Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
Today's Q & A is with former LSU outside linebacker Ron Sancho. Sancho, a native of Avondale. La, played for the Tigers from 1984-1988. After being redshirted in 1984, he would become a huge piece of LSU's dominating defense during his four seasons of play, earning ALL-SEC honors in 1987 and 1988. He finished his LSU career with 300 total tackles, 37 TFL, 23 sacks, seven fumble recoveries, and five interceptions.
He would go on the play in the NFL for Kansas City, Denver and Detroit as well as two season with the New York/New Jersey Knights in the WLAF.
Q - I see you were born in New Orleans. Is that where you grew up?
Ron - No. I was actually born in Marrero and grew up in Avondale.
Q - When you were a little boy, what did you want to grow up to be?
Ron - A pilot in the Air Force or a doctor. I wanted to be a pilot because my dad was in the Air Force and I loved planes when I was a kid. Also when I was young, my dad use to sit down with me and have talks about the human body which grew my interest in becoming a doctor.
Q - When did you start playing organized sports?
Ron - I was five or six years old. I played football at Avondale playground and I played running back in little league until I got to heavy to play. Back then there was a weight limit in playground football. During my eighth grade year I was to heavy to play, so I had to play flag football. That helped keep my skills up to a certain degree, but I really missed playing tackle football that year.
Playing football was in my blood. My brothers loved football. But my sister was probably the best athlete in the family pound for pound. She could do anything and everything great. My brother Mike was the best male athlete. My other brother Steve was a great quarterback. Man, he had an arm on him. My brother Dave was always the brain guy and I guess I was always the one who was destined to be a football player. I wasn't the athlete that Mike was, I didn't have the brain that Dave had, didn't have the arm that Steve did, but I was always good at playing ball.
My brothers and sister kind of contributed to that because they always promoted me and attended my games. Even when I played in little league they were all always out there cheering me on, while a lot of other guy's big brothers were off doing their own thing. They were always there watching their baby brother play and telling me what a great job I was doing.
Q - When you attended Shaw High School, did you play multiple sports?
Ron - No, I only played football. But we did other things like practice with the wrestling team in the mornings even though we weren't on the team. I was strictly a football guy and worked out in the offseason.
Q - Are there any personal or team accomplishments in high school that you would like to mention?
Ron - I want to tell you what I liked about Shaw the most. I met some life long friends there. Nacho Albergamo is a guy I'm close to. He's the Godfather to my daughter Katy. He introduced me to my wife Cheryl.
I met Glenn Estopinal who is a great Christian guy. He was a great safety and a great baseball player.
Robert Smith had speed and talent, he was like our Michael Brooks. He actually has cancer right now and I want to shout out to him to say that I love him. He was a great athlete. Nacho is his doctor and I know Robby is going to do what he needs to do to win this fight.
Mickey Guidry is a great guy and has been very successful. His daughter was a Golden Girl and became a cheerleader for the Dallas Cowboys. I believe she has moved on from that to do other thins and has a couple of daughters. Both Mickey and his wife Angie have raised some quality kids.
Both Mickey and Nacho were roommates of mine at LSU at one time or another. They both could only stand me for about a semester, but I don't blame them because I can barely stand myself. (laughing..). I didn't get a nickname like 'psycho' for nothing.
But I met some great people who are still in my life and I'm still in theirs. We love each other like brothers.
Q - Can you tell us about your recruiting process?
Ron - Pete Jenkins recruited me. He was my contact at LSU. I had visits to Ole Miss and Tulane. Nebraska and Notre Dame were interested in me and got a lot of interest from Texas A&M. It's hard to remember all the schools. I did consider the Air Force Academy a little bit.
When I graduated from Shaw my dad told me that he would sign a letter of intent to LSU or the Air Force Academy. I just grew up a LSU fan and I was always gunna go to LSU. It was my dream to play for LSU so why would I go anywhere else?
