LATROBE, Pa. (93-7 THE FAN) — As Emmanuel Sanders enters his fourth season in the NFL, the expectations for the 5′ 11” wide out  have never been greater.  With Mike Wallace leaving Pittsburgh for the Miami Dolphins, Sanders is penciled in to move into the No. 2 wide receiver position just behind Antonio Brown.

“It’s something that I’ve been wanting ever since I was in the National Football League, to be a starter in this league,” Sanders said. “So  the time is here, I’ve put in the hard work, I’ve prepared myself and I’m ready to get what I deserve.”

Sanders caught  44 passes for 626 yards with one touchdown in 2012 trailing Brown who totaled 66 catches for 787 yards and 5 touchdowns and Wallace with 64 snags for 838 yards and 8 touchdowns.  In his 4 complete seasons in the NFL Sanders has been plagued by injuries including 3 surgeries on his left foot.

Sanders said his game has improved and he feels like is starting to come into his own, giving credit to his recent good health.

“When your not healthy you can’t really be yourself, your consciously thinking about your injuries and you can’t play at your top level,” Sanders said.  “So now that I’m 100 percent healthy it feels good.”

Along with finally being in good health Sanders has developed a new-found leadership role among the young wide receivers. With Sanders and Brown both entering just their 4th seasons they have the most experience among the group.

“It seems like just yesterday we were rookies,” Sanders said. “But ya definitely embracing this new leadership role and trying to get these guys right.”

Sanders was a leader on his team at Southern Methodist and says he has been going back to the “old college senior Emmanuel” for advice.

“I’m trying to get back into that rhythm of being a first class act and going about my business, because young guys are watching and seeing everything that I do,” said Sanders.

Among those young guys are the third-round draft pick out of Oregon State, Markus Wheaton. Wheaton missed OTA’s due to NCAA rules but he has been putting in extra time at training camp to make up for his loss.
“He’s a good kid, great humble kid as far as personality wise,” Sanders said. “On the football field he wants to be here, he’s fast he’s quick, he’s everything that you really want in a receiver.”

Monday the pads come on and the rookies have the opportunity to show what they can really do.

When Sanders was asked if the team was excited to put the pads on, he laughed and said, that’s a defense thing.

“I’m looking forward to the first game, now that’s going to be fun,” Sanders said.

Listen to the entire interview with Sanders here: