It's no surprise that Anthony Saunders chose Slippery Rock University to continue his athletic and academic career after graduating from Valley High School in 2009.
"My brother introduced me to this wonderful campus," said Saunders, referring to his older brother A.J., a 2010 graduate who also played in the defensive backfield for The Rock. "A.J. introduced me to coach Mihalik and showed me the ins and outs of college football."
Saunders, a 5-foot-10 redshirt senior, has been a mainstay in Slippery Rock's defensive backfield since 2010.
"It's not often that we have a four-year starter," Slippery Rock coach George Mihalik said. "And he's getting better and better each year. He's got a great combination of outright speed and can change directions quickly."
Saunders, a cornerback, ranked second on the team with 42 solo tackles. He also had 20 assists.
"Anthony is clearly the leader in our secondary," Mihalik said. "He's a fourth-year starter, all-conference performer, and our big-play guy. He's come up with some big interceptions for us, some he's turned into touchdowns."
Saunders, a New Kensington resident, led the PSAC and ranked 11th nationally in NCAA Division II with 14 pass break-ups. He also intercepted three passes and returned two for touchdowns.
"We feel Anthony is one of the top, if not the best, shutdown cornerbacks in the conference, if not the region and nation," Mihalik said. "He doesn't say much, but his actions speak very loudly. Teams tend to stay away from his side of the field."
Saunders is a second-team all-PSAC selection and a preseason All-American according to USA College Football.
"I've put in a lot of hard work, during the season and during the offseason, and it's paying off," Saunders said.
Saunders credits Mihalik and his coaching staff with transforming him into a quality college cornerback.
"Coach Mihalik is a great guy," Saunders said. "He's like a second father to me. He's helped me out when I've needed it."
Saunders will graduate in December with a degree in safety management.
"I'm doing an internship for the university during the fall term," Saunders said. "I would like to get into construction safety."
Saunders would like to put those plans on hold.
"My ultimate goal would be to play in the NFL," Saunders said. "It doesn't matter which team. Just give me a chance to do my best and try to make a team."
Slippery Rock tied for third place in the PSAC Western Division last year with a 5-2 record. The Rock finished with a 6-5 mark.
"Our goal every year is to win PSAC West, get a bid to the national playoffs, and have the No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense in the conference," Saunders said.
Saunders is also a member of Slippery Rock's special teams.
"I'm on the kickoff and kickoff return teams," Saunders said. "I'm actually a blocker on both. I don't mind doing special teams. That could be the difference if I am to hook on with a pro team."
Saunders is one of nine starters back on defense for Slippery Rock.
"Almost everybody is back on defense and offense," Saunders said. "We should have an upper hand on both sides of the ball."