As a kid I always understood what LSU football meant to people who were non-football players. It means so much. Fans family the team. They feel like they belong and are a part of LSU football. Being at LSU as a young man, I was a football player, but I was also a fan of the school. I knew what it meant in the communities of Thibodaux, Houma, Avondale, Marrero, New Orleans and all of the State of Louisiana. When we won it felt like they won. It picked up their week.
Q - So you were at LSU from 1984 through 1988 and redshirted in 1984. During your five seasons in Baton Rouge, LSU was winning a lot of games, so you had a nice taste of success as a Tiger?
Ron - Well we had to turn things around after Jerry Stovall got fired. Bill Arnsparger took over and I think if he would have stayed one more year, in 1987 we would have ran a more successful defensive scheme against Alabama (our only loss that season) and I don't think we would have thrown the ball against Ohio State late, deep in their territory. I think Bill would have just punched it in behind Nacho and Eric with Harvey having such a big game that day. I think we would have won that one (the game ended in a 13-13 tie). During my five years as a Tiger, we went 44-13-3.
Q - Can you tell us a little about Bill Arnsparger?
Ron - Coach Arnsparger was a very stern, smart, hard disciplinarian coach and everyone respected him. He believed in a college kid going to school, getting a degree, then being a football player after. He was always very serious, but he did have a little bit of play in him. We'd find him sometimes with the water hose spraying us down with water and that was surprising. He was a great coach.
He was great at making adjustments during a game. If someone was running something that was working on us early, a lot of times he would make proper adjustments and we would shut it down. Yea, his adjustments were unreal.
As a redshirt freshman I was the only new player to start on defense or offense in 1985. All the other starters were returning players.
One day during the week of the season opener against North Carolina, he called me to his office. We sat down and he taught me his ten rules of defense. He said, "These are my ten rules, if you follow them you'll never be out of place." Those rules helped me out tremendously. It helped me out during my entire career. I lived on them. I even lived by them in the World League and with the Denver Broncos. It taught me to understand my position and what I needed to do. It helped me start thinking like a coach out on the field. I would recognize the opponents weakness and attack it.
Bill was a great coach and he helped me out tremendously.
Q - Before we continue with football questions, can you tell me about the day that you saved two lives while you and Mickey Guidry traveled to attend a friend's wedding?
Ron - It goes back to the summer before. Mickey Guidry and I were working for a company called Cajun Insulation. Back then they use to find jobs for us during the summer, which was the only time we were allowed to work. We weren't allowed to work during the season or during the spring.
Anyway, while working at Cajun Insulation we met a guy named Shane. Shane was getting married the following spring and he begged us all summer to come to his wedding, and we told him that we would.
The day of his wedding fell during spring practice. It was on a Friday night, so after football practice that day, Mickey and I jumped in my car and headed out on Nicholson Drive. Back then Nicholson looked nothing like it does now. It was just a back road, especially after you pass Tiger Town.
We came up on an accident between a tanker truck and a car and you could tell that it just happened. I got out of the car and I could see that the tanker truck was leaking something. Then I looked at the car and it looked like a tornado had spun it and tore all the parts off of it. The car was just a hunk of metal with all its parts laying around it.
Mickey Guidry and I ran to check on the driver. We busted the window. The driver was wearing a white t-shirt and was covered in blood, so it looked really bad, but he was breathing and looked like he was going to be okay.
After we got him out of the car, I told Mickey that I was going to check on the truck driver. I asked him to move my car so he could shine the head lights on the tanker truck. We knew we needed to get him out of there.
The truck was off the road in a cow pasture, laying partially in a ditch and chemicals were dripping into the ditch. When I got down there I saw that the truck cab was smashed and at this point whatever was leaking from the tanker was becoming a cloud.
I asked God not to let me see anything too gruesome, I just didn't think I could handle that. Then I heard this scream coming from inside the truck's cab and at that moment I remember hearing the Lord in my head asking me if I believed in him.
