Catching Up With ... Sanders Shiver, ex-Colts LB and Bowie St. coach

Sanders Shiver
(Photo courtesy of Sanders Shiver)

He arrived at the Colts' training camp in 1976, a rookie linebacker out to make a name for himself. He was Sanders Shiver, from Carson-Newman College. Or was it the other way around? Folks called him Carson Newman, or Carson Sanders, or Sanders Newman.

"They couldn't get it right," Shiver said.


All that changed when he set foot on the field. A fifth-round draft pick, Shiver earned a job with his speed and savvy. He played eight seasons here — the team's last years in Baltimore. Shiver left when he became a free agent on Feb. 1, 1984. Eight weeks later, the Colts skipped town.

"We had a real good bunch of guys for awhile," said Shiver, 59, of Bowie. "Then they brought in Frank Kush [as coach in 1982] and nothing made sense. He got guys in shape, but he didn't know football. In camp, we'd run horse trails at Goucher College instead of preparing for games."


Shiver would rather recall his early years. At the Colts' rookie camp, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound prospect gave notice by running the second fastest 40-yard dash (4.65 seconds).

"My time would be a 4.3 today," he said. "Clocks were slower then."

He starred on special teams and became a regular in 1979, when his four interceptions tied for the team lead. A year later, in a 20-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Shiver picked off pass from Terry Bradshaw and returned it 34 yards for his only NFL touchdown.

A starter for four seasons, he was benched in 1983 and spoke his mind the following winter before leaving.

"I could teach some of our coaches a few techniques," Shriver said then. He called Kush's habit of ripping players in public a "childish way to coach" and added, "I wish [Kush] well, but I don't think he's smart enough to win."

Shiver signed with the Miami Dolphins and played two more years, reaching the Super Bowl in January 1985. By then Kush was unemployed, his Colts having won 11 of 40 games.

Shiver took up coaching himself, first as an assistant at Bowie State and then as the school's head coach. He was there in 1987 when the Bulldogs snapped a 32-game losing streak, and in 1989 when they won the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship and Shiver was named the league's Coach of the Year.

The CIAA took away both honors, saying Bowie used ineligible players — a trumped-up charge, Shriver contends.

"Bowie had always been the league's poor stepchild, and now our players had a swagger. The CIAA wasn't ready for us to come of age," he said.

Shiver resigned in 1993 and joined the staff at Howard University. Six years later, he quit football.

"The motivation was gone," he said. "I wanted an opportunity to change peoples' lives, to make a difference."

He now runs a family literacy program for Prince Georges County schools, counseling parents — often immigrants — on the best ways to ready their toddlers for school.


"We try to get parents involved in their kids' lives, to make sure that mom and dad are their first teachers so that when their children do enter first grade, they are ready to learn," Shiver said. "We work with them to control their own lives and become self-sufficient. If the parents are illiterate, then we help them, too."

Shiver said he himself could read by age four, growing up on his family's farm in Gadsden, S.C. The diversity of his clients today is reminiscent of his college days at Carson-Newman, a Southern Baptist school in Tennessee with an international bent.

"We had more Africans on campus than we had African-Americans," he said.

Married and the father of four, Shiver stays active by hiking — the Billy Goat Trail in Montgomery County is a favorite — and playing soccer with his youngest daughter, 18.

"Maybe 'playing' is the wrong word," he said. "I collect the ball for her so she can kick it."

Football, he said, seems a long time ago.

"All of those old jerseys and game balls are stored away in boxes," he said. "I've got four girls so that stuff doesn't mean anything now."


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