LAWRENCE, Kan. — Former Kansas safety Cassius Sendish treats the spring semester just like any other semester – maintaining a balance between class work and football.
The 6-0, 195-pound Sendish didn’t head for warmer weather to train for the NFL Draft, like many of his Jayhawk counterparts. He stayed in Kansas to train at the TopSpeed Strength & Conditioning facility in Lenexa and finish his college education.
At the start of the semester, Sendish was just four classes away from graduating with two degrees.
“I’ve been taking classes the whole time I’ve been playing football,” Sendish said. “I’m in a rhythm. It’s not anything that’s foreign to me or out of my way. It’s just another semester for me. It’s kind of like spring ball to me. It’s a little more emphasized, but to me, it’s the same thing.”
The sociology and communications major is currently taking introduction to rhetoric and social influence, behavioral research methods, interpersonal communication and rhetoric of war to finish up his communications degree.
He started out wanting a major in sociology and a minor in communications, but things changed when it came to the importance of education.
“I just figured why not just knock out the 12 units now, instead of having to come back later in my life when I’m not really going to want to go to school anymore,” Sendish said.”The main thing is, I take both just as serious. I take my academics as serious as I take my athletics. I know that my body is going to run out at some point in time, so I know I need to get as much education as I can, especially if it’s being paid for.”
THE JOURNEY TO KANSAS
Sendish, a native of Waldorf, Md., jumped around when it comes to colleges since he graduated from high school.
He started off at College of the Canyons, a junior college in Santa Clarita, Calif., and wanted to play both wide receiver and corner, but that plan didn’t come to fruition.
“Originally, I went to juco to play receiver,” Sendish said. “But when I went to my first juco practice, there were like 300 kids basically trying to get on the team and they had wide receivers out the wazoo, but no corners. I figured, why not?”
He recorded 25 solo tackles and seven pass breakups during his only season as a Cougar.
Why did he leave? He couldn’t afford it.
“They didn’t offer athletic scholarships or anything like that,” Sendish said, “so I was there for two semesters, and then I went back home, trying to find a place to go. I ended up taking classes at the community college at home for a semester. That’s when I was sending out film from my freshman year, trying to figure out somewhere where they could pay for me to go to school.”
In comes Arizona Western, the then-defending national champions in the NJCAA.
“The coach said they would do everything they could to get me out there,” Sendish said, “and that I wouldn’t have to worry about my expenses or anything.”
He didn’t disappoint.
Sendish notched 29 tackles, including 16 solo tackles, 10 pass breakups and three tackles for loss in his sophomore season at Arizona Western.
He earned all-region and all-conference honors with his numbers, and he jumped from off the radar to a top 60 juco prospect.
Sendish said he had offers from BYU, Colorado State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, New Mexico, Toledo and Utah before deciding on Kansas in December 2012.
He doesn’t regret a single second of his time spent at College of the Canyons or Arizona Western.
“I’m glad I went to junior college,” Sendish said. “It humbled me a lot and it abled me to understand how much athletics and academics play into each other. Going to junior college, living on my own, having to figure out how I’m going to manage my school life and my football life all by myself. It really taught me how to grow up fast. I didn’t really have time to slip up or make mistakes.”
FROM THE COAST TO THE MIDWEST
Kansas, a state that Sendish most likely flew over on his flights between his junior colleges and home state, was where Sendish decided to call home for the next two years.
“It was kind of a culture shock in the beginning,” Sendish said. “I like being on the coast. It’s kind of weird for me being in the Midwest because there aren’t beaches or anything like that.”
Sendish weighed 185 pounds when he arrived to Mount Oread in Lawrence, but quickly bulked up 10 pounds to where then-head coach Charlie Weis’ staff wanted him.
His dedicated work ethic propelled him into the starting position at free safety for all 12 games of his junior campaign, where he recorded 68 tackles, an average of 5.7 per game. He also added 1 ½ tackles for loss and defended one pass. He made his way onto the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll and the Athletic Directors Honor Roll following the season.
Sendish was voted as a team captain for his final year at Kansas, starting all 12 games and was ranked third overall on the team with 69 tackles. He added 1 ½ tackles for loss, one interception and one fumble recovery for a touchdown.
He earned several postseason awards, including All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, Academic All-Big 12 Second Team and the KU Nolan Cromwell Award, an honor for the player who exemplifies leadership. He also was on the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll and Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for the second straight year.
After the season was over, Sendish was selected to play in the Medal of Honor game. He recorded three tackles for the American team.
“When I went out to the Medal of Honor game, I don’t know exactly how many teams I talked to,” Sendish said. “But all the scouts, their general opinion is that I’m instinctive. They can tell I take the game very seriously. They say that they know I’m a good leader and I will provide to the team that I play for. I’m versatile. It’s a bunch of different stuff that they’re saying. The main thing that they can tell is my instincts and how much I take toward football, outside what’s asked.”
Rob Rang, senior NFL draft analyst for the CBS Sports and NFLDraftScout.com, backs what the scouts told Sendish.
“He does have good instincts,” Rang said in a telephone interview. “He breaks well from the ball. He’s a physical player and appears to be a clean tackler. He has a high character grade. He’s known for his work ethic and his selflessness.”
NFLDraftScout.com has Sendish as the 29th-best free safety draft prospect, while OptimumScouting.com ranks Sendish as the 14th-best safety draft prospect and pegs him as being drafted early in the sixth round.
Sendish tries to avoid the predraft prognostication as much as possible, even though he knows what the analysts are saying.
“I try not to pay attention to any of that, because the difference between the draft analysts and the actual scouts is huge,” Sendish said. “The information they have varies. A lot of scouts know certain things that many draft analysts don’t. The scouts know the ins and outs of your family background, high school backgrounds, the relationship with all your former coaches, they know everything. I try not to base where I stand against everyone else based on those things.”
WHATEVER IT TAKES
Rang said Sendish’s size doesn’t reflect well of the average free safety.
“When I watched him on tape, he was much better moving forward than he was moving back,” Rang said. “That is generally a player who might often be moved to a strong safety position in the NFL.”
Sendish is no stranger to switching positions.
He was 5-years-old when he first suited up in the Ankle Biters League, playing on the offensive line. He played running back the following year and continued in that position until his freshman year of high school, where he added cornerback to his resume.
His sophomore year of high school, he suited up as running back until the quarterback sustained an injury. Sendish said he filled those shoes.
Sendish played strictly cornerback his junior year, giving up the running back position, and the year after that he played cornerback and wide receiver.
“I’ll play whatever the coach wants me to play,” Sendish said about potentially switching positions again. “If he want me to play nose tackle, I’ll play it. I might not be as good as somebody who is 300 pounds, though. If the team asks me to play quarterback, I don’t know how successful we’ll be, but I’ll play it.”
As for location, Sendish doesn’t care about that either.
“If somebody asked me to go play in Antarctica, I would go play because I love football so much,” Sendish said. “It means a lot to me to be that close to everything that I’ve been doing my whole life is bringing me right to the brink of making it happen. It’s huge, but I know it’s another step in the process. Not only just getting my foot in the door, but maximizing every day, and continuing to progress. Obviously I’m going to shoot for the stars.”
Sendish knows he comes from humble beginnings, but he’s not letting that deter him from his goals.
“It’s like that little cliché quote,” Sendish said. “’It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish.’”