So ignoring the gas, (I didn't take the time to look for a skull and cross bones. I had no idea what the chemical was.), I told the Lord, "Yes I do believe in you. I'm going in. If I don't come out please take me to heaven."
I closed my eyes, took a big breath and went in. I had borrowed and was wearing Mike DeWitt's shoes and as I went into the ditch the chemical started burning and melting the shoes. To this day, DeWitt and I still talk about that and laugh about it. Anyway, when I got out of the ditch I had to climb over a barbwire fence. Mickey was shinning the lights for me but you couldn't see it through the chemical cloud.
I heard the guy scream again and found him. He was a big guy, bigger than me. I picked him up and put him over my shoulder, took a deep breath and opened my eyes. My eyes started watering, so I closed them. I tried to take another breath but the air came out of me. It felt like how you loose your breath on a football field after taking a big hit. That's when I started to panic with this guy on my shoulders. I couldn't breath and couldn't see. I didn't know how to get out of there. Something told me, "go this way".. So I went that way and I got him to the fence, got him over it, walked through the acid in the ditch and put him down on the side of the road right as the cops were pulling up. The cops asked us if we witnessed the accident. We told them, "No sir" while showing them both injured men.
About thirty years later I get a call from Nacho and he says. "I Have someone here that I want you to talk to.".. Sure enough, it was the gentleman from that truck. He told me that he has been having problems since that day. His pelvis was broken in the accident along with getting burned by the chemical. So I got to find out how he was doing years later.
Mickey was right there with me the entire time helping. If it wasn't for Mickey, I don't know if I would have gotten out of the chemicals because he started screaming for me.
We still went to the wedding except I was shoeless. Why did I still go? Because we were half way there and I realized what it meant to Shane for us to go. He wanted us LSU football players at his wedding. So we went.
After the wedding, we drove back to LSU that night. Mickey was my roommate at the time and being a quarterback he had to go to practice early to look at game film and study, so he left before me.
We had a scrimmage at noon that day and Arnsparger knocked on my door. Automatically your stomach drops because it's never good to have your head coach come knock on your door in the dorm. Mickey told him what happen and he came to tell me that I wasn't playing in the scrimmage, sending me to the infirmary. Mickey told him that I was coughing all night so he wanted me to get checked out by a doctor. I got checked and everything was fine.
A reporter found out about what happened, so a week later after the spring game Bill asked me to talk to the media. He felt that lately college football players were getting a lot of bad press about being spoiled young men. He wanted to give them something good and positive to report. So I said, "Sure coach, if you think that's what I should do?"... So that's how the story got out. It kind of snowballed and I got to go to the White House. I met John Glenn. I ate dinner. It was one of the best moments of my life.
Q - At the end of the 1986 season Arnsparger announced after the Tulane game that he was leaving to become the AD at Florida. Was that a big shock to you and the team?
Ron - No, because during two-a-days before the season started he took the trip over to Gainesville to interview for the job. He didn't keep it hidden from us, we knew the entire time. Bill was always in control. He was in charge until the very end. Everyone was still playing hard for their position and playing hard for the school. We knew we had to play for ourselves and that winning would solve any problems. We ended up going 9-2 that year. I don't count the Sugar Bowl loss at the end of that year with Bill leaving.
Mike Archer had a lot more energy, not as much discipline and I think that's what eventually did him in. I think Mike wanted to be friends and I think he may have been just a little to young. Bill really didn't have 'friends' because everyone had so much respect for him. Archer was a good coach. Remember we went 10-1-1 under Mike in 1987.
Q - What was your most memorable game at LSU?
Ron - Man, I have a lot of them. I'd have to say Alabama my senior year in 1988. We were down 15-0 on the road and came back to win 19-18. We only allowed them three points in the second half. It was a great game and we had to beat Alabama to clinch the SEC. I had a good game that day. It was a hard fought, typical LSU/Alabama game. Thank God Bama's kicker missed that field goal at the end of the game. He had the leg but you could see from where I was at that it wasn't straight enough.
