Great quarterbacks are a special breed. One of the toughest positions to learn and play in all of sports, a quarterback has to be mentally tough enough to handle pressure from all angles, both on and off the field. Saturday's New York Times article about USC QB Mark Sanchez highlights many psychological components of performance, from his father's creative development activities to his ability to learn from mistakes.
When Sanchez took batting practice as a teenager, his father quizzed him on the periodic table as each pitch was about to arrive. While gauging the speed and location of a fastball, his brain was also attempting to recall the atomic weight of magnesium.
When he was younger, he dribbled a basketball while wearing glasses that blocked his view of the ball — all the while facing rapid-fire questions on multiplication tables.
And when he dropped back to pass a football, working on his touch by lobbing the ball over a goal post, he had to know who the 13th president was. Answer: Millard Fillmore.
This focus on leadership comes easily for Nick Sanchez. A former Army sergeant, he is a captain in the Orange County Fire Authority and a member of the national urban search and rescue team. The search-and-rescue duty took him to New Orleans after Katrina, to New York after the Sept. 11 attacks and to Oklahoma City after the bombing of the federal building.
“In a sense, it is like football,” the elder Sanchez, who is a regular at U.S.C. practices, said of his rescue efforts. “The group I’ve been with has been very successful. We live together, we work together. You can call the same play 50 times, and there’s always a different result. It might be a traffic accident, a residential fire — you have to function, react and deal.”
His arm may be strong — he threw a ball 60 yards to Ronald Johnson in a season-opening win over Virginia — but it is matched by his personality. Sanchez plays with a let-it-all-hang-out vibe, always eager to look for a big play. During the week, he bounds around the practice field, pumping up teammates or peppering coaches with questions. His teammates have dubbed him the Mexican Jumping Bean.
“Leinart and John David were very methodical, in-control guys,” said Jeff Byers, a fifth-year senior guard. “Mark knows what’s going on, but he’s got a much higher energy. He’s very charismatic. The O-line, we love him.”