Defender of the Nation Award

Presented by The Independence Fund

The Independence Fund Logo


Greg Sanders


Andrew King

The recipient of The Defender of the Nation Award will be selected from one of the nation’s military academies including Air Force Academy, The Citadel, Coast Guard Academy, Naval Academy, Norwich University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Tech, VMI and West Point and is based on exceptional leadership qualities on the field, in the classroom and in the community. The recipient must also exhibit a high standard of integrity by leading through example.

Moving Our Nation’s Wounded Heroes Towards Greater Independence!

The Independence Fund’s mission is to support the Nation’s injured and wounded Veterans with the tools to achieve their independence and freedoms they have fought so hard to preserve!  It is a laser focused non-profit organization that provides independence to severely wounded Veterans through mobility, wellness, and caregiver support.  Those who sacrifice for our country do so willingly with great pride and honor, and it is our privilege to serve them!

“The Independence Fund was established to make a lasting impact on our nation’s veterans who have gone to extreme lengths to serve and defend our country,” said Dr. Richard Jadick, chairman, The Independence Fund. “We are proud to sponsor the inaugural Defender of the Nation Award, which celebrates our nation’s military academies and the athletes who demonstrate exceptional dedication and leadership on and off the field.”

Watch Master Sgt. John Masson accept a trackchair from The Independence Fund at the 2017 Brokno Nagurski Banquet:


Greg Sanders, 2017 Defender of the Nation Award Recipient

As a three-year letterman, all-conference performer, Greg Sanders will return in the secondary to anchor safety on defense. With turns in big plays, both defense and special teams, Sanders should contend for all-conference honors again this season. As a three-year starter, Sanders has the most experience of any defensive back. During cadetship, he has held the rank of both S4 Corporal and Sergeant in the VMI Corps of Cadets.

Sanders is a high school graduate of Christian Brothers in Cordova, Tenn.  Sanders is an Economics and Business major at the Virginia Military Institute.


  • Started for the third consecutive season as safety
  • Named second team All-SoCon as voted by the media
  • Named second team All-State by VaSID
  • Started all 11 games and finished fourth on the team in tackles with 68 stops, including 40 total picked off two passes which was second highest on the team
  • His 4.5 tackles-for-loss were fourth on the team
  • Ranked 24th in the SoCon in tackles per game (6.2)
  • Had double-digit tackle games against Western Carolina (13) and Morehead State (10)
  • Logged six solo tackle games versus Morehead State and The Citadel
  • Intercepted a pass and returned it 34 yards against Bucknell
  • Forced fumbles against Mercer, Western Carolina, and The Citadel where he also recovered a fumble
  • Credited with pass breakups against Akron, Morehead State, ETSU, The Citadel and Wofford
  • Posted tackles-for-loss in the last three games of the season (Western Carolina, The Citadel, Wofford)


  • Started all 11 games as free safety
  • Ranked third on the team in tackles with 81 and led the defensive charts in solo tackles with 52
  • Had double digit tackles in four games including a season-high 13 stops against Chattanooga
  • Posted five solos and six assists in the season opener against Ball State
  • Had 10 tackles against Samford and Ball State
  • Broke up passes against Chattanooga and Mercer
  • Set an Alumni Memorial Field/Foster Stadium record 99-yard kick return for a touchdown against Wofford
  • Returned 12 kicks for 345 yards for a 28.8 yards per kick return average
  • Lettered for the second time


  • Worked his way into the two-deep as a freshman and played 44 snaps in his second college game against Bowling Green starting a string of extended playing time
  • Played in all 12 games and finished with 37 tackles including 26 solos and 11 assists
  • Led the team in interceptions with three and returned the picks for a total of 72 yards
  • Forced a fumble and blocked a kick against Bowling Green
  • Intercepted passes in consecutive weeks against Gardner-Webb, Wofford, and Furman with a 45-yard return against the Paladins
  • Racked up a season-high six tackles in both the Wofford and Western Carolina games
  • Broke up a pair of passes against Wofford and Furman