The Earthquake game has to be a close second. It was a great game. We were coming off of back to back losses. I had never lost two games in a row and we were like,... Okay, what are we going to do? Are we going to keep losing or do we want to turn it around and get back to winning?
We held them to only a couple of field goals and the offense came through. Thank God for Eddie Fuller. We turned it around that night and ended up winning the SEC, sharing it with Auburn. I say we won it because we beat them. No one else in the SEC had a tougher schedule than us that year. Our only losses were to Florida, Ohio State, and Miami. Auburn had a good team that year.
I ended up playing with Reggie Slack in the World League and I use to make him pay for that loss. I'd walk by him laughing and say, "7-6, Oh geez.. You couldn't score Reggie? Thank God you can score now!" (laughing)...
Q - So you were drafted in the 7th round by the Kansas City Chiefs. Tell us about your experience with the NFL Draft and your NFL career?
Ron - Back then we didn't have cell phones, so you had to keep your land line phone open waiting for the call. We were all at my apartment and after the first day goes by you start to get a little nervous. The next morning I get drafted and Kansas City was on the line. Then my agent called me to tell me that Kansas City took me with the second pick in the 7th round. It was a great feeling to get drafted. During my first NFL preseason game, I couldn't believe that I was out there playing against Minnesota. We scrimmaged against Houston and I actually sacked Warren Moon. Not too bad, huh?... Then I ended up spending the entire 1989 season in Denver with Michael Brooks and we ended up in the Super Bowl. I was on the developmental squad and ended up with an AFC Championship ring.
Next I played in the World League for a couple of seasons and made the All-World team. I ended up having my own World League football card. I still get a bunch of cards in the mail every week that people want signed. I even received a letter from a kid who is an archaeologist in Italy about the World League and asked me to sign his card.
I had a brief stop in Buffalo, then ended up in Detroit. Then Eric Andolsek died that offseason and that was it. That year, Mike got crippled, Eric was killed and then Toby Caston died two or three years later. After Eric was killed I just felt like I had enough of football.
This will sum me up... LSU, I loved.. When I got to Denver and just got through with my first play of a preseason game and was stepping up. I got in on a tackle and I'm thinking, 'I never really thought about Denver. I don't know how I feel about playing here.' That's it... To me, I love football. I don't know about money for football. I'm one of those people who never turn what they love into a business. I just didn't have the same spirit that I had at LSU. It didn't mean anything. It's got to mean something to me. Playing football for money, it was nice, but it just felt artificial. So for me, that was it.
Q - So what was next for you after football?
Ron - I ended up going into business and you know what I do today? I save people. I have a medical imaging company, Cardio Health Solutions, that picks up female heart disease. I treat about 305 to 325 patients a week. I have eighteen imaging centers and another four that I'm working on now in Florida. I help doctors find patterns for females who have heart disease because it's really hard to pick up and show. My machines help show it to the doctors.
I also have a second company, JLK Homes, named after my kids. Josh, Lauren and Kate.
My youngest, Katelyn just graduated from LSU in Biochemistry. My daughter, Lauren is getting married at the end of the year. She's actually marring Bo Strange's grandson and my oldest, Joshua is working with me at Cardio Health and JLK. It's a blessing to be able to get up everyday and work with my son. He's a truly great guy.
Q - Is there anything that you would like to say to the LSU fans?
Ron - Thank you.. I love all of you.. Honestly, thank you. Being there was one of the best experiences of my life. Going to LSU has allowed two of my daughters to attend LSU on scholarships from the Charlie Mac Foundation and get an education. Some people still remember me and we talk. I guess it feels good to be remembered. I have a bunch of great memories. I couldn't of asked for a better career at LSU. I love you all, just like I did when I played there and thank you...