a bent bar row, bar curls, triceps extensions, kettle bell shoulder shrugs and a dumbbell bench press.
As much as Sanborn wants to be at full speed now, the training staff has made a point to ease him back into his upper-body workouts. Rather than lift a dumbbell for triceps extensions, he used a giant rubber band mounted from the top of a bar above the bench press contraption. He did not lower the bench press bar all the way onto his chest, and he didn’t roll his shoulders all the way back while performing the kettle bell shoulder shrugs.
“It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” EFT trainer Pete Houlihan said. “But there’s ways to work around it. Jack was in here two or three times a week doing legs. But we made sure we stayed away from everything he needed to stay away from. We talked to the doctors and everything to make sure he was cleared before we started to do anything.”
EFT Sports Performance is the gym of choice for dozens of college and pro athletes, and different groups roll through every hour. Lining the walls are 31 different jerseys of professional players who have worked out there, including former Chicago Bears players Devin Hester, Matt Forte and Johnny Knox.
Houlihan played football at FCS school Eastern Illinois and was a three-year starter at cornerback. Eric Ball, who trained Sanborn on Saturday, was a linebacker at Division III Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. Other trainers at the gym include former Notre Dame linebacker Kerry Neal and former Northern Illinois wide receiver Landon Cox.
But Sanborn has commanded respect among trainers and peers for his drive, toughness and strength.
“He’s an animal, man,” Ball said.
Added Houlihan: “He’s a natural-born leader. He’s a workhorse. Even after he had surgery, he’s in here. You can’t keep him out of the gym. He’s doing body weight stuff or doing the lower-body stuff he can do. As far as work ethic goes, it doesn’t get much better than Jack.”
Ball noted that one of the other athletes participating in workouts Saturday was Mount Carmel quarterback Radomir Premovic, whose team lost to Lake Zurich 14-7 in the state semifinals.
“He let me know, ‘Is that Sanborn over there?’ ” Ball said. “He was like, ‘Yeah, he killed me a few times.’ ”
Houlihan said the first time he saw Sanborn play was on a Hudl highlight film of his junior season before he began working out at EFT Sports Performance.
“As soon as I saw his tape, I knew he was going to be a player,” Houlihan said. “I think the sky’s the limit for him, honestly, especially up at Wisconsin. I think he fits that system perfect. Not only are they getting a guy that’s going to play hard for them, he’s a great kid on and off the field. They got a steal with Jack for sure.”
Houlihan noted the biggest objective during the next three months is to prepare Sanborn to be ready mentally and physically when he arrives at Wisconsin for summer workouts and fall camp.
Sanborn will join an inside linebacker group at Wisconsin that is stacked in 2018 and features returning All-American T.J. Edwards, as well as Ryan Connelly and Chris Orr. He has maintained contact with Edwards, who has checked in with Sanborn to see how he is healing from surgery.
Not surprisingly, Sanborn is ready to attack his time at Wisconsin with the same zest he has at his gym on a Saturday morning in March.
“My goal is just to be the best player I can be and then also help the team out in order for us to be the best team that we can be,” Sanborn said. “If that means redshirting and sitting a year and learning from those guys that they have already, ultimately it’s what the coaches want me to do.
“We’ll have that conversation when it’s an appropriate time to have that conversation. I’m not going to go in there and just be like, ‘OK, I’m expecting to play right now.’ Those guys have proven themselves. I’m just going to go in there, work as hard as I can, try to do what I can do and in the long run be the best player I can be.”