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Auburn’s new quarterback recruit is 23 years old

Auburn is the new home for Cord Sandberg after six years as a minor league baseball player. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Auburn picked up a commitment from quarterback Cord Sandberg on Monday.

Sandberg’s commitment comes abnormally late in the recruiting process, but that’s not what makes his choice to join the Tigers’ football program so unique.

Sandberg will be a 23-year-old true freshman.


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Who is Cord Sandberg?

Sandberg was a four-star recruit in the 2013 class who signed with Mississippi State out of Manatee High School in Bradenton, Florida. However, he never ended up in Starkville because he was a star in another sport: baseball.

Sandberg was drafted in the third round (No. 89 overall) of the 2013 MLB draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. Instead of going to college, he signed with the Phillies in a deal that included a signing bonus of $775,000, plus “the equivalent of four years of school at Mississippi State.”

Sandberg, a lefthanded 6-foot-3, 215-pound outfielder, spent six years in the Phillies’ minor league system and reached as high as Double-A Reading. He batted .231 with three home runs and 11 RBIs in 54 games with Reading this year, but decided to hang up his spikes earlier in July.

He was transparent about his hopes of returning to football.

“If I continued playing baseball there was definitely a chance something clicks and I could become a major leaguer,” Sandberg told the Reading Eagle. “I understood that possibility. I also understood there was a chance I could end up playing minor league baseball for 10 or 12 years without making it to ‘The Show.’ ”

Re-entering the recruiting process

When Sandberg stepped away from baseball, he said he already had a scholarship from Auburn waiting for him.

As the recruiting process unfolded, he received offers from Florida, LSU, NC State and UCF as well. After visits to Auburn, NC State and LSU, he chose to play for Gus Malzahn.

“I feel like Auburn is the best fit for me,” Sandberg told AuburnSports.com.

There was another factor in Auburn’s favor, too. Auburn was willing to put Sandberg on scholarship for the fall semester. UCF was, too. But other programs would have made him wait until after the season — the spring semester — for a scholarship. That bunch included Florida, the school coached by Dan Mullen, who recruited Sandberg to Mississippi State several years ago.

Sandberg is slated to arrive on campus before the Tigers begin preseason camp on Aug. 3.

What does Cord Sandberg bring to Auburn?

Even though he turns 24 in January, Sandberg will have five years to play four seasons just like every other college football prospect.

Sandberg, a dual-threat during his high school days, becomes the fourth scholarship quarterback on Auburn’s 2018 roster. The team returns Jarrett Stidham as the starter and also has backups Malik Willis and Joey Gatewood. Bo Nix, the top-rated pro-style QB prospect in the class of 2019, is committed to the Tigers.

Stidham is a redshirt junior, but could leave early for the NFL after the season. That could open things up for Sandberg to compete for the starting QB role as a 24-year-old. And unlike his roster mates, Sandberg would be able to leave for the NFL whenever he likes since the NFL requires players to be out of high school for at least three years in order to be eligible.

Others have gone from professional baseball to college football

There is precedent for what Cord Sandberg is doing. The two most notable examples of players leaving minor league baseball to pursue college football are Chris Weinke and Brandon Weeden.

Weinke, a second round pick, played in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization from 1990 to 1996 and made it all the way to Triple-A before deciding to play football instead. He landed at Florida State as a 24-year-old freshman quarterback. By 1998, Weinke was FSU’s starter. In 1999, he led the Seminoles to the national championship. In 2000, he won the Heisman Trophy.

A fourth-round pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2001, Weinke played in the NFL for seven seasons — six with the Panthers and one with the San Francisco 49ers.

Like Weinke, Weeden was a second-round MLB draft choice. Weeden, a pitcher, started his career with the New York Yankees in 2002 and had stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kansas City Royals, never advancing past High-A ball.

When his baseball career fizzled out, Weeden enrolled at Oklahoma State in 2007. He redshirted his first year, played in one game in 2008 and saw his first significant action in 2009.

Weeden won the starting job in 2010 and set multiple school records in 2011 as a 28-year-old senior. That season, Weeden threw for 4,727 yards, 37 touchdowns and 13 interceptions while completing 72.4 percent of his passes. He led the program to a 12-1 record, including its first-ever Big 12 title.

When the Cleveland Browns picked him No. 22 overall, Weeden became the oldest player selected in the first round in NFL history. His time with the Browns fizzled out after 20 starts, but Weeden remains in the league as a backup quarterback. He is now in his second stint with the Houston Texans and had stops with the Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Titans in between.

Perhaps Sandberg could follow a similar path